March for Ba­bies a chance to re­mem­ber young lives lost

Newark Post - - Local News - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Joined by nearly 50 fam­ily mem­bers and friends, Lau­ren Mercer walked in the March of Dimes’ March for Ba­bies on Sun­day in mem­ory of her twins, Ka­trena and Kirsten.

Born 15 weeks pre­ma­ture in 2013, the twins died less than a month af­ter birth. Ever since then, Mercer and her fam­ily have made the an­nual walk a fam­ily tra­di­tion.

“Ev­ery­body else can have birth­day par­ties for their chil­dren,” Mercer said. “This is our cel­e­bra­tion of the twins.”

The Mercers were just a few of the nearly 1,800 peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in Sun­day’s walk, which be­gan at the Univer­sity of Delaware ath­letic com­plex and took par­tic­i­pants on a 4-mile course through down­town Ne­wark.

The event is the Delaware chap­ter of March of Dimes’ big­gest fundraiser of the year – it raised ap­prox­i­mately $140,000 this year – and also serves as a way to re­mem­ber and cel­e­brate ba­bies born pre­ma­ture or with birth de­fects.

“It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for fam­i­lies to come to­gether,” Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Laura Klatzkin said. “The goal here to­day is to raise aware­ness of pre­ma­tu­rity and birth de­fects. To­gether, we can give ev­ery baby a fight­ing chance.”

The march, one of three held in Delaware, has been go­ing on for more than 20 years, Klatzkin said. Sun­day’s event also in­cluded a mem­ory garden, a lei re­mem­brance cer­e­mony and a Su­per­hero Sprint for kids, who wore pur­ple capes. Sur­round­ing the fes­ti­val grounds at UD were signs hon­or­ing chil­dren af­fected by pre­ma­ture birth or birth de­fects.

“It’s so en­cour­ag­ing to see how many peo­ple came to sup­port the or­ga­ni­za­tion and the cause,” Klatzkin said. “My fa­vorite part is to see fam­i­lies have an out­let to re­mem­ber the chil­dren they lost.”

Founded in 1938, the orig­i­nal goal of March of Dimes was to erad­i­cate po­lio. Af­ter that was ac­com­plished, the or­ga­ni­za­tion shifted its fo­cus to pre­vent­ing birth de­fects and in­fant mor­tal­ity. Ap­prox­i­mately 10 per­cent of ba­bies – or 380,000 na­tion­wide – are born pre­ma­ture each year, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics pro­vided by the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Money raised by March of Dimes goes to­ward re­search and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams and to a sup­port pro­gram for fam­i­lies whose ba­bies are in new­born in­ten­sive care units.

Mercer, who has since given birth to a healthy son, first en­coun­tered March of Dimes while her twins were in the hos­pi­tal.

“With­out March of Dimes, we wouldn’t have all the information we have to­day,” she said.

Her fam­ily raised nearly $7,000 through Sun­day’s march, and she said she en­joys the ca­ma­raderie of the event.

“It’s so awe­some for all the love and sup­port,” she said. “We’re all walk­ing for the same cause.”

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