Ashley Gerner is saving North Dakota, one baby at a time. Based in Fargo, she travels the state on a regular basis, helping secure funds dedicated to help eliminate premature births. Gerner is the community director for the March of Dimes.
"We want to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature births and infant mortality," said Gerner. "It's empowering and overwhelming and it motivates me to work harder every day. It is at fundraising events that you realize how far reaching the work really is."
The rate of premature births in North Dakota has risen dramatically, increasing 30 percent in the last 10 years.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN •
Ashley Gerner, North Dakota March of Dimes community director.
"We have one of the fastest growing rates," explained Gerner. "One in nine babies are born premature in North Dakota. Unfortunately, the problem is not going away. We need to keep working towards the day when all babies are born healthy."
Another step toward that goal is coming up soon. Gerner will be in Minot Aug. 12 to help with a "Jail & Bail" fundraiser. The event is scheduled at the Paradiso Restaurant from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Temporary jailbirds will be allowed one hour to make phone calls to raise money for the March of Dimes. Bail has been set at $800.
"Hundreds of business leaders are being secured as jailbirds as we speak," laughed Gerner. "Many have been turned in by friends. They will be served the finest bread and water. I'll be there to greet them, book 'em and have their mug shots taken."
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Gerner, a native of Wyndmere, graduated from North Dakota State University in 2007 with a degree in marketing. She says her goal was always to work with a non-profit organization. The March of Dimes has been a perfect fit.
"It's something that always interested me and has always been something I've been passionate about," said Gerner. "Every day is different and I get to meet all sorts of families throughout the state that have been impacted by our mission."
Although she assists with coordinating fundraising events at several cities in the state, Gerner says she always looks forward to her time in Minot. Minot hosts several fundraisers each year. As an example, the annual "Bowls for Babies" is scheduled for the International Inn in November. Minot, she says, always has the best volunteers.
"They are so willing to get involved," exclaimed Gerner. "The amount of support we receive from Minot is just outstanding year after year. The support from the Minot Air Force Base is great to see too. In Minot we have hundreds of families that show up. They are incredible people and you realize how many have been touched and impacted by what we do. It's very rewarding."
"She's a wonderful co-worker, very personable and professional. That's why she's so good at her job, which is to help more healthy babies being born," said Cindy Bailey, office manager for the March of Dimes in Fargo. "She's responsible for all the fundraising for North Dakota."
A portion of the money raised at March of Dimes events is used for research. In North Dakota some of the funds are used for grants, education of health care professionals, and education and outreach to women of childbearing age.
Gerner, who has been enthusiastically on the job for three years, is quick to credit local organizations and individual volunteers for making her job a bit easier. Volunteers say that working with Gerner makes volunteering an easy choice to make.