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Former Mrs. Georgia promotes walk

FORSYTH - As a wife, a mother of five and having just finished her reign as Mrs. Georgia 2006 it would seem Sherri Goggin wouldn't have time for much else. But the mother from Athens has made time to serve as an advocate for the March of Dimes and she and her family are serving as this year's Gwinnett WalkAmerica family.

Goggin has supported the organization dedicated to eradicating premature birth for nearly eight years and said after her first child was born prematurely she decided to get involved with the March of Dimes.

This year Goggin and her husband, 4-year-old triplets (born 10 weeks early) and her two other children will serve as the March of Dimes' WalkAmerica family - agreeing to nationally sharing her story about her premature children.

"Four of my five children were preemies," Goggin said. "And while my first child was in the (neonatal intensive care unit) for four months I learned about the March of Dimes."

Throughout Goggin's time as Mrs. Georgia she used her reign as a platform to educate mothers and families about the resources available through the nonprofit and the research the organization funds to prevent premature births.

As the WalkAmerica family, Goggin said she will be walking at 10 a.m. April 28 at Lake Lanier Island Park.

"I started the 'Preemie Teamie' a few years ago," Goggin said. "It was just me and four other families. We raised $5,000 the first year and we're walking and raising money again."

March of Dimes Northeast Executive Director Joe Saceric said more than 1,000 people are expected to walk the four miles through Lake Lanier, and many have been raising money through individual fundraisers and online requests in an effort to support March of Dimes research.

"Premature birth is the number one cause of newborn death," Saceric said. "The funds from this walk will someday, we hope, help prevent that."

Saceric said Gwinnett businesses, families and schools have signed up to support the cause and have been raising money for the past few weeks.

"This is really a great opportunity for people to have an impact in a really easy way," Saceric said.

The chance remains for people to sign up for the walk online or before the event April 28, Saceric said, and online donating is also available.

No registration fee is required to walk and walkers are not asked to raise a maximum amount of money.

"Every little bit helps," Saceric said.

Betty Mugacha of Dacula said she also plans to walk this year. She gave birth to son Emmanuel 24 weeks early in October 2005. Weighing 1 pound, 6 ounces at birth, Emmanuel is now healthy and is this year's walk ambassador child.

Mugacha said she donated to WalkAmerica regularly before Emmanuel's birth and never realized her donations would help save her son's life.

"I'm very thankful (to the March of Dimes)," Mugacha said. "(Emmanuel) is doing great and has overcome all his problems. I'm very excited to get (Emmanuel's) story out and knowing it's helping others ... it's really profound. I love it."

Saceric said all walkers will receive free breakfast before and a free lunch after the walk, as well as entertainment and family activities. Walkers who raised money will receive prizes for the efforts, including T-shirts, store gift cards and airline tickets as possible prizes.

"It's meant to be a celebration ... a really great time for everyone that participates that day," Saceric said.

To sign up for the walk or donate money to the March of Dimes, visit www.walkamerica.org.

If you go

•What: March of Dimes Gwinnett Walk America

•When: April 28, registration begins at 9 a.m. at the Holiday Pavilion, the walk begins at 10 a.m.

•Where: Lake Lanier Island's Holiday Pavilion