March of Dimes gala raising funds to ensure more healthy babies


The San Diego Chapter of the March of Dimes will hold its annual Signature Chefs Gala on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 4 p.m. at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The fundraiser is a “supper by the bite” experience from San Diego’s top chefs. Guests will enjoy a variety of culinary offerings paired with signature libations while raising funds to support the March of Dimes mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

The Chefs Gala, chaired by San Diego philanthropists Jennifer and Robert Van Gramins, will include entertainment, live and silent auctions and an opportunity to further the critical mission of the March of Dimes.

Every year, 15 million babies are born prematurely worldwide, and one million will die before their first birthday. March of Dimes helps fund research, education, advocacy and programs that help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.

Guests of the gala will hear first-hand the impact that March of Dimes has had on the lives of families in San Diego, including this year’s ambassador Nicole Gleeson, a Rancho Santa Fe resident.

Gleeson was 15-weeks pregnant with her first baby, she had just gotten married and was excited to start her family with her husband, Brent, when she received a shocking phone call about her first trimester blood work. She was told something was wrong and she needed to come in right away.

The Gleesons learned that their daughter had Gastroschisis, a birth defect where her abdominal wall did not close all the way, leaving her intestines exposed. It would require immediate surgery after birth in order to correct the problem.

“It was horrible,” Gleeson said of the diagnosis. “My whole pregnancy was constant monitoring and planning for the birth and immediate surgery. It was so stressful.”

While physicians had told her not to look online at photos of babies with Gastroschisis, Gleeson felt like she needed to know more. The first website that popped up in her search was March of Dimes and their research on the birth defect. March of Dimes helped her become more informed and connected her with a support group.

At just 37 weeks, Gleeson went into labor and her daughter, Parker Rose, was born at UC San Diego.

“I didn’t even get to hold her,” Gleeson said. “She entered the world and immediately went into surgery.”

Parker would require a 25-day stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). It wasn’t until a week after she was born that her parents got to hold her for the very first time.

Just after Parker Rose was born, the Gleesons participated in the March for Babies Walk, raising money for the cause. As March of Dimes saw Nicole Gleeson’s active participation, they contacted her about getting more involved with the organization.

“For me it was just a great way to find the silver lining of what we were going through, to turn our energy into something positive,” Gleeson said, who served on this year’s gala committee.

At age 1, Parker Rose had a second surgery at Rady Children’s Hospital because she had a block in her intestines. It has been a whirlwind, Gleeson said, but Parker Rose is now a happy and healthy 2-and-a- half-year-old, attending the Village Church Preschool, learning tennis at The Bridges and taking good care of her baby dolls.

“We were very lucky,” Gleeson said.

Parker Rose is a reminder of why March of Dimes is important to families, fighting for them through research, vaccines, education, community programs and advocacy to make sure one day, every baby can have a healthy start.

“Everything March of Dimes does, with research and awareness, it really is important and saves thousands of babies’ lives out there,” Gleeson said.

To purchase tickets for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala, visit For more information about March of Dimes, visit