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Wal-Mart drivers celebrate premature baby’s recovery

Dayne Newman doesn’t know he’s a fighter, but he is.

When the 19-month-old grows up, someone will have to tell himabout the struggles he faced from his premature birth and hisconstant stays in the hospital. And they’ll also have to tell himabout the generosity of the truck drivers who volunteer withWal-Mart Heart, a program designed to help those with chronicmedical conditions.

The toddler was the subject of the drivers’ charity Thursdaywhen his growth and strengthening were celebrated with an hour-longparty at Brookhaven’s Wal-Mart Distribution Center, whereapproximately 20 of the truckers presented Dayne and his familywith gifts, food and a ride in a company rig.

“People talk about how society has changed and nobody caresabout anything, but these guys have taken their own time and moneyto throw this party for Dayne,” said the child’s mother SarahNewman. “They care enough about Dayne, a child they’ve never metbefore. It’s kind of overwhelming, the love and support they’reshowing.”

Dayne was born 12 weeks premature in December 2007 when hismother was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a pregnancy-induced form ofhypertension. His mother’s condition was making his blood flowerratic, and he had to face the world early.

The less than 3-pound baby defied doctors’ predictions and beganrecovering speedily, but he still had to undergo the weakness andsusceptibility that comes with being born premature.

“He came home with a femoral line one week during Christmas,”Newman said. “Poor little thing, we had to run his IV before hecould open presents.”

Dayne’s last meeting with the doctors resulted in sinus surgeryin January. But since then, Newman said her son’s immune system isdeveloping and he’s begun to outgrow his ailments.

He weighs 24 pounds, she said, and he is in line developmentallywith where a 19-month-old should be. His recovery is progressingenough that Newman said she is considering finding a job andenrolling him in daycare – something he has never been able todo.

Dayne’s improvement was reason enough for the Wal-Mart truckersto throw a party.

Driver Ricky Oliver said the drivers first noticed the Newmanswhile volunteering as phone answerers during a telethon fundraiserfor the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson. When theyrealized the Newmans were also from Brookhaven, the deal wassealed.

And so began the volunteering – all of the more than 20 driversinvolved in Thursday’s Wal-Mart Heart celebration gave time, moneyand effort at their own expense.

“In Matthew, Jesus said when you do unto the least of these mybrothers, you have done it to me,” Oliver said. “As truck drivers,we can’t do a lot because we’re gone so much. This is our way ofgiving back.”

During Thursday’s Wal-Mart Heart party, Dayne was the recipientof a stack of new goodies, including various balls and bats, aSpider-Man toy four-wheeler, a Spider-Man costume (he likesSpider-Man) and assorted hats, model trucks and a Wal-Mart badge.Dayne and his family were also allowed to pile into one of theWal-Mart 18-wheelers and take a spin around the facility.

Most of all, Oliver said the Newmans are now part of theWal-Mart family.

“We just don’t shine the light on a child and forget aboutthem,” he said. “We’re going to stay in contact with them.”

Dayne’s father, Rusty Newman, a basketball coach at LawrenceCounty High School, said it was an honor to represent Wal-MartHeart.

“There’s so many other people with situations worse than ours,”he said. “They go beyond – they do things they didn’t really haveto do to make it a great day for Dayne.”