Mrs. Georgia makes NICU visits a top priority during reign

Are you aware of an event or project that benefits our community? Contact Shelley Mann at 770-963-9205 ext. 1305 or shelley.mann@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Sherri Goggin understands how difficult things are for parents with babies in neonatal intensive care units. The Athens woman, reigning Mrs. Georgia USA, gave birth to four babies born prematurely.

Kate and Jack, twins, weighed just more than one pound each when they were born at 24 weeks old. Jack lived only nine hours. She later gave birth to a set of triplets born at 30 weeks old. Since Kate came home from the hospital, Goggin has been actively involved with the March of Dimes, the national nonprofit group that works to prevent birth defects, premature births and infant mortality.

Her most recent project has been delivering care packages - complete with a blanket, a stuffed animal, March of Dimes literature and a personal note - in person to families staying in area NICUs.

Last week, Goggin stopped by Gwinnett Medical Center's Women's Pavilion for the first time. She shared pictures of her children and discussed the March of Dimes program with the Solorzanos, a Winder couple whose daughter was born prematurely.

"These people want to get involved after they go through something like this, but sometimes they don't know how," Goggin said.

About one out of every 10 babies born at Gwinnett Medical Center is admitted to the NICU, said Dr. Leslie Leigh, a neonatologist in the center. It's a stressful time for the parents, and visits from people such as Goggin, who have been through similar situations, are invaluable, Leigh said.

"Pregnancy is such an optimistic situation, and this is such a negative outcome," Leigh said. "Most people take a normal pregnancy for granted."

•One of the March of Dimes' annual fundraisers - Ride to Save Babies - will take place next weekend at Lakewood Fairgrounds, 2000 Lakewood Ave. in Atlanta.

Thousands of bikers are expected to ride through Atlanta on Saturday through Oct. 1 to raise money for the nonprofit group's Georgia chapter. The event has raised more than $4.75 million over the past 15 years for the March of Dimes, and funds projects that promote maternal and infant health. For more information, visit www.marchofdimesride.com.

The biggest annual fundraiser for the March of Dimes, WalkAmerica, is held each year in April. Visit www.walkamerica.org for more information.

Taste of Buford

will benefit

Hi-Hope Center

This year's Taste of Buford event, scheduled to run from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, will benefit the Hi-Hope Center in Lawrenceville, which serves local adults with developmental disabilities.

Hi-Hope's programs and services are offered in a caring environment that builds self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.

Thirteen Buford area restaurants will offer samples of their food at this year's event, which will be held in the Bona Allen Tannery, 554 W. Main St. in Buford. Participating restaurants include: Flowery Branch Yacht Club, Grapes & Hops Bar & Bistro, The Old Mill House, Sperata and more. Also at the event will be a strolling musician and local radio personalities.

Tickets are $25 and 100 percent of proceeds from the Taste of Buford will go to Hi-Hope, organizers say. Next month, Hi-Hope will also hold its fourth annual 5K Challenge Run and one-mile Fun Walk fundraisers Oct. 14 at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville. Call 770-963-8694 or visit www.hihopecenter.org for more information.

Yard sale will raise money for special needs school

The Special Needs School of Gwinnett will hold a yard sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its new building, 660 David Road in Lawrenceville. Money raised at the sale will go toward students sponsorships and purchasing items on the school's "wish list."

The community is also invited to the school's fall fundraiser, its annual Spaghetti Dinner and Silent Basket Auction on Oct. 20. The dinner will run from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the school's preschool location, 1001 Duluth Highway in Lawrenceville. The cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children. To learn more about the Special Needs School of Gwinnett, call 678-442-6262 or visit www.specialneedsschools.org.