Coming up next week is the biggest fundraising event for the Southern Minnesota March of Dimes. Every year the organization invites area chefs to donate their food and time, all in the effort to raise money for research and education to help improve the health of babies.

"I had never been through any difficult time like that before and I tell people it's like a different world when you're in the hospital," Grace's mother, Jennifer Schwertfeger said.
"Grace is a fun 12-year-old right now but she had a rough beginning, she was born 1 lb 6 oz and at 24 weeks which is a micro-preemie, very, very frail and fragile," Michael Schwertfeger, Grace's father said.
"It changed me, who I was. It was a different way of life. It was very critical every day, it was very touch and go with Grace. There were good days, there were bad days. We hoped and prayed for the miracle that she kept surviving," Jennifer added.
Had it not been for the March of Dimes, Grace's chances of survival were slim.

"Before she was airlifted to Mayo Hospital, she got a shot of that surfactant to help Grace's lungs and that is directly related to the research they have done," Michael said.
The shot, opened Grace's lungs-giving her a fighting chance. 

"We lived at Mayo Rochester in the NICU and PICU for 9 months and during those 9 months we had seven surgeries," Jennifer said. 
"I remember just seeing Grace in a crib and with a bunch of tubes all over her. I'm very grateful and it's just like a really good miracle to know that she's okay and that things should be better in the future," Grace's older sister Autumn said.
As an ambassador family Jennifer and Michael will share their story at this year's auction. An emotional reflection on how far Grace has come-since that moment they were able to bring her home.
"It was the most amazing day, I felt like I was in a parade and we were walking down and everybody was standing on the side, doctors and nurses, clapping for us because they had gotten Grace to that point, it was just a miracle," Jennifer said.
The March of Dimes has come a long way in research and education since Grace was born. September is NICU Awareness Month and the Schwertfegers alongside the March of Dimes want to put an end to prematurity.
"They put a name to the face of other families that are going through that you're going through at that moment, through that path. That they're continuing to help stop prematurity, because it is life-changing," Jennifer added.
Since its beginning, 21 years ago, the Chef's Auction has raised over one million dollars. Proceeds make strides to ensure that every baby born has a healthy tomorrow. 
The Chef's Auction will take place next Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the CSU Ballroom on MSU's campus. There are still tickets available, they can be found at

--KEYC News 12