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She helps people walk for healthy babies

Farmington's Andrea Swedin, left, coordinated the Stillwater March for Babies. She rounded up family and friends, including her college friend Jenna Czech, to help out with the March of Dimes fund-raiser, which netted about $40,000.

Andrea Swedin isn't a mom. She hasn't really had anyone close to her go through a troubled pregnancy. But all the same, she put in a really long day Sunday, helping to coordinate the March for Babies through the March of Dimes.

A special events coordinator for the March of Dimes, Swedin is one of a handful of people who plan fund raising efforts around the state to raise money for research on birth defects and the causes of premature births.

A self-described "Farmingtonite," Swedin attended the University of Minnesota, Duluth after graduating from Farmington High School. She earned a degree in health education - she figured she'd go into teaching - but came home to look for a job. While her search was on, she went back to KinderCare, where she'd worked when she was younger, just to have a job.

And sometimes, things just fall into place. One day, she was talking to the father of a child at KinderCare. It was idle conversation that somehow turned to her job search. She mentioned her degree, he mentioned his position at the March of Dimes, and that there was an opening for a special events coordinator. One thing led to another, and she locked in the position.

That was back in 2007. Since then, Swedin has spent a lot of time working with teams and companies, and simply making people aware of the March of Dimes' mission. There are lots of smaller fund raising events she works on, but the March for Babies is the biggest. From January through April, the March for Babies is the focus of her attention.

March for Babies

Swedin calls the March for Babies the "signature event" for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes, as a nonprofit, puts that money into research to help identify why premature births occur, and research to help those premature babies survive. Often, babies who are born prematurely suffer some sort of birth defect, or even face death. By funding research, the March of Dimes tries to eliminate those risks.

The Greater Twin Cities March for Babies was held last Sunday, with walks in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Stillwater. Combined, nearly 4,000 people made the walk, and raised more than $1 million for the first time in the history of Minnesota's program. The Stillwater walk raised about $40,000. Swedin said 77 cents of every dollar raised will go to research.

The March of Dimes uses that money as grant funding. There's about $2 million in grants being used for research at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. Another $55,000 goes back into the communities to help families who have a child who was born prematurely.

Swedin's morning started pretty early Sunday. By 6 a.m., she was out at Boom Island, setting up for the Minneapolis walk, which is typically the largest of the three. Since she was the coordinator for the Stillwater walk, though, she had to leave before the Minneapolis walk even started.

Making it happen

This isn't the first year Swedin has been involved in the March for Babies. Since she took her job in 2007, she's got a few under her belt already. The Stillwater walk is smaller - only about 75 people turned out, compared to the 1,000 or so who were at the Minneapolis walk - but the enthusiasm is still overwhelming.

"It's just such a cool thing to see that many people coming together for a cause they all believe in, and one that I believe in," she said. "I just got chills. I've never had a child, but I work with so many families who have been affected, and I feel so close to the mission, that it's absolutely incredible."

She spent the better part of her day Saturday out in Stillwater with her mom, Mary, driving around the 3 1/2 mile course and putting out the markers. By 10 a.m. Sunday, she was on her way back, ready to set up at the Stillwater walk.

The only problem was, this year she wasn't able to make solid connections with volunteer groups in Stillwater. She needed people to help with checking in teams, people to hand out snacks and water at the check points and people to just cheer on the walkers. So she turned to her family and friends from Farmington. She had about a dozen folks who gave up part of their Sunday to help.

"It was a busy day, but we have lots to celebrate," Swedin said. "Everyone's together on this, and they're all fighting for the same thing."

Though most of Swedin's focus from January through April is directed at the March for Babies, her job does, in fact, fill up a whole year. There are some other events she works on - gala fund-raising events, "Jail and Bail" fund-raisers, things of that nature - plus she uses her time to help teams plan events to raise money for upcoming walks.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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