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Alumna marches in rememberance

Robert Penalber
Staff Writer

University of La Verne alumna and Phi Sigma Sigma member Mackenzie Schmidt has began promoting Team Dakota, a non-profit organization she is starting five years after facing her own personal tragedy.

Since 2007 Schmidt has also been involved with the March of Dimes, a non-profit organization that works to improve the health of both mothers and babies.

“My son’s name is Dakota,” Schmidt said. “He wasn’t born premature, his heart stopped while he was in utero. April 17 is the anniversary of his death.”

Mackenzie Schmidt buried her son Dakota on her birthday in 2007.

While recovering from her C-section surgery, Schmidt said her family first heard about the Orange County chapter of March for Babies, which is a five-mile walking event held by the March of Dimes to raise money for research.

“We went out 10 days later after I had him and we walked in the event in his name,” Schmidt said. “I was in a wheelchair and my husband pushed me. We’ve done it ever since.”

Since first participating, Schmidt has continued to set goals every year, including more than $20,000 she has helped raise.

In 2007 Team Dakota had 12 walkers. So far, 109 walkers have signed up for this year.

Schmidt added that last year nearly 30 participants were La Verne students.

“I’m hoping to raise that number even more,” Schmidt said.

“I would love to see the University of La Verne form a March for Babies team,” said Sheri Lunn, a ULV alumna and director of communications for the March of Dimes.

Schmidt plans to continue her involvement with the March of Dimes and expand Team Dakota to her own non-profit organization next year.

“It’ll be a non-profit that deals specifically with pregnancy loss because there’s not a lot out there right now,” Schmidt said.

“Based on the experience we have gone through, (Mackenzie) has more specific goals,” Schmidt’s husband Grant Dak Schmidt said. “She works hard all year round making plans.”

Mackenzie Schmidt said she is trying to do all the legwork because she is solely planning the non-profit with encouragement from her husband, who is also a ULV alumnus and a member of Phi Delta Theta.

With Team Dakota, Mackenzie Schmidt wants to provide support and materials to individuals and hospitals because she feels there is a lack of education on what to do in these situations.

“If people have Team Dakota in their heads, then if this should happen to them or anybody that they know, they can remember that and spread the word,” Mackenzie Schmidt said.

Still, Mackenzie Schmidt said that it will be hard to promote her organization because it is not something that can easily be spread on the street.

“Nobody talks about it, it’s not a fun thing,” Mackezie Schmidt said. “I had all these questions and nobody could answer me or direct me, and everybody kind of strayed back.”

Mackenzie Schmidt wants to provide resources and information for those in a similar situation to hers, instead of sympathy.

“Doctors are trained to come in and say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ and that’s all they do.” Mackenzie Schmidt said.

“And by the 15th time I heard ‘Sorry for your loss’ I wanted to punch somebody in the face because I’m grateful you’re sorry, but help me.”

Acknowledging that everyone reacts differently, Mackenzie Schmidt said she is always willing to talk about the sensitive subject to anybody anywhere.

“This is what I want to do,” Mackenzie Schmidt said. “I’d rather do this than sit at home and be sad.”

Team Dakota will participate in the Orange County chapter’s March for Babies on Sunday at 8 a.m.

For more information, visit marchforbabies.org/dakotasmama.

Robert Penalber can be reached at robert.penalber@laverne.edu.

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