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December 4: Melanie Hoffman
Melanie Hoffman; Mother, Fundraiser and Philanthropist Education: Cornell University (B.S.) and New York University (M.A. in Film and TV and Japanese) Family: Husband Lee, six-year-old son Joshua and four-year-old son Alex Charity positions: March of Dimes Florida Ambassador Family and 2010 National Ambassador Family
It wasn't her fault that her baby was born more than four months too soon. And there was no reason for her to feel like she let him down. But that is how Melanie Hoffman felt and it's why she has spent the past three years volunteering for the March of Dimes — trying to make up to her son Joshua for the fact that as a newborn, hospital staff tagged him a "micro-preemie" instead of using his name.
After Joshua Hoffman was delivered, Melanie recalls, "The sheer terror and overwhelming shame I felt hit me with such force that every inch of my body shook. My first minutes of motherhood with my baby outside my womb and I was completely devastated by how I had let my own child down. My husband Lee and I couldn't be more terrified, and I was positive that after just 24 hours I had no more tears left."
Joshua was born nearly four months too son when Melanie went into labor unexpectedly. Doctors could not stop it and delivered Joshua who weighed only 1 pound, 11 ounces at birth.
Joshua wasn't expected to live. He spent three-and-a-half months in the newborn intensive care unit. During that time, he faced many challenges common to babies born too soon. Melanie and Lee did not know if Joshua would ever walk or talk, see or hear.
But he's now six years old. He has visual impairment with blindness in his right eye and a low field of vision. But that hasn't stopped Melanie from encouraging her son to do what he loves most — reading, drawing, building things, swimming, riding his bike and giving speeches at March of Dimes events.
And it hasn't stopped Melanie from trying to save other families from the worry-filled months when babies are hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Melanie began volunteering with the March of Dimes because she wanted to help prevent other families from having to go through the same horrifying experience she and Lee went through with the unexpected birth of Josh. Melanie has chaired numerous March of Dimes event committees, created cookbooks and hosted fundraisers. The Hoffman family raised $35,000 in two years for the March of Dimes March for Babies, the non-profit's most important national fundraiser. Melanie is currently working on a pilot campaign, "Every Week Counts," which she developed in an effort to raise $3 million for the March of Dimes. As the Florida Ambassador Family and 2010 National Ambassador Family, Melanie has devoted her time to speaking on behalf of the March of Dimes at corporate events, to legislators and the media nationwide.
Melanie Hoffman has always had a strong commitment to community service. Today, she is completely immersed in volunteer activities with the March of Dimes because of her deep connection with the March of Dimes mission.
Melanie said, "Our hearts still skip a beat every time we see Joshua smile, hear him talk and laugh and feel his strong hugs and soft kisses."
The decision to have another baby was a very scary one for Melanie. When she became pregnant with her second son Alex, Melanie was monitored very closely and received weekly injections of 17P, a naturally occurring derivative of the hormone progesterone that can prevent some preterm births. Alex is now a healthy and energetic four year old who is fascinated by cars and trains and has a strong, loving bond with his big brother.
Melanie is currently a stay-at-home-mom. She received a B.S. from Cornell University, and an M.A. in Film and TV and Japanese from New York University.