GREENFIELD — Looking at 9-year-old Macy Huber now, you’d never know she was born 8½ weeks early. You wouldn’t know she spent the first seven weeks of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit, or that she had to go through physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy all before she started pre-school.
Macy looks, and for the most part acts, like any other third-grader at J.B. Stephens Elementary School. She wants to be a teacher, or a hair stylist. But when she’s not playing soccer or selling Girl Scout cookies, Macy is doing something very much beyond her years – fundraising for the March of Dimes.
Although Macy’s premature birth has had no lasting effect physically or mentally, it has had a very real emotional impact for Macy and her family. In nine years, they have raised more than $11,000 for the March of Dimes, which works to improve the health of babies.
“After she was born, that first spring we walked,” said Heather Huber, Macy’s mom. “I started a family team called Macy Huber’s Heroes.”
Since that first walk, the Huber family’s involvement has only grown. Heather; her husband, Marc; and grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends have all walked in the annual March of Dimes events held locally as part of the Macy Huber’s Heroes team. Macy, of course, participates too, even though Heather admits it took her daughter a few years to really understand why they walked.
“It helps babies to get stuff they need,” Macy said, demonstrating her understanding of March of Dimes campaigns.
“Who else does it help?” Heather asked, full of pride and gratitude for her happy, healthy daughter.
March of Dimes is a nonprofit that began to combat polio and shifted its focus to preventing premature birth and birth defects once its original mission was accomplished. Since 1970, walks known as the “March for Babies” have been held around the country to raise money for research, education and treatment.
Though Heather and Marc did not receive direct assistance from the March of Dimes during Macy’s birth and treatment, their daughter was the beneficiary of medical advances, like surfactant therapy, funded by the March of Dimes.
“We’d heard of the March of Dimes but didn’t know in-depth what they did,” said Marc Huber, Macy’s father. “It didn’t take us long once we had Macy to figure out what they’re all about.”
Marc spent the first week after Heather’s emergency cesarean section shuttling back and forth between Community Hospital East, where Heather was staying, and Community Hospital North, where Macy was in intensive care.
“The first four or five days were the worst,” he said. “It’s definitely a stressful situation; that’s what makes it so important.”
The Hubers also found out quickly what having a premature baby can mean. Not all of the families whose babies were in the hospital at the same time were as lucky, Heather said.
“A lot of families didn’t get to bring their babies home,” she said. “We can raise awareness and spread the word because we were the lucky ones.”
Since then, it’s become not only a family activity, but a passion.
Heather helps organize the local walk, held in Greenfield for Hancock; and in Shelby and Henry counties. When walk time nears, Heather and Macy solicit donations for their team from family and friends. Macy raises money herself through lemonade stands in the summer, donating part of the proceeds toward their team.
Their hard work has not gone unnoticed. Nearly every year, Macy Huber’s Heroes is recognized by the March of Dimes as a “Top Walker” or given some other distinction for its regular donations of more than $1,000. She has been the Hancock County child ambassador for the March of Dimes and has been asked to lead walks. Heather speaks at a number of awareness events.
“She (Macy) broke the $10,000 benchmark this year,” said Derek Nutty, senior community director for March of Dimes. “That’s pretty impressive. She certainly deserves the recognition.”
But it isn’t just Macy who stands out. Nutty said the work of entire Huber family is critical to the March of Dimes’ local operations.
“We rely on volunteers to help us do everything we do,” he said. “They’re the core of our operation, so a family like the Hubers, which is involved in so many different ways, makes a tremendous impact for mothers and babies.”
The Tri-County March for Babies will be Sept. 15 at Greenfield-Central High School. The four-mile walk will start at 2 p.m. For more information, visit marchforbabies.org.