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Two Harbors woman runs marathon for good cause

Jill Gebeck of Two Harbors will be running the Garry Bjorkland Half Marathon Saturday with a cause. She has been taking pledges for her run to raise money for an expansion of the newborn intensive care unit at Essentia Health (SMDC) hospital in Duluth.

Gebeck knows all too well the needs at the care unit. Her premature twins, Clara and Jackson, spent four months in the unit two years ago. It's the only such care facility north of the Twin Cities area.

"It's crowded," she said of the one-room open unit. But the service was so good she wants it to survive and grow. The hospital is trying to raise $2.5 million for the expansion. The unit was built in 1982 and has had several minor renovations, but it's long overdue for remodeling. The plan is to build an 18-room unit. The four-year fund-raising effort is about $1.5 million short of the goal right now.

Last year, the unit served more nearly 400 families from the region.

"We have state-of-the-art technology housed in an older facility," unit director Dr. Lee Muskovitz said. "When our NICU was built, a different care model was in place."

She and her husband, Chris, both worked at SMDC at the time she went into labor early. She has since left the human resources department but Chris remains as an occupational health technician.

Gebeck's pledge effort will be matched by the SMDC Foundation. It was her idea to do the pledge run because the care unit has such a special place in her memory. "It's a chance to give back," she said.

Her twins, there's also son Nathan at home, have special needs that keeps the avid runner busy at home. She said she's received plenty of help from family and friends. The family has lived in Two Harbors since 2003 and she said "it feels like a big family here."

Donations can be made to the SMDC Foundation by calling 786-1619. You can also mail donations to SMDC Foundation, 400 E. Third St., Duluth, MN 55805. Specify that your donation is going to the NICU's "Best Chance Campaign."