When Evan Cooper and his wife welcomed their daughter Molly into the world, she was just 29-weeks-old and weighed a scant 2 pounds, 4 ounces. In the not too distant past, her chances for survival would have been slim. But although their daughter spent more than two months in Yale's Newborn Intensive Care Unit, this East Lyme couple was able to bring Molly home.
She was still so tiny, Cooper said, that they had to pack blankets around her in the car seat so she wouldn't fall out. Yet today, Molly is a thriving four-and-a-half year old and the family credits the research done by March of Dimes for that.
Inspired by friends who, for the past five years, have held an annual dinner dance benefit for the March of Dimes that routinely raises $20,000 for the charity, last year the Cooper family decided to hold a kid-friendly skating event at the rink at Connecticut College.
"We only had three weeks to plan last year," Cooper said. Even so, last year's event raised $5,000 from people who attended and an additional $6,000 from people who donated to the cause. Cooper is optimistic they'll exceed that amount with the event they have planned for February 9 at Connecticut College's Dayton Arena.
The event is a natural fit for the couple, both of whom are Connecticut College graduates. Evan Cooper grew up playing hockey, worked at the rink as a student, skates at the rink as an adult, and also coaches kids' ice skating in Waterford. Thanks to his relationship with the college's rink manager and the school's athletic director, Cooper was able to convince the college to donate the use of the rink to the cause.
Cooper has also managed to rustle up some pretty great raffle prizes this year too, including a lithograph of the New York Giants, tickets to a Connecticut Whale Ice Hockey game and Connecticut Tigers Baseball game, a private tour of the Bronx Zoo, a signed hat from National Geographic's Deadliest Catch, and gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses.
This year's event will also feature a figure skating demonstration by Ainsely McGill of Old Lyme. McGill, 16, is a U.S. National Silver Medalist, three-time U.S. National Qualifier and three-time New England Regional Medalist who skates in Simsbury CT with coaches Vladimir and Elena Petrenko.
"This year, we’ve had more time to plan," said Cooper. "Last year we had maybe around 100 [people attending]. This year we’d like to double it, at least—the rink holds 200 to 300."
"The interesting thing is one of my mentors at work had a 'premie' before Molly was born. I didn’t get it when he said 'My kid might be dying,'" said Cooper, adding that their friends whose fundraiser initially inspired them did, sadly, did lose twins who were born prematurely. "We weren’t as committed as we should have been. Before that, we did a lot with cancer, because my mom had ovarian cancer. Once we had Molly, that shifted it."
Today, the Coopers are intent on raising funds for the March of Dimes to give other families the same opportunity to experience the small miracle that, in their case, turned out to be Molly.
Here Are The Details
Ice Skate for Babies: A family night of skating and raffles to benefit the March of Dimes on Saturday, February 9, 2013 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at Connecticut College – Dayton Arena, 270 Mohegan Ave, New London. CT.
Cost: $10 per adult/$5 per child. Rental skates available for $5.
All of the proceeds will benefit the March of Dimes. If you're unable to attend the event, you'll find other ways to make a contribution if you follow the link above.