Babies got a boost at the recent Indian River County March for Babies, a 2.5-mile walk/run at Riverside Park to raise money to fund March of Dimes programs and research toward the prevention of birth defects, infant mortality and premature birth.
In addition to championing friends and family members who have experienced prematurity, supporters were helping to fund programs that assist mothers and babies from preconception to post-delivery, with the ultimate goal of sparing other families the difficulties associated with prematurity or the devastating loss of a child.
Enthusiastic members of the Sebastian Elementary School Sea Turtles helped build up the momentum with assorted cheers as walkers began to gather, and adorable youngsters in purple capes excitedly waited their turn to run in the pre-walk Super Hero Sprint.
Event chair Todd Racine, principal of Sebastian River Middle School, said he got involved with the March of Dimes nearly 20 years ago after the premature birth of his son, who was assisted by surfactant therapy (helps prevent immature lungs from collapsing), a MOD funded breakthrough introduced in 1990. He said that one of the biggest challenges for parents with a premature baby is the unknown.
“While your child is in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit), you are awaiting different tests to find out if there’s an infection or if there are going to be any birth defects as you’re moving along,” said Racine. “So you’re constantly in a waiting game. And it’s not just the six or eight weeks they might be in the hospital; it’s for the first 10 years of their life and even beyond.”
Addressing the crowd prior to the walk, Racine said, “I’m honored to chair this event because like all of you, I want to live in a world in which healthy moms and strong babies are a priority for us all.”
Rachel and Tim Carroll shared a little about their emotional journey with daughter London, who was born four months premature, weighing in at just 1 pound, 3 ounces.
“She’s going to be 4 in October and she is only here because of the March of Dimes,” said Rachel Carroll, noting that London’s underdeveloped lungs also required surfactant. “The March of Dimes are here with us and are paving the way to help babies who are born prematurely and to help babies who are born with congenital defects. Prematurity continues to be the No. 1 cause of infant mortality, so today we stand with you to walk together, so more babies like London can have a chance.”
Assisted by the Carroll family, Brooke Flood, school readiness coordinator for the School District of IRC, presided over the touching Lei Ceremony, presenting purple leis to families whose children were born prematurely or with birth defects, and white leis of remembrance to families who have lost a child.
“We hope these leis will bring to light the magnitude of the mission of the March of Dimes,” said Flood.
For more information, visit marchofdimes.org.