Hundreds of hopeful couples ran a five kilometer race in Utah in a competition to win one free round of in vitro fertilization.
The inaugural Footsteps for Fertility race drew more than 550 participants Saturday, all of whom were entered into a raffle competition for a chance to win the in vitro treatment, according to Laurel Sheppard, one of the organizers of the race.
Sheppard and her sister, Holly, came up with the idea for the race as a fundraiser for their other sister, Serena, who could not get pregnant. Sheppard and Holly decided they would try and raise money to help cover the cost of Serena's in vitro treatments, which can cost more than $10,000 for each attempt.
"There's not enough out there, not enough non-profit organizations to provide help for these people. It can cost $10,000 to get pregnant when most people can do it for free. It's tough," Sheppard, 23, told ABC News.
Before the race could occur, Serena and her husband, Travis, both of Draper, Utah, were granted money by a non-profit charity based in North Carolina, Pay It Forward Fertility Foundation, to cover the cost of her and her husband's IVF treatments.
Sheppard and her sisters decided to use the race to raise money for other couples struggling to pay for IVF, and convinced a local fertility specialist to donate one round of treatment to a lucky couple who participated in the run. The Utah Fertility Center donated the treatment to the raffle contest.
On Saturday, 47 couples and their supporters took part in the run through Draper, raising more than $35,000 for the Pay It Forward Fertility Foundation in North Carolina.
Each couple received one entry into the raffle, and each supporter who registered for the race received an additional raffle ticket on behalf of the couple they supported.
The winning couple, Brian and Ramsi Stoker, of Holladay, Utah, rallied 90 friends and family members to run the Footsteps for Fertility race with them, Sheppard said. The couple had been trying for years to get pregnant, and had already gone through one round of unsuccessful IVF treatment, Sheppard said.
The money donated to the Pay It Forward foundation will likely be funnelled back to Utah couples trying to conceive, according to Lord Moscato, founder of the charity.
"We get to help a lot of couples, and now the applications are coming in from all across the country. But the race was in Utah, and we did receive a lot of Utah applications, so we're going to try and do our best to keep it in the community there," Moscato said.
Sheppard said she hopes that in the future, they can start their own chapter of Pay It Forward or make grants to local couples with the money they raise.