When Amanda Hernandez and Davis Zelee's son Damari arrived at 25 weeks gestation, their excitement to become parents quickly turned to concern.

Hernandez, of Rockland, was in Boston attending a friend's baby shower in August 2011, when she suddenly went into premature labor.

Doctors were able to hold her delivery off for 48 hours. When Damari was born he weighed only 1 pound, 12 ounces. He spent 24 hours in an incubator, then 80 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU at Brigham and Women's Hospital before being transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Hernandez credits the funds raised and research gained with the help of the March of Dimes.

"That's why he's alive today," she said.

Damari, now a thriving 20-month-old typical bustling boy, is full of energy. He does have some respiratory issues due to weak lungs, and uses a nebulizer several times a day.

Child Development Services and EMMC evaluate Damari regularly.

"One concern is his hearing may be a little off," said Hernandez.

As ambassadors for the upcoming March for Babies, Damari's family and the Rockland March for Babies Committee encourage the community to support this annual fundraiser. The event, celebrating its 75th anniversary, will take place Sunday, May 19 at the Rockland Elks Lodge..

Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the walk starting at 9. Funds raised help support prenatal wellness programs, research grants, newborn intensive care unit family support programs and advocacy efforts for stronger, healthier babies.

Premature birth is the most urgent infant health problem in the United States today. It affects more than a half million babies each year, including one in nine in Maine. More than 4 million babies were born last year and the March of Dimes helped each and every one through 75 years of research, education, vaccines and breakthroughs. They help mothers have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies, according to information from March of Dimes.

"Miracles do happen," said Hernandez. "We would like everyone to support the walk."

Several family members and friends from the Boston area will be coming to town and co-workers and playmates from Little Learners in Rockport will be on hand to support the cause.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With the chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

The 2013 March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes number one corporate supporter Kmart, Farmers Insurance Group, Macy's, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur, Famous Footwear, Actavis, Mission Pharmacal, and United Airlines.

Local sponsors include Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Hannaford Supermarkets, Maine Medical Center, The Bank of Maine, Spectrum Medical Group, Central Maine Medical Center, and Hollywood Slots.

Courier Publications is the official media sponsor.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or by email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.