Walk raises money for tiny babies

May 02, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

HAGERSTOWN - A half-century or more ago, the slogan for the March of Dimes walk could have been "Walk so others may walk."

This weekend, thanks to the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s and other medical breakthroughs, the cause of the March of Dimes since has moved from polio to birth defects to its latest advocacy, premature birth defects.

The slogan for Saturday's annual Walk America fund-raising event for the March of Dimes was "Use your feet to give premature babies a hand."


More than 700 area residents representing their workplaces, churches, schools, organizations or themselves walked a six-mile loop around Hagerstown and raised $85,000 for research into the problem.

"One out of eight babies born in the United States is premature. It's the biggest cause of death among babies in the first year," said Melissa Clark, community director of the Washington and Frederick County Chapter of the March of Dimes, the sponsor of Saturday's event.

Three years ago, about 200 walkers raised $25,000, Clark said. The following year, 350 walkers brought in $55,000 and last year, 475 walkers raised $70,000, she said.

The money comes from donors who sponsor walkers and from corporate donations, Clark said.

"The average walker raises about $100," said James Piern, who for the last three years has co-chaired the walk with James Hamill and Michael Disciullo.

The walkers fueled up with drinks, fruit and some food and left Long Meadow Shopping Center around 9 a.m. Saturday and headed down Potomac Street on their six-mile loop around the city.

Six checkpoints offering refreshments were set up along the route. The walkers were given more food and drinks when they returned to the shopping center.

The largest group included more than 200 employees of Citicorp Credit Services Inc. This was the sixth year for the Citicorp team.

Last year's team raised $14,000, one team member said. The Citicorp walkers hoped to raise $20,000 this year, they said.

Dion Jackson was rounding up his teammates from The Texas Roadhouse just as the walk was about to begin. The team's goal was to raise $1,500, he said.

Many walkers were accompanied by their dogs.

Jake, a collie, was more interested in meeting Duchess, a golden retriever, than he was in setting out on the walk with his owner, Kelli Fisher of Boonsboro.

Ginny Karcher, Duchess's owner, was walking with her teammates from Smith Elliott Kearns & Company LLC.

Tia, a Pomeranian, was ready to start the walk with her owner, Brenda Keefer, a member of the F&M Bank team.

The little dog's short legs would not carry her for all six miles, Keefer said.

"I have her treats and water with me, but I'll have to carry her at some point," she said.

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