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Doug Robinson: Footsteps for Fertility to run up charity funds

Published: Monday, Aug. 27 2012 11:04 p.m. MDT

We've heard of people running for gold, running for the roses, running for fun, running for country, running for cash and medals, even running for president, but who ever heard of running for a pregnancy?

The first Footsteps for Fertility road race will be held Sept. 15 in Draper, and if all goes according to plan, the race will produce a baby. Check back with us in about nine months.

So far, more than 200 have registered for the race, and the real winner won't be the person who crosses the finish line first. The $35 race entry fee gets them a spot in the race and a raffle ticket. Immediately after the race, there will be a drawing. The winner of the raffle gets a free in vitro fertilization.

Let's start at the beginning, which is where we meet three sisters — Holly, 31, Serena, 28, and Laurel Segura, 23. They all got married within 4½ months of each other in 2008. Now, four years later, Holly has two children, Laurel has one with another one on the way and Serena has none, which brings us to the point.

Like thousands of other couples who want kids, Serena and her husband, Travis, cannot have children naturally; a year ago, their doctor informed them that they needed in vitro fertilization. There was just one more hurdle: The procedure is pricey — about $10,000 — and medical insurance does not cover it.

Time dragged on; nothing happened. Holly ached for her sister. "I want this for Serena, and I don't want her to wait for years while they save money," she says.

Holly decided to do something about it. She is a West Point graduate and Army captain who served two tours in the Middle East. She is accustomed to taking charge of situations and solving problems. As she puts it, "I was so tired of sitting around, waiting."

She discovered Pay It Forward, a North Carolina-based organization that provides grants to couples for IVFs. The organization has provided 10 grants, which have produced four children with three on the way. Holly encouraged Serena and Travis to apply for a grant. Pay it Forward said the couple qualified for a grant, but they didn't have the money to fund it.

Undeterred, Holly decided to raise the money herself, but after consulting an attorney, she decided it was best to funnel the money through an established nonprofit organization, since there wasn't time to form her own. She called Pay it Forward with a proposal: "If we raise the money, will you give the grant to my sister and you can keep whatever is left over?" They agreed.

To raise the money, Holly decided to organize a 5K road race, with a twist: They would offered an IVF procedure to the winner of a raffle, which would attract more runners for Serena's cause while also helping someone else get an IVF procedure. They contacted Dr. Russell Foulke, an IVF specialist with the Utah Fertility Center in Pleasant Grove. He agreed to offer a 50 percent discount on the procedure, but later increased it to 100 percent.

"He felt if he offered a full cycle, we would get more attention," Holly says. "We found out he is a generous guy. He's all about the cause and helping people as much as they can."

With six weeks to go, the race is easily within its goal of 300 entries. Entire families and neighborhoods are signing up to increase the odds of drawing the winning raffle ticket for a family member or friend who needs the IVF procedure. One couple is represented by 40 entrants, and most of the 200 entrants represent 12 couples.

"Most of our runners are entering to support 12 couples," Holly says.

Those who live out of state or who are unable to run can enter the "Sleep for Fertility" category to support a couple they know.

Holly, with the considerable on-the-scene help of Laurel, has spent most of the summer organizing the race from her home in Texas, rounding up sponsors, negotiating with doctors and Pay It Forward, and dealing with the myriad details of putting on a road race.

"It's the love of two sisters for their sister," says their mother, Denise.

If they want to see how the race has inspired others, all they have to do is browse the comments section on the Footsteps for Fertility website. As for Holly, she is already looking ahead. "We are in the process of making a business plan to become (a) nonprofit," she says. "We are committed to the cause and to making sure every penny goes to help local couples."

Email: drob@desnews.com

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