Some stories require a sequel. This is one of them.
Last fall, I told you about a road race with an unusual prize: pregnancy.
OK, that probably deserves a quick explanation. More specifically, the prize was a free cycle of in-vitro fertilization, which would produce a baby for women who had been unable to conceive and unable to afford the IVF procedure.
At least that was the hope.
"Check back with us in about nine months," I wrote at the time.
It's nine months later, and we're checking back.
Serena Mackerell is going to have a baby.
Three of them.
She hit the baby jackpot: triplets.
"I never expected this," she says. "I still can't believe it sometimes."
It's ironic, isn't it? In some parts of the country, they're destroying pregnancies, sometimes in horrifying ways. In Philadelphia, an abortion doctor is on trial, alleged to have killed seven viable, live-birth babies in a case that is so gruesome you can barely read the news reports.
Yet, there are thousands of people like Serena and Travis Mackerell who are desperate to have a baby. Now, they have one, two, three of them on the way, and they owe it all to the love of family.
Married for five years, Travis and Serena had been trying to have a baby for four years. They were beginning to despair, especially when Serena's sisters, Holly Bryant and Lauren Sheppard, who got married at about the same time as Serena, had several children. A doctor told them an IVF procedure was their only option, but they couldn't afford the $10,000 price tag.
Holly and Lauren decided to help their sister. They organized the Footsteps for Fertility 5K road race to raise money for grants that would provide IFVs. They also offered a raffle prize — a free IVF procedure courtesy of Dr. Russell Foulke, an IVF specialist with the Utah Fertility Center in Pleasant Grove. For legal expedience, they also partnered with Pay it Forward Fertility Foundation, a nonprofit, North Carolina-based organization that provides grants to couples for IVFs.
Not surprisingly, the race with the unusual prize attracted media attention. What was surprising was that something with such good intentions engendered some criticism and negativity in the wake of stories by a London tabloid, The New York Times and ABC-TV. "Some didn't even get the facts straight," says Serena. "And then there were all these negative comments afterward — haven't they ever heard of adoption? I didn't want to rule anything out — I'm open to adoption — but why not try everything you can. (Adoption) is just as expensive, and you have to wait for a third party to pick you, and a lot of couples wait forever."
Don't you wish some people would just mind their own business in such personal decisions? After all, the desire to have children is as natural as breathing.
Anyway, the sisters were hoping 300 would sign up for the race; instead, they got about 1,000 — 600 to run the race and 400 more who signed up just to be eligible for the raffle. Some of them were hoping to win an IVF for themselves, others for a friend or relative. The race raised $35,000 — enough for five IVF grants, including one for Serena and Travis.
The bottom line: The race provided five couples with the opportunity to start a family. Three couples are pregnant. Of the remaining two women who won a grant, one failed to conceive and another woman will soon undergo the IVF procedure.
That's one race, five babies.
So there it is: Two sisters set out to help their other sister, and because of their efforts, not only is Serena having a baby, she's having three of them; and not only is their sister having a baby, but so are two other women and possibly three.
"From the beginning, I felt confirmation from the Lord that it was all going to turn out," says Laurel. "I knew it would result in babies and help couples. It's incredible to think we had a hand in helping five couples start their families."
Holly, Laurel and Serena are planning another Footsteps for Fertility race for Aug. 31 at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. This time, they have formed their own nonprofit organization, which will allow them to use the grants for local couples.
"It's unfortunate that money has to be a roadblock to some people trying to make a family," says Holly. "That doesn't seem right or fair, especially when the technology is out there. I hope this race inspired people to know that they can think outside the box of ways to make this happen."