SPRINGFIELD, NJ - It’s not every high school senior who can list six years of running a charity walk on their college application, but Marissa Steiner, an eighteen-year-old senior at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, can do just that. Ms. Steiner is the co-chair of the Central/Northern New Jersey Promise Walk for Preeclampsia to benefit the mission of the national Preeclampsia Foundation.
“Marissa and I are both survivors of a potentially deadly complication of pregnancy known as preclampsia,” explained Marissa’s mother Stephanie. “We count ourselves very fortunate to be here to coordinate this annual community event to help other families like ours.”
Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy and is a leading cause of premature birth. In Marissa’s case, she was delivered six weeks early when mom Stephanie experienced sudden, life-threatening high blood pressure. Marissa weighed only 3 pounds at birth and spent many weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit fighting for her life.
The national crisis with maternal mortality has recently received extensive national attention, thanks in no small part to the Steiners’ efforts in New Jersey. The 2018 Central/Northern New Jersey Promise Walk will have Dr. Larry Bloomstein as their special mission speaker this year. Bloomstein tragically lost his wife Lauren just hours after the birth of his first daughter, Hailey. The Bloomsteins’ story was recently featured in a national piece by NPR and ProPublica to help raise awareness of the national maternal health crisis. Bloomstein has been a proud supporter of the work of the Preeclamspia Foundation.
“I started co-chairing our local Promise Walk for Preeclampsia to help fund research so that no one else has to go through what people like the Bloomsteins or my Mom and I experienced,” said Marissa. “It’s my hope that future generations will have more options than premature delivery or facing the loss of a young mother.”
Marissa’s efforts have not gone unnoticed: in 2016, Marissa and Stephanie were named the “Walk Coordinators of the Year” by the Preeclampsia Foundation and presented with an award. The 2018 event is well on its way to reaching its goals thanks to Marissa’s continual efforts, but the Preeclampsia Foundation is not the only charity that the teenager has benefitted. Marissa has volunteered with the Children’s Specialized Hospital for the past 4 years. She was recently awarded the 2018 Union County Unity Award for Achievement by a Student and the 2018 Barbara Albanese Memorial Award by the Zonta Club.
“Marissa is a shining example of what the next generation can accomplish,” stated Eleni Tsigas, Chief Executive Officer of the Preeclampsia Foundation. “We know that the important mission of preventing the loss of moms and babies will be in good hands with future leaders like Marissa.”
Although Marissa will be graduating in June and matriculating at Muhlenberg College in the fall she knows that this is not the end of her advocacy.
“The lessons I’ve learned as an event organizer will carry with me through the rest of my life!”