It wasn’t that long ago that a baby born 17 weeks early would have had little to no chance to survive. Jace Zellmer beat the odds and is now a happy, thriving 5-year-old.
Jace’s family set out this year to raise $5,000 for the March of Dimes by Wednesday, Oct. 3, when they attended the Des Moines Signature Chef Auction as the 2018 March of Dimes Ambassador Family.
Their first fundraiser was a lemonade stand which raised nearly $1,500, and by Balloon Days, Melissa said they had reached their goal.
They continued fundraising, and through private donations and a taco bar, hosted by the Creston Elks Lodge, which also raised $1,500, the Zellmers were able to almost double the original $5,000 they had set out to raise.
“The [auction] is one of the Iowa March of Dimes’ biggest fundraisers,” said Melissa Zellmer, Jace’s mother. “They have the March of Dime walk, which does benefit babies, but this is the fundraiser for the March of Dimes Iowa chapter.”
The night of the auction began with a sampling of cuisine provided by chefs from around Des Moines as well as silent and live auctions.
The chefs “provided food for the event and then they had small-scale foods,” said Melissa. “You could try foods from each of the vendors and then vote to pick the favorite.”
Chefs representing Bar Louie, Flying Mango, Granite City, Cupcake Addict, the Urbandale Hy-Vee, Mercy Medical Center and Unity Point Health were featured and some also offered meal packages for auction such as lunch for up to 75 people provided by the chefs at Unity Point Health or dinner for up to 10 people at Flying Mango.
Following the auctions, the Zellmer family was presented to the audience, and following a speech by Melissa, the emcee asked the audience to “Fund the Mission.”
Fund the Mission is a sort of auction in which the auctioneer calls out donation levels and people willing to match the donation level raised their paddles. Bidding began at $5,000 to match the amount the Zellmer’s had initially intended to raise and several people raised their paddles matching that amount.
“The final Fund the Mission was $138, which was $1 for every day Jace spent in the NICU,” said Melissa. “So, they asked for a bid of $138, so our family gave $138 that night and then everybody in the room raised their paddle and bid $138 in Jace’s honor.”
All told, the event raised $118,000 for the Iowa March of Dimes. All that money will stay in Iowa to help with programs in this state.
In a letter Melissa read at the event, she said, “Because of the lifesaving research, funding and support March of Dimes provides, we have the opportunity to be parents to our amazing little boys. ... By working together, we can help ensure that every parent’s dream of a healthy, full-term birth can come true.”
The Zellmers will attend the auction next year to lend their support to the 2019 March of Dimes Ambassador Family and also plan to sponsor tables at future events to share the experience with others.
“It was an amazing event,” said Melissa. “It was awesome to be a part of it.”