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March of Dimes Selects Pennsylvania Girl as 2008 National Ambassador

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Oct. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Expected to be her family's Halloween treat, Catharine Aboulhouda instead arrived on the Fourth of July, weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces. Today, the five-year-old of Allentown, Pennsylvania has been named the March of Dimes 2008 National Ambassador. Catharine, who was born 16 weeks early, measuring only 12 inches in length, represents just one of the more than half a million babies born preterm each year in the United States. As the National Ambassador, Catharine and her parents, Susan and Mike, will travel the country throughout the coming year to share their story and help raise awareness of the growing crisis of premature birth.

"The March of Dimes is committed to ensuring a healthy birth for every baby," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "Premature birth continues as the number one health problem for newborns. Babies who survive often suffer from serious, lifelong complications. We're proud to have the Aboulhouda family represent the March of Dimes nationally in an effort to help more babies be born healthy."

Since Catharine was 16 weeks early, her eyes were fused shut and she fought for every breath, facing daily challenges caused by a heart defect, bleeding in her brain, jaundice and a heart murmur. After 113 days in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Catharine went home, still fragile enough to need monitors and oxygen. Amazingly, she has no lasting consequences of her extremely premature birth, thanks in part to medical advances developed and funded by the March of Dimes.

Today, Catharine is a healthy 5-year-old with the energy of a firecracker. Susan says, "Perhaps one reason Catharine came into the world early is to let people know that even the tiniest babies can make a difference."

The March of Dimes National Ambassador Program is an annual campaign, started in 1946, that puts a face on the March of Dimes mission. Continental Airlines will again serve as the official airline of the March of Dimes 2008 National Ambassador Program. "Continental is proud to come together with the March of Dimes to fight premature birth," said Larry Kellner, Chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines. "This marks our third year as the official airline of the National Ambassador Program. We are excited about this partnership and look forward to joining Catharine and the March of Dimes in their efforts to help save babies."

The March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at or its Spanish language Web site at

SOURCE March of Dimes
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