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March of Dimes starts fundraising campaign

POSTED: January 16, 2009 12:15 a.m.
MELISSA WEINMAN /The Times

Haley Gilreath holds 1-year-old Emma while husband Chris listens during the March of Dimes luncheon Thursday at First Baptist Church in Gainesville. The family raised $1,057 for March of Dimes, which helps improve the health of babies.

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The March of Dimes kicked off its fundraising season Thursday by rallying people to raise money for babies’ health needs.

The organization held a luncheon at First Baptist Church on Green Street to celebrate the lives March of Dimes has touched and recruit new people to get involved in the organization.

The mission of the March of Dimes is "to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality."

The March for Babies, a four-mile charity walk, is scheduled for May 2 at the Longstreet Clinic.

Jana Dover, the March of Dimes Community Director for Hall County, said the money raised by March of Dimes helps make life better for babies and their families in the community.

A cart filled with $5,000 worth of books is available at Northeast Georgia Medical Center for families of premature babies.

"It goes in the (neonatal intensive care unit) and we keep it stocked with books to read to the preemies," Dover said.

The March of Dimes has also funded a grant for continuing education for the medical center nursing staff.

This year, Dover said, the March of Dimes is hoping to raise $145,000 in Hall County and recruit more than 1,000 people to participate in the walk.

Haley Gilreath and her family were honored at the lunch for raising $1,057, the most raised by a single family.

"I’m very proud of Haley," said her mother, Sherri Rudasill. "She’s just poured her heart into March of Dimes."

Gilreath said her own experience with premature birth made her passionate about getting involved with the March of Dimes.

Gilreath’s 1 year-old daughter, Emma, was born premature when Gilreath was just 30 weeks pregnant, and Emma had to spend weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Gilreath said she and her husband were not prepared for Haley to come so soon.

"We found out literally three days before she was coming," Gilreath said. "We didn’t have the nursery ready ... it hit us like a ton of bricks."

While at the hospital, Gilreath heard about March of Dimes and decided to raise money and awareness about premature birth.

"I was just do depressed," Gilreath said of the time her daughter had to spend away from her in the hospital. "(March of Dimes) made me feel like I could do something to help her while she was in the NICU."



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