‘March for Babies’ walk to step off April 30
Registration is currently taking place for those who wish to participate in the annual March for Babies 3-mile walk on April 30 at Centennial Park in Fort Myers.
Regina Toops, Lee County community director for March of Dimes, said they had 250 registered teams Wednesday morning that consisted of family or company compilations. She said in recent years they have had about 1,500 individuals participate in the event.
According to Toops, the March of Dimes was the first organization to hold an organized walk in 1970. She said they have held its walk in Southwest Florida since 1978.
Registration will begin at 6 p.m. on April 30 and the walk will begin at 7 p.m. A live concert will be held from 8-10 p.m. in the park. A stroller decorating contest will also be held for those participating in the walk.
People can also register for the walk before the event at www.marchforbabies.org. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for 12-18 year olds and free for younger children.
The Lee and Collier County Ambassador Child this year for the walk is Sawyer “The Warrior” Green, who is three and a half years old. He was born 15 weeks too early at 25 weeks along in the pregnancy. Green weighed two pounds, one ounce and was 14 inches long when he was born on May 7, 2007.
Mother Krista Goetz said he spent 117 days in the NICU at HealthPark before he was released to go home.
Seven days after Green was born his intestines ruptured, causing him to have surgery. He had three other surgeries shortly after the first one to close a valve in his heart, another to reconnect his intestines, along with a surgery to correct two hernias.
Goetz said throughout his early struggles, Sawyer also had difficulty breathing on his own and was placed on oxygen support for extended periods.
She said through research done by March of Dimes, doctors were able to provide nitric oxide treatments that helped him breathe, which eventually made him stronger.
“A lot of their research and knowledge made it possible … I honestly think that is why we have him here today,” Goetz said. “We are thankful for the March of Dimes and will be forever indebted to them.”
She said you would never know by looking at him how hard of a struggle he has had. She said he is now a “whopping” 36 pounds and 40 inches tall.
Goetz and her family have participated in the walk every year, aside from the year her son was born. This year she said Sawyer, along with his grandparents and other family members from out of state will be joining him for the walk.
“It is amazing how many people in this area alone have been affected by premature births,” she said. “It’s like an extended family … a real touching evening.”
After hearing about Sawyer being named this year’s ambassador, Goetz said they were very excited because it is a huge honor.
“It is great to be able to give back as much as we can to such a great organization,” she said. “March of Dimes will always hold a special place in our hearts.”
Toops said the walk is being held for their mission “to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature births and infant mortality.”
Every week in Florida 633 babies are born premature, 66 babies are born under three pounds and 33 babies will die before their first birthday.
“Every minute of every day a baby is born premature … one in eight babies are born premature,” Toops said. “No baby should begin life fighting to keep it.”
This year a goal of raising $235,000 has been set for the annual walk.
Toops said last year Publix raised more than $3 million for the cause and K-Mart raised more than $10 million.
Toops said since California, Illinois, Texas, New York and Florida have the highest premature birth rates in the United States, five hospitals were chosen in each of those states to begin an initiative of doctors not allowing their patients to become medically induced if they are not 39 weeks along in their pregnancy.
Lee Memorial Health System was among the hospitals chosen in Florida that have already started the initiative.
“The hospital is saying no, you have to be 39 weeks (along),” she said to have the baby.
Toops said the nurses and doctors will review the patient’s record to stop them from giving birth prior to 39 weeks if it is not medically needed.
“It is extremely important to wait to give birth to your child,” she said.
The initiative will go on for a year to collect data from all of the states.
“I can’t wait to find out the outcome for this,” Toops said.
Nine hundred communities will participate in March for Dimes walks this year across the nation to help provide funds for research so mothers can have healthy, full-term pregnancies.
Toops said everyone who walks on April 30 will help provide funds to find reasons of premature births and reduce premature rates.
Toops said the walk is about everyone working together for stronger, healthier babies.