BARSTOW Sara Cowan was born 14 weeks prematurely, and when her mother, Amanda Cowan, thinks about her three-year-old's birth, she still gets emotional.

"It was devastating. I never suspected that," said Cowan. At 26 weeks, Sara had gotten tangled in her umbilical cord, which was cutting off her oxygen supply. Doctors had to give Cowan an emergency C-section and put the infant on a breathing tube, using a method called surfactant therapy, to allow Sara to breathe.

Because that method was developed from March of Dimes-funded research, Cowan credits the foundation with, literally, her baby's life.
"Without the March of Dimes, Sara wouldn't be alive," she said.

Since Sara was born in 2006, Cowan has walked every year in the March for Babies, an annual fundraiser of March of Dimes, an organization that funds research and provides information on preventing premature births and birth defects. Sara is now a happy healthy baby, said Cowan.

Sara is also the 2009 March for Babies Ambassador, according to Gail Shoemaker, who is organizing Barstow's March for Babies Saturday.

The event includes two courses a two-and-a-half mile walk and a five mile walk, where participants raise money as teams or individuals through sponsors.

Last year, about 70 participants raked in $17,000, according to Shoemaker, who said she hopes to beat it with a goal of raising $20,000 this year.

The march routes are dotted with four checkpoints where marchers can get food and drinks, said Shoemaker. A hot-dog lunch is also provided afterwards.

While the event is festive, it has an important message of celebrating healthy babies and honoring those that aren't, Shoemaker said, and raising awareness about prevalant infant health issues.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or

March for Babies
When: Saturday, April 25.
Where: Barstow Junior High School, 1000 Armory Road.
Time: Registration starts at 7 a.m., prewalk activities are at 8 a.m. and the walk begins at 8:30 a.m.
Cost: There is no registration cost, however fundraising and donations are accepted.
Questions: Call Gail Shoemaker, event chairperson, at (760) 256-6125