Mandy Standiford,

Mandy Standiford, right, was born at GBMC 24 years ago and spent 101 days in the hospital's NICU. She was one of the smallest babies to survive. Now, Mandy and her mom, Linda Standiford, left, and other relatives will take part in the Father's Day 5k Run and 1-mile Fun Walk to benefit the hospital's NICU. (Staff photo by Mary K. Tilghman / June 11, 2014)

Mandy Standiford was working at her desk in Hunt Valley earlier this spring when she saw a flier for Greater Baltimore Medical Center's Father's Day 5k Run and 1-mile Fun Walk on June 14

She'd never heard of the race and wasn't the sort of person to sign up for a road race.

"I'm not athletic at all," she said.

And yet it seemed like a natural for her to sign up for at least the 1-mile walk.

"I'm a NICU baby," she said.

Mandy was born at GBMC in Towson on July 21, 1989, at 24 weeks — three months before her due date of Nov. 4.

Mandy then spent 101 days in the NICU, or neonatal intensive care unit, and when she saw that the race benefits NICU, she decided to sign up. It'll be a first for both Mandy and her mother, Linda Standiford, who will join Mandy on the walk at the hospital's campus.

In fact, Mandy has recruited a whole team of her own. In addition to her mother, she's enlisted her father, Bob, sister, Kelly and a few friends, aunts and cousins.

"So we support you," Linda said to her daughter.

"I made them all sign up," Mandy said. "I'm the top fundraiser at the moment."

Mandy wasn't due to be born for three months when her mother realized she was having labor pains. She and her husband headed for GBMC.

"Thank God my doctor was here at GBMC," Linda said.

Mandy was coming so early and was expected to be so fragile, doctors asked the mother in labor whether she wanted life support for the baby or for them to just make her comfortable until she died, according to Linda. They were concerned the baby would be severely handicapped if she lived.

"They asked me repeatedly, 'What do you want to do?'" Linda recalled. "What I really wanted to do was go home and come back in October."

"You're going to do everything she can," she said she told the doctors.

"I just could not to wait to hold her," Linda said. But, in fact, it was four weeks before doctors let her cradle her new daughter.

At birth, Mandy was only 11 1/2 inches long. "She was as long as a Barbie doll," her mother said. She weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces and then lost weight, dropping below a pound.

Although the family lived in Finksburg, about 25 miles from GBMC, Mandy's parents made their way to the hospital every day — and sometimes more when they got a call to come quickly — to watch over their daughter.

"It was like being on a roller coaster ride. You just never knew when that next drop was coming," said Linda, who now lives in Hampstead.

"You were persistent, weren't you?" Linda said to Mandy as she recalled those difficult days.

After her release from the hospital, Mandy made continuous rounds of doctors, occupational, physical and speech therapists. Other than a mild form of cerebral palsy which causes her to walk on her toes, Mandy is healthy.

"She has a maturity about her and she always has," said her mother, recalling the challenges and struggles she faced.

Today, Mandy is 24, works as a receptionist at Mid-Atlantic Realty Management in Hunt Valley and is nearly finished her degree in business from the University of Maryland University College.

Her mother remains grateful to the GBMC staff that cared for her. "She got excellent care and support," Linda said. "We were all supported."

Nick Travelstead, this year's race chairman, said registrations have already surpassed last year's total. Almost $100,000 has already been pledged, a higher total than last year's $87,000.

The race, which begins at 8 a.m. on June 15, takes place on the hospital campus.

When the Homeland father Travelstead was asked to chair the event, he didn't hesitate.

"They helped us through tough times," he said. He and his wife, Lydia, lost their first child at 29 weeks. Travelstead praised the staff's compassion, generosity and their proficiency.

The Travelsteads have returned to GBMC twice — for the births of their daughter, almost 4, and their son, now 2. With another child on the way, they'll be back again.

"GBMC has been a big part of the growth of our family," Travelstead said.

Registration for the Father's Day 5k and 1-mile Fun Walk at GBMC continues online through June 11 but in-person registration will be held Friday, June 13, 3-6 p.m. and Saturday, June 14, 10 a.m-3 p.m., both at Charm City Run in Timonium.