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Area residents contribute to WalkAmerica

April 30, 2001

Area residents contribute to WalkAmerica



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Paul Marino II spent 31 days in three different Maryland hospitals before the newborn could be brought home to his family.

His mother, Carol Marino, said Paul was born with meconium aspiration syndrome. She explained that Paul had a bowel movement while inside her womb that spread to his lungs.

The birth defect often leads to airway obstruction and pulmonary infections, among other illnesses.

Paul was born at Washington County Hospital and then transferred to the University of Maryland. He was eventually sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Johns Hopkins. He spent time hooked up to a heart and lung bypass machine and was on oxygen, his mother said.

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If it weren't for the assistance of the March of Dimes, she thinks her son may not have survived.

Carol, her husband Paul, and their son, now nearly 8 months old, live in Hagerstown. Carol Marino said little Paul is healthy.

"He's doing excellent," she said.

To show her gratitude and support, she was one of about 170 volunteers to participate in WalkAmerica 2001 on Sunday, the March of Dimes' largest fund-raiser. The walk was sponsored by the Hagerstown Jaycees.

The Marinos are also a WalkAmerica Team Ambassador Family, in which they agreed to share their story with their team members. Carol Marino represented Staples Inc. on the walk.

WalkAmerica has been a national fund-raiser for 31 years. The Jaycees have hosted the walk in Hagerstown for 29 years, said Nancy Thoerig, director of the Western Maryland Division of the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes was established in 1938 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to fight polio. Its mission has expanded since then to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality.

Money raised through WalkAmerica helps fund breakthroughs that prevent low birth weight and death in infants by enabling March of Dimes to research and develop improvements to Neonatal Intensive Care Units all over the country.

"Without the support of the March of Dimes, the NICUs would not be available," Carol Marino said. "Without the NICU, Paul would not have survived."

Volunteers began arriving at the walk's headquarters, the Long Meadow Shopping Center, at about 7 a.m. for registration.

About 170 walkers kicked off their 6.2-mile route at 8 a.m. and ended up back at the shopping center between 10 and 11 a.m.

"I think this went very smooth today," said Hagerstown Police Officer Mark. E. Renner. "I didn't hear anybody complaining."

Renner was one of several police officers and other emergency personnel on hand to help the walkers complete their route without problems.

"Sunday is a good time to have it, because there's not that much traffic," he said.

Thoerig said the division hoped to raise about $25,000 this year. She estimated that the walkers raised about $22,000. She expected more donations to come in over the next few days.

She said more than 68 percent of the money raised locally will be kept in Washington County in the form of grants.

Thoerig said she hopes more community groups will get involved next year, even if it's just to help plan.

"We hope that next year's will be bigger," she said.

Goldie Collins, a WalkAmerica volunteer representing Allstate Insurance, said she's been walking for about 23 years. Allstate had between 12 and 15 volunteers in the walk.

Collins said the length of the route isn't too hard to handle since it has dropped from 12 miles to 6.2.

"It used to be to Williamsport and back. It took all day," she said. "Now it's not bad at all. I think it's for a good cause."

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