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March of Dimes March for Babies will be May 4 at Regency Furniture Stadium, 11765 St. Linus Drive, Waldorf. Registration is at 7:30 a.m. with the walk at 9 a.m. Call 800-525-9255 or go to www.marchforbabies.org.

By SARA K. TAYLOR

Staff writer

While working at a La Plata bridal shop, Katie Haile thought it would be fun to join the store’s walking team that would participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies.

“My mom raised me by doing things like this,” said Haile of giving back and taking part in fundraisers.

Seven years ago as a member of the Bridal Secrets team, Haile walked 5 miles in a wedding dress with a baby doll strapped to her chest with a sling.

“I got a lot of looks,” she said.

Haile, who is the mother of two sons — Bryce, now 10, and Brenden, now 8 — was just doing her part to help propel the mission of the March of Dimes to fund research, education initiatives and advocate for stronger, healthier babies.

She didn’t know the organization would one day help her family.

In 2009, Haile was pregnant with her third son — a boy who would be called Braedee Josiah — and she went from working in a carpeted showroom to a concrete-floored warehouse.

The leg pain that started, the numbness — she attributed it to the layout of her new job, maybe to being five months pregnant.

But the more run-down she got, the more the concerns cropped up until her mother Carol insisted she go to the doctor and get checked out.

On March 3, 2009, tests revealed that Haile had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer so aggressive doctors told her that she would be dead within a few days without treatment.

She asked if she could put off chemotherapy or get a less aggressive form. But the doctors at Washington Hospital Center told her she wouldn’t make it.

She had Bryce and Brenden to consider, to worry about and to raise.

“God gave him to me so I could find out I was sick,” Haile said of Braedee. “So I can be a mother to my sons.”

Braedee was delivered and died March 10.

Haile embarked on a journey of recovery that led the petite Port Tobacco native to bloat and gain more than 80 pounds and lose her lustrous waist-length dark hair.

She had chemotherapy every day for 28 days and then had two and a half years of maintenance treatments. She was fighting for her life and mourning her son.

“I was focusing on God,” Haile said. “I took every breath to get to the next one. No matter what life deals you, you do the best you can.”

Her parents — Butch Tipton, who died in 2012, and Carol Davis — kept her company and her spirits up.

When she needed rides to the hospital for treatment, Davis’s co-workers at the Charles County Sheriff’s Office stepped up to drive her, and Jennifer Abell, the March of Dimes Suburban Maryland division director, gave Davis a gift card to help with fuel expenses.

Haile said that the March of Dimes does things that might not get much attention, but the actions help greatly.

“People don’t always see that they are there for families, too,” Haile said. “You always think it happens to someone else. But everyone knows somebody who is affected” by premature birth.

Haile, her husband John, Bryce, Brenden, Davis and about 15 family members and friends — dubbed Braedee’s Ladies and Braedee’s Bros — will be at Regency Furniture Stadium on Sunday morning for the March for Babies, the signature fundraiser for the March of Dimes.

Abell is proud to point out that the March of Dimes started the concept of charity walks when the March for Babies was launched in 1970.

Now the walks are held all over the nation each spring and fund research, education and getting the word out about the organization’s mission, including its 39-week initiative “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait.”

The program aims to inform parents that healthy pregnancies can be a result of waiting for labor to start on its own and that it’s best to stay pregnant for 39 weeks, Abell said.

“Despite discomfort, waiting 39 weeks is a small sacrifice to give your baby the best life possible,” Abell said.

She said in Maryland one in eight babies is born premature, with the number increasing to one in six for African-American babies in the state.

Nationally, one in nine babies is born before the due date, Abell said.

“In the state of Maryland, the preterm birth rate has steadily decreased,” she said. “But it’s still very much an issue.”

Abell expects about 1,200 participants at Sunday’s walk, which includes a 3-mile and 5-mile route and family-friendly activities including visits from the Happily Ever After princesses and the Southern Maryland Superheroes, and a performance by Unplugged, La Plata High School’s a cappella group.

In 2013, the March for Babies in Southern Maryland raised more than $212,000, according to information provided by Abell.

Since the event was founded more than 40 years ago, $2 billion has been raised for the March of Dimes.

This year, almost 700 walks will be held in the U.S.

staylor@somdnews.com “

staylor@somdnews.com “