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300 walk for March of Dimes

April 30, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Sarah Barnhart wasn't sure she was going to finish the 8-mile March of Dimes walk Sunday.

Five months pregnant, the Greencastle, Pa., woman had to stop and rest several times along the way.

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"I made it," Barnhart said from the finish point at Long Meadow Shopping Center in Hagerstown.

Barnhart and fellow Red Lobster waitresses were among 300 people who participated in the annual fund-raiser coordinated by the Jaycees of Hagerstown.

Barnhart, 20, said she walked to support her baby and other babies who benefit from the charity's programs aimed at preventing birth defects.

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It was too early Sunday to say how much money the participants raised.

Nationwide, more than 600,000 walkers were expected to raise more than $85 million with the event.

Money will come back to Washington County in the form of grants to organizations such as Washington County Health Systems and the Parent-Child Center for pregnancy prevention and nutrition education.

Organizing the walk is the Jaycees' main community service project, said co-chairs Letha Grimes and Kirk C. Downey.

Walkers were treated to breakfast before they got started, lunch when they returned and snacks along the downtown Hagerstown route.

"If they go away hungry, there's something wrong," Grimes said.

Dozens of businesses donated food and other supplies for the walk, she said.

Five of the walkers were teenagers who live at San Mar Children's Home.

"It's like our way of giving back to the community," said June Eggleton, director of therapeutic recreation and program coordinator at the home.

Some of the walkers were joined by their furry companions.

Caroline Shaw of Shepherdstown, W.Va., brought her sheltie, Merlin. David and Debbie Tosten of Hagerstown had their Siberian husky, Nikita.

Shaw said she signed up to walk because her younger brother is a former March of Dimes poster boy.

March of Dimes stresses the importance of women taking folic acid even before pregnancy. The B-vitamin can prevent 70 percent of spinal birth defects, said Nancy McElwee of the National Capital Area Regional Office.

Washington County lags behind the rest of Maryland when it comes to early prenatal care, according to a recent report on the well-being of children statewide.

In 1998, 83.9 percent of pregnant women were seen early in their terms by a doctor.

That percentage ranked the county 20th out of 24 jurisdictions in the state, said the Kids Count report, prepared by a coalition of child advocate agencies.

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