Little wonders spark big support at Pa. walk

May 01, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH


Pink and blue balloons bounced above baby strollers on which they were tied Sunday afternoon as the strollers were pushed along the route of Chambersburg's WalkAmerica event benefiting March of Dimes.

Some of the babies were the premature infants for whom the event raises money, while others were from full-term, healthy births and had parents who just wanted to give back.

"Some of them are just so thankful that they have healthy babies that they want to walk and help to promote healthy births for other people," event coordinator Mike Schindler said.


Cousins Ashley Hess of Fayetteville, Pa., and Michelle Daywalt of Marion, Pa., followed the WalkAmerica route together.

"We both have preemies," Daywalt said.

Born around the same time, Daywalt's son was born healthy while Hess' was not.

Nathan Hess, born last November, was whisked from the delivery room at Chambersburg Hospital to a helicopter for transport to Harrisburg, Pa. Mechanical problems with the helicopter resulted in the boy being transported by ambulance before even spending more than a few moments with his mother.

"He was on oxygen and had IVs in his head," Hess said.

Hess and Daywalt solicited friends and family for financial contributions to the March of Dimes, and Daywalt was given permission to leave a jar at a local gas station.

"The family teams are the big growth area for March of Dimes right now," Schindler said, explaining that officials have found that families raise 25 to 50 percent more money than other walkers.

Close to 250 people participated in Sunday's walk, raising about $60,000, according to early estimates.

"We have had as many as 325 (participants) before," Schindler said.

Hannah LeaghAnn Short was this year's ambassador child. Born Nov. 14, 2001, Hannah weighed less than 3 pounds and has since had open heart surgery to repair several holes.

"It gives (participants) someone special to walk for," Schindler said.

"If it's helping out kids, it's a good cause," said Emily Schaffer, 16, of Chambersburg. She walked with a team of 10 organized by her mother.

Sunday was Emily's first time participating in WalkAmerica, but between 70 and 75 percent are return walkers, Schindler said.

A shorter route provided walkers with a 2.7-mile alternative to the regular route, which was mapped at 6.25 miles.

"Boy, that's wrong," Schindler said. "It's got to be closer to 8."

He said he needs additional volunteers to enhance the event in the future.

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