March of Dimes holds walk to raise money, aware­ness for pre­ma­ture births

Over 450 res­i­dents helped raise more than $140,000 in or­ga­ni­za­tions 47th an­nual walk/run fundraiser

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

Rais­ing money and unit­ing fam­i­lies and busi­nesses to sup­port its mis­sion to pre­vent pre­ma­ture birth, birth de­fects and in­fant mor­tal­ity, the March of Dimes of Prince Ge­orge’s County held its 47th an­nual March for Ba­bies event on April 30 at Watkins Re­gional Park in Up­per Marl­boro.

“The walk to­day is a 3-mile walk within Watkins Park and our mis­sion is for pre­ma­ture ba­bies — ba­bies born with birth de­fects — and in­fant mor­tal­ity which is any death of a baby un­der the age of 1,” March of Dimes Sub­ur­ban Mary­land Di­vi­sion Commu- nity Di­rec­tor San­dra Sanna-Buck­les said. “So we’re hop­ing to raise aware­ness and to raise money to­wards re­search and pro­grams to sup­port our mis­sion.”

More than 450 res­i­dents, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies, fra­ter­ni­ties, soror­i­ties and cor­po­rate teams, par­tic­i­pated in the march and helped raise more than $140,000 to help give ev­ery baby a fight­ing chance. In to­tal, they walked about 1,350 miles. Spe­cial guests

in­cluded em­cee Shomari Stone from NBC4 News, March for Ba­bies 2016 Chair­woman Deb­o­rah Scott Thomas and the 2016 March of Dimes Sub­ur­ban Mary­land am­bas­sador fam­ily, the Grimes fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to a March of Dimes press re­lease.

Thomas said she is proud to be part of a com­mu­nity where peo­ple can come to­gether for a great cause. The health of moms and their ba­bies are im­por­tant to the to the peo­ple of Prince Ge­orge’s County, she said.

“We are try­ing to pre­vent pre­ma­ture births [by] pro­vid­ing health and ed­u­ca­tion to women who are go­ing into moth­er­hood so that way they will know how to get pre­pared,” Thomas said.

Other no­table guests who at­tended the event was March for Ba­bies 2015 Chair­man Wal­ter Kirk­land. Kirk­land, whose older son was born pre­ma­ture, said he is hon­ored to sup­port an or­ga­ni­za­tion that not only gives back to fam­i­lies in need, but also has a huge fol­low­ing both re­gion­ally and na­tion­ally.

For Kirk­land, he gets joy from see­ing fam­i­lies and peo­ple com­ing to­gether to help give ev­ery baby a fight­ing chance at life.

“Or­ga­ni­za­tions like the March for Dimes and March for Ba­bies is an awe­some, awe­some or­ga­ni­za­tion that does re­search and devel­op­ment and his­tor­i­cally has helped a lot of fam­i­lies not only in Prince Ge­orge’s County, but across the coun­try,” said Kirk­land, who is also for­mer pres­i­dent of 100 Black Men of Prince Ge­orge’s County Inc. “To part­ner with this type of or­ga­ni­za­tion, you’ve got to make a dif­fer­ence in so­ci­ety and we’re hon­ored to be a part of it. … When you’re di­rect­ing this kind of thing, no one is get­ting paid. … It brings a lot of joy to my heart to be a part of this ev­ery sin­gle year. This type of pro­gram­ming is just awe­some so we’re go­ing to con­tinue to bring a lot of aware­ness.”

About 30 ba­bies are born pre­ma­ture in an av­er­age week in Prince Ge­orge’s County, and at least two will not reach their first birthday. March for Ba­bies, the sig­na­ture fundraiser for the March of Dimes, has raised nearly $3 mil­lion across Mary­land and the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion last year, and more than $2 bil­lion na­tion­wide since the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­cep­tion in 1970. The March of Dimes is com­mit­ted to fund­ing re­search to find the an­swers to prob­lems that con­tinue to threaten the lives and health of pre­ma­ture ba­bies, the press re­lease also noted.

“I love the op­por­tu­nity to meet the or­ga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing with the youth and the idea that we’re able to pro­vide sup­port for young ba­bies,” said Alonzo Robert­son, a mem­ber of the Al­pha Phi Al­pha Fra­ter­nity Inc., Kappa Ep­silon Lambda Chap­ter who was born pre­ma­ture. “Al­pha Phi Al­pha finds it­self on work­ing with the com­mu­nity. … I con­tinue to be a mem­ber of Al­pha Phi Al­pha and par­tic­i­pate be­cause of the work that we’re able to do in the com­mu­nity.”

One of the peo­ple help­ing to bring aware­ness in the lo­cal com­mu­nity is Shauna and Mike Grimes. Their daugh­ter, Kami, was born at 30 weeks and spent two months in the new­born in­ten­sive care unit be­fore go­ing home. Kami was later di­ag­nosed with a bar­rage of med­i­cal ail­ments in­clud­ing periven­tric­u­lar leuko­ma­la­cia — a brain in­jury found par­tic­u­larly in pre­ma­ture in­fants — epilepsy and cere­bral palsy. The Grimes fam­ily is ded­i­cated to mak­ing sure other par­ents don’t ex­pe­ri­ence the same trauma and have healthy, full-term preg­nan­cies, ac­cord­ing to the press re­lease.

As the March of Dimes’ 2016 am­bas­sador fam­ily rep­re­sent­ing Sub­ur­ban Mary­land, Shauna Grimes said it’s a heart­warm­ing ges­ture be­cause she knows her fam­ily is help­ing oth­ers.

“We just want to give our story about how much we love the March of Dimes and why we walk,” she said. “Kam­ryn was two months early and with­out the March of Dimes, she may not have made it. So we just want to spread the aware­ness and share our story with every­one. … Ev­ery day is scary, ev­ery seizure is scary and any­thing can take her life at any time. But we just fight through ev­ery day and she does it with a smile. … It warms our hearts be­cause we know that we are help­ing other peo­ple and we want to con­tinue to do that, just like the March of Dimes. This is why we’re here— we want a world full of healthy ba­bies.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Sch­wandee R. Elias of Largo, far left, leads a zumba ex­er­cise as March of Dimes 2016 Chair­woman Deb­o­rah Scott Thomas dances along with the other par­tic­i­pants.

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