Long-time March for Babies Family Team & Committee Member
Tonya Houston’s daughter, Marisa Mae, was born at 22 weeks gestation. Tonya described her as perfect, having ten fingers, ten toes, red fuzzy hair, and a nose just like her dad’s. Although she was perfect, Marisa was born too early to survive. For forty minutes, they held their little girl.
“We loved her. We tried to fit in a lifetime of moments and memories before she took her last breath. It was in my arms that she died. I died too.”
To pick herself up from the darkness, from the grief of losing a child, Tonya needed to find something that showed everyone that Marisa’s short life with her parent’s meant more than her death. Tonya explained that she didn’t want people remembering Marisa as the child they lost. She didn’t want anyone to forget that Marisa was, that she is.
Tonya has been supporting March of Dimes since 2000; however, it wasn’t until Marisa’s birth when she fully realized the importance of supporting this foundation. Through March of Dimes, Tonya has been able to show the world how Marisa’s life and death can help save other babies. Her support helps prevent other parents from experiencing the things that she has gone through.
2003 was Team Marisa’s first March for Babies. Each year Team Marisa grows little by little. Last year Tonya and her team hit the $50,000 mark.
“That’s $50,000 raised because of one little girl named Marisa that I was so scared would be forgotten.” Tonya continues to support March of Dimes by being a Top Walker and serving on her local board.
In 2004, Tonya’s second daughter, Morgan Marisa, was born at 25 weeks gestation. Morgan spent her first 116 days in NICU fighting for her life. She spent her first three years in and out of the emergency room and the PICU. When Marisa was born, there wasn’t enough research to keep her alive at 22 weeks. It was new research and development funded by March of Dimes that kept Morgan alive.
When asked what she was born to do, Tonya said, “This seems like such a simple answer. I was born to be Marisa’s voice. I was born to be Morgan’s Mom.”