March for Babies a chance to remember young lives lost
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.”