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Walk Raises Money to Find Cause of Premature Births

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WAUKEE, Iowa  --  A baby's birth can be like a roller coaster ride, especially when the little one comes much earlier than expected.

The March of Dimes reports about one of every ten babies is born early in the United States. The organization is trying to prevent premature births.

Brooks and Beckett are like most two-year-old boys.

“They fight, they cry, they smile, they love dirt," said mom Mackenzie Keenan.

You'd never know the Keenan twins spent the first few months of their lives in the hospital. Dad Ben Keenan said, "Brooks and Beckett were born at 28 weeks. Something we weren't ready for."

Beckett weighed in at 2 pounds 10 ounces, and Brooks was 3 pounds 13 ounces.

"They both could fit in my tank top at the same time. That's how little they were," said Mackenzie.

Brooks spent 53 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and Beckett was there for 58 days. Both are healthy and very active now. The Keenan family will serve as this year's ambassador for the March of Dimes March for Babies walk.

Ben said, "Being the face of the campaign, we just let people know this could be a really difficult time for you. You may not know how it will turn out, but here is a situation that can be positive, and have a happy ending."

The March for Babies is May 6th at the DMACC campus in Ankeny, and March of Dimes wants to raise $265,000 at the walk.

"We fund five prematurity research centers in the country. There's actually two in the Midwest. The University of Iowa actually feeds into the Ohio collaborative," said Executive Director Shonda Hershberger.

The March of Dimes is focused on what causes premature births. Hershberger said the organization has 200 scientists working together to figure it out.

"We know stress in mothers leads to preterm labor, so stress in workplace and how does that correlate with women who are light sleepers, how does that correlate with women who are lighter sleepers between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., because that seems to be a time frame when this happens a lot."

The Keenan family hopes its fundraising and awareness efforts help.

"The next step is out there, and we just don't know what it is yet. So all of this money and research and awareness is going towards that, and we're just very thankful for that," said Ben.

They’ll participate in the March for Babies as they wait for their newest addition.

Mackenzie said, "I am due with baby number three at the end of May, so right now I am 32 weeks pregnant, so when I left the doctor's last time, they said, 'Congratulations, this is the longest you've ever been pregnant. So, we're hoping, crossing our fingers, this baby is full term."

The March for Babies on May 6th is a 2.2-mile walk on the DMACC Ankeny campus. New this year is a super hero sprint for the little kids. The young runners will get a bright purple super hero cape. You can sign up on the March of Dimes website.