Vita Tringone's passion for preemies

For Vita Tringone, volunteering for the March of Dimes is about more than just participating in her school's charity activities. Since losing her 2-month-old son, Michael, in 2000, Tringone has channeled her grief into efforts to help all babies be born healthy.

"I remember March of Dimes from when I was very young and associated it with fighting polio," says Tringone. "I remember the picture of the poster-child with braces on his legs. I didn’t know of anyone at the time who suffered from this disease, but knew they fought for a good cause. So many years later, the March of Dimes has touched my family's lives in a very personal way."

After Michael's death, Vita and her family became involved with the March of Dimes, participating at WalkAmerica. When the principal of the school where Vita teaches approached the faculty about conducting a WonderWalk, Vita jumped on board. She now coordinates the Willow Road Elementary School Halloween WonderWalk, which has raised over $10,000 for the March of Dimes in its 3-year history.

Her fervor for healthy babies didn't stop with her own volunteer efforts. It was caught by her children, Adriana and Matthew, who started their own charity initiative, Blankets for Babies. Inspired by the gifts of blankets and clothing Michael received during his stay in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU), his siblings formed Blankets for Babies to secure donations of blankets, mittens, beanies and booties for infants undergoing the NICU experience.

Michael's stay in the NICU wasn’t the first time the Tringones were affected by the March of Dimes. Their first son, Matthew, was born 6 weeks premature with under-developed lungs. After receiving surfactant, Matthew began to thrive, and is now healthy and strong. "I'm sure the March of Dimes had something to do with the research that later resulted in saving my son’s life. This was a success story from every angle."

Michael's story, however, is one with a different result, and is one that too many families today share. "My third child and second son, Michael was born after a very agreeable and pleasant pregnancy. There wasn’t any reason to think that we would encounter any problems, and my family was overjoyed when he was born. We were unaware of what was yet to come. Michael was born with a condition that the doctors were never able to quite figure out. However, he had enormous difficulty breathing, no swallow reflex, and they believe he was deaf and blind. We were devastated when we were told he would never be able to speak, eat or walk."

Baby Michael spent two months in the hospital and endured painful and intrusive medical procedures. Though this was a difficult period for the entire Tringone family, they were thankful to have time with Michael before he passed away. "The only thing I can hold onto until this day is that, because of all of the research and findings that were done Michael was able to be with us for two whole months. We were able to hold him, change him, feed him, cuddle him and kiss him--a lot! I know I was so lucky and I am so grateful to have had him for the time we did."

Vita Tringone is a stellar example of a March of Dimes volunteer. Her belief that every baby should be born healthy with the right to thrive has extended to her family and to her students at Willow Road Elementary. Because of her efforts, inspiring others to give back, and educating them about the importance of healthy lifestyles, there will come a day when the birth of every baby is a success story from every angle.