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
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.”
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.