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Even with a chance of rain, more than 400 people took part in the March for Babies Walk on Saturday at Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville.
A March of Dimes event, all the money raised went to helping mothers have full-term pregnancies and research for the health and care of all babies. According to the event website, the Hall County event has raised $29,170, with top contributors including nonfamily teams, family teams and individual fundraisers.
The walk started at 10 a.m. at Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville and wound through the Rock Creek Greenway. Sponsors were set up across the park offering fun activities for children of all ages to enjoy.
For Lori Allen, the March of Dimes’ division director for Northeast Georgia, the event was a success, thanks in large part to the volunteers and sponsors who helped make the day possible.
“This is larger than last year,” Allen said. “This is amazing. We have an amazing team of volunteers.”
The Lake Lanier Parrot Head Club of Gainesville ran the water station for walkers during the event.
“We do the water for this March of Dimes walk. We’ve done it I don’t even know how many years,” said Mary Lynn Baehr of Gainesville. She said they used to walk and hand out water, too. Glenda Brogdon of Hoschton added: “Some of us walked, but now we just got old.”
With music playing, the group gave out water to anyone who passed by and handed out beaded necklaces, keeping the walkers upbeat as they made their way to the finish line.
“It makes you feel good to do something for somebody else,” Baehr said.
Sandy Bartlett of Gainesville said the community service group does something to give back every month.
“We’ve been doing this over 20 years,” Bartlett said. “It started at my house and we started with a garden hose.”
The march used to pass by her house before the route changed, and according to Brogdon, had numbers in the thousands.
Finishing the walk wasn’t the end of the fun, either, according to Allen. Walkers had the opportunity to return to Wilshire Trails Park and enjoy lunch sponsored by Publix.
“Then they (were) welcome to play and enjoy the crafts and the clown and face painting and everything,” she said.
The festivities also included a bouncy house, purple lemonade and photo ops with Plato, the Publix dinosaur, and Sparky the fire dog from Hall County Fire Services.
“I’m very, very pleased with the support of our volunteers and our sponsors,” Allen said.
According to the March of Dimes, about 450,000 babies are born premature every year. In an effort to reduce that number, the Prematurity Campaign was created with the goal of lowering the rate to 9.6 percent or less by 2020. Although Georgia received a C on its report card for 2014, the rate has dropped from 14.1 percent in 2006 to 12.7 percent in 2013.
Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths, which has led to more funding for research. With 120,000 babies born each year with a birth defect, it’s another step in the care for healthy babies.
“I want to stress that we are here for all babies not just premature babies. March of Dimes is all babies,” Allen said.
To make a donation or to find out more about the March of Dimes visit www.marchofdimes.org.