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Mar 27, 2012

LaVerne Council

LaVerne Council was only five years old when she began collecting dimes to help her mother support one of her favorite charitable causes. She didn't know it then, but that early volunteer work for the March of Dimes would eventually lead Council from a career as a global information technology executive to chairman of the foundation's board of trustees. Here, she explains how she got her start, and why, through her own experience with a pre-term birth, she got even closer to the organization:

On getting involved with March of Dimes: I’ve been a volunteer for the March of Dimes since I was five years old. I can still remember actually collecting dimes to support the foundation’s work. My mother always believed in helping others and was a supporter of the organization. I became a March of Dimes Mission Mom after my son Troy was born preterm in 1998. The organization advocates to ensure that babies are screened at birth for life-threatening but treatable diseases. It also works to ensure that premature babies get surfactant to help them breathe, and I can tell you first-hand that my husband and I attribute surfactant with saving our son’s life. The support they lend to families going through the ordeal of preterm birth is just amazing.

Working on currently: Last month we launched a program in Newark, N.J. called "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait." Preterm birth is the leading infant health problem in the U.S., and the leading cause of death among African-American newborns. The goal of the program is to reduce the preterm birth rate in Newark over the next three years. Preterm births has consequences for all of us and our entire community; school systems, employers, insurers, places of worship, community centers are all impacted.

Advice you’d give to women who are planning to start or grow their families: Taking the right steps--such as seeing your physician before getting pregnant--can make all the difference in the world. Getting to a healthy weight before becoming pregnant and treating chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes all contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Women should get early prenatal care and ask their doctor if they are at risk for delivering early. But the most critical advice of all is that if a pregnancy is healthy, wait until 39 weeks of pregnancy or for labor to begin on its own to deliver. Those last few weeks really do make an enormous difference in the development of an unborn child’s brain and lungs.

REFLECTIONS: Advice you would have given yourself 10 years ago: Find a way to kiss my mother at least three times a week. * Most valuable business lesson learned: All people have to know is that you care, and then they want to help. * Words to live by: We are not here to be alone, we are here to use all of our gifts to help others.

DIVERSIONS: Reading now: Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson * Reading next: Good Idea. Now What: How to Move Ideas to Execution by Charles T. Lee * Last fun purchase: An Easter Egg decorating kit from Williams-Sonoma.

PLAYING FAVORITES: Hotel: Mandarin Oriental * Entrée: Chicken and Dumplings from Cracker Barrel * Drink: Hendricks martini.


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