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March for Babies set for April 24

By Staff | Apr 17, 2010

The 2010 March for Babies, a walk to raise funds for preventing premature births, is coming back to downtown Fort Myers next weekend.
Hosted by the March of Dimes, an organization founded in 1921 by former President Franklin Roosevelt to help children afflicted with the polio virus, the walk started in Lee County more than 36 years ago. Regina Toops, spokesperson for the organization, said March of Dimes was the first group to ever organize a fund-raising walk.
Every year there are 525,000 children, or 1 in every 8 born, prematurely and more susceptible to health problems, according to the March of Dimes.
The 3-mile walk through the Fort Myers’ historical district of McGregor Boulevard and Edison Park has grown substantially each year and Toops said she is expecting anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 people to participate on April 24.
“It keeps growing year after year, especially since we turned it into a night walk, everyone seems to like that,” she said.
The walk begins at Centennial Park in Fort Myers with registration at 6 p.m. and the march at 7 p.m.
Individuals, schools and local businesses can collect donations for the event and participate on the day of the march, said Toops. Those interested in being part of the event can register online at marchforbabies.org or they can raise funds the traditional way by asking friends or family.
Toops said some people post the event on their Facebook pages to drum up more attention while companies like Publix ask for donations at check-out and have people stationed outside their stores.
“The Publix stores are our No. 1 team in Lee County,” she said. “They are No. 4 nationally, and will probably raise over $100,000 just here in Lee County.”
Following the march, at approximately 8 p.m., organizers will hand out awards to the top fund raisers for individual collections, and family, school and company categories. Companies are also split into three separate divisions, she said, including lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight, depending on the number of employees.
Overall, Toops said the event should raise $265,000, 76 percent of which goes to the March of Dimes for research, advocacy, community services and education.
Just because the march ends doesn’t mean the celebration is over. Local band “Backlash,” a soft rock, easy listening group, will perform live for the crowd and vendors will be set up around the park.
A “Buggy Decorating Contest,” for children’s strollers or wagons, will be open to anyone at the park, a kid’s zone will offer face painting and other fun activities, and local eateries are providing the food — ribs from Famous Dave’s BBQ, 75-80 cases of water from Crystal Springs, sandwiches from Publix and bread from Bob Evans, for example.
Registration for the walk costs $25 for adults, $15 for those under the age of 18 and children are free.