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March of Dimes kicks off fundraising efforts
Teresa Miklas of Kiel Laboratories browses through a March of Dimes information booklet Wednesday morning at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center during the 2010 March for Babies kickoff.
March for Babies
When: 10 a.m. May 1
Where: Longstreet Clinic, 725 Jesse Jewell Parkway, Gainesville
Contact: 770-977-3114

What started out as a group of mothers going door-to-door collecting dimes to help fund polio research has grown into a national organization working toward the goal of all babies being born healthy.

To date, the March of Dimes has raised more than $1 billion to fund research and programs that help “prevent or treat premature births, birth defects and other threats to babies’ health.”

On Wednesday, the Hall County branch of the organization held its 2010 March For Babies kickoff with current team captains. The march is the national organization’s annual and largest fundraiser.

During the kickoff, Kathryn Harper, Hall County march community director, shared the story of Emma Wells Gilreath, who was born prematurely and is a part of this year’s ambassador family.

Emma was born two months premature in December 2007, weighing fewer than 3 pounds.

“Doctors told (her parents) that she wouldn’t be very verbal and would need to be put on a respirator,” Harper said. “(Her parents) were told to not expect her to be able to go home a day before her due date in February.”

To her parents’ surprise, not only did Emma not need a respirator, she was also able to go home earlier than expected. Today, Emma is a “sassy” 2-year-old who is hitting many of the same milestones as others in her peer group.

Having more success stories like Emma’s is one of the main reasons why the March of Dimes continues to fund research.

In addition to participating in the six-mile march, team members work to raise donations.

“Last year we raised around $37,200,” said Renee Ward, team captain for The Longstreet Clinic, which is also a sponsor for the May 1 Hall County march.

“We did things like bake sales, raffles and Blue Jeans for Babies, where employees paid to wear blue jeans. It was a lot of work, but everyone really enjoyed it.”

Because of the funds that have been raised on the organization’s behalf, the March of Dimes has been able to fund research that has discovered things like how to treat vision and neural tube defects in premature babies.

“The March of Dimes is all about infant, maternal and prenatal health. We don’t know why babies are sometimes born premature, but we do know that one in eight are born premature,” said Dr. Eugene Cindea, a Gainesville pediatrician who is the honorary chairman of the Hall County walk.

“Thank God for you for helping to fund research,” Cindea said in a speech during the kickoff. “It makes my job so much easier because of people like you who are willing to help. Babies can’t walk for themselves, but you can, and I thank you.”

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