The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song plays over the speakers and six-year-old Caylee wiggles and giggles and claps with the other mini dancers on the stage, her face painted with cat whiskers and her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Healthy and happy, she looks like all of the other girls her age.
That is a miracle.
When Caylee was born at a mere 27-weeks gestation, she weighed less than one-and-a-half pounds. More than three months too young to be out of the womb, Caylee was placed in an incubator and connected to dozens of tubes that kept her alive. Without a team of skilled doctors and nurses, and researchers who make advances in preterm neonatal care, Caylee would not be dancing today, wearing a “NICU Graduate” tee shirt.
Caylee is the daughter of Stacey Cole, assistant director of Graduate Business Career Services at Mays. When the Master’s Leadership Council (the organization of graduate business students at Mays) was looking for a service project, Cole, who advises the group, suggested a cause close to her own heart: The March of Dimes, the organization that seeks to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Since her daughter’s birth in 2003, Cole has helped to raise more than $10,000 for March of Dimes.
The students rallied to the cause. On May 1, Mays students arrived at Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater in College Station at 6 a.m. to set up for the annual fundraiser March for Babies 5K Walk/Run. More than 500 supporters attended the 5K, which included entertainment by MCM Dance Studio and Kappa Pickers, and children’s activities such as bouncy houses, face painting, basketball, hula-hooping, pictures with the Disney princesses, and scads of food from pizza and hot dogs to Spoons Frozen Yogurt.
Students completed the set up and clean up, hosted event booths, handed out water, directed traffic, and kept things tightly running. “We could not have done this event without the incredible help of the students,” said Shona Quiring, community director for March of Dimes in Bryan/College Station. “They were diligent in making sure everything ran smoothly, and made sure all the kids and their families had a blast.” Students participating were: Tereso Herrera, Alek Schmidt, Lauren Bortka, Mimi Bowman, Garrett Stanley, Lauren McGinty, Jenna Janik, Amy Thompson, George Holzwarth, Annica McDermott, Nicole Kresse, Matt Wood, Steve Lionetti, Lindsay Brown, Amanda Eller, and Chelsea Sauder.
It was an eye-opening experience for the students. “I didn’t realize how many babies are born prematurely and that so many occur right here in College Station,” said Lindsay Brown, an MS accounting student. “I am glad I got to be a part of such a fantastic experience that celebrates and remembers these lives.”
According to the March of Dimes website, more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely each year. These babies face potentially severe and long-term complications.
“This event is a great opportunity for families to celebrate the lives of their little ones who were either born prematurely or remember the little ones who touched our lives so immensely and are no longer with us,” said Cole. “I am really proud of our students for representing such a worthy cause and making such a large impact on our community as well as this great organization.”
Along with Cole, Lori Donnell, associate director for employer development and services in the Graduate Business Careers Services office, helped to organize the student’s involvement in the March for Babies. Cole and Donnell both serve on the board of the local chapter of the March of Dimes. “This walk and organization stands up for the tiniest of human beings, giving them and their families hope, health and often miracles that would not be available without the education and research March of Dimes provides,” says Donnell. “Without the support and generosity of these students, March of Dimes would not be able to provide this service.”