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April Fisher worked as a volunteer for March of Dimes as a child, never dreaming she would need help from the organization that lends support and care for newborns until she went through the premature births of her twins Ella and Nora.

For Fred Hartman, owner of BreadWorks, participating in the March of Dimes annual Signature Chef’s Silent Auction in November was a no brainer as the organization became significant in his personal life when his son arrived eight weeks early.

“I saw this cause and really got behind it. It’s really my inspiration,” said Hartman

Premature birth is the most serious nationwide infant health-related problem, affecting over half a million babies each year. That’s why people like Fisher and Hartman  not only got involved in the annual fundraiser, but throughout the year

According to their website, the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign’s goal is to raise public awareness of the problems of prematurity and decrease the rate of preterm birth in the United States and throughout the world by collaborating with a number of organizations to bring the most current scientific and clinical information to providers.

The leading cause of infant hospitalizations is RSV for bronchiolitis in the United States, according to Henry Bernstein, D.O., FAAP, Chief, General Academic Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth and Professor of Pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School.

April and Gary Fisher, Robinson Township, are the 2012 Pittsburgh Ambassador Family that knows first-hand how much the research has impacted their life with helping their twin girls Nora and Ella. The Fisher’s have two other daughters, Abby (9) and Payten (4), but thought they might try for a boy and soon after she became pregnant she found out she was having twins.

April knew this pregnancy would be different from the start. In Feb. 2010, three days prior to that massive blizzard that swept the region April arrived at the hospital feeling contraction-like symptoms thinking she was having the babies and was stabilized and sent home.

A few days later while her husband shoveled the snow she came down with a fever of 104-degree temperature and became very ill. With snow and ice covered on the streets from the blizzard their trip that usually took 15 minutes took an hour. As soon as they arrived her contractions began and she was rushed in to deliver her daughters.

April, a teacher at Montour High School, has had March of Dimes impact her live in more ways than one; as a child her mother had a corporate walking team and she would always walk with her mother as a child to fundraise. It wasn’t until she had the twins that she realized, “It came full circle- when I needed the support and advice I already had a connection, I felt at home.”

The twins were born 8 weeks and 2 days early with Ella being first at just 2-lbs. followed by Nora that weighed a tiny 1-lb, 5-ounces and were admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The twins’ lungs weren’t fully developed by that time and the March of Dimes funded the research on surfactant therapy and nitric oxide, which are two things that help under-developed lungs of preterm babies to breathe easier. Since the development of these two therapies, two-thirds of the babies who would have died from respiratory distress syndrome now survive and grow to be healthy children.

The twins are fraternal but look amazingly identical, they have blonde-hair and blue-eyes and love to swim, dance and the Bubble-Guppies (a show on Nickelodeon). April says they are absolutely connected and share a bond that can’t be broken. Even with two separate beds she says she can find them nestled together and always looking for the other upon waking up without the each other.

The March of Dimes is now a very big part of The Fisher’s lives and they not only agreed to be the Ambassador Family, but April has made it clear that she will forever be a loyal supporter of the organization. She has participated in arranging a Blue Jeans for Babies Day for the school district earlier this month that helped raise $1,200 for the March of Dimes. She has no plans of stopping there, “Now if they call, I’m like ‘Whatever you need’ because they’ve already done so much that made my life have a happy ending.”

Fred Hartman opened BreadWorks in 1979 and had no idea when he began his business of 180 varieties of breads that contain no preservatives that he would be one of the biggest advocates for March of Dimes. By 1991, Hartman experienced his own son, Ben (21), being born eight-and-a-half-weeks premature. Once Ben was born it took for days and three nights for him to fully recover after being given a spinal tap. Hartman had never done anything related to the March of Dimes but happened to hear about the organization and immediately began participating in the Signature Chef event. Today Ben works along-side his father at the event participating in the campaign.

Christian Mayrhofer (MAY-ER-HOFF-ER) is from Austria, nestled near the Alps and Saltsburg is where he grew up but he came to the states looking for something and another chef who recognizes a great cause to cook for. Christian Mayrhofer, Executive Chef at McCormick & Schmicks, attended the event, to show off his delicious Lobster Cappuccino, which contained creamy lobster bisque with sherry foam to help raise funds for the tenth year in a row.

Being recruited by Fred Hartman, and Cynthia Tuite, Director of Culinary Arts at Bidwell Training Center, Mayrhofer started participating in 2002 because the charity itself brought back memories of his nephew being still-born 13-years-ago. He jumped at the opportunity because he believes in helping in any way for the sake of the research and potential benefits from organizations like the March of Dimes.

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