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650 March for Babies in Hagerstown

Annual event, formerly WalkAmerica, raises money for March of Dimes

Annual event, formerly WalkAmerica, raises money for March of Dimes

April 26, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- Carla Waldeck remembers the delicate little fingers and toes barely visible under the tangle of wires, tubes and monitors.

Her son had been born prematurely.

Weighing only 3 pounds, 6 ounces, Nathan had arrived eight weeks before his due date.

It was a surprise to his mother, who was having a normal pregnancy. But all of that changed within minutes, when she began having severe pain.

Her doctor saw all of the signs of preterm labor.

Waldeck was sent to Johns Hopkins University Hospital, where her son was born and then whisked to the neonatal intensive care unit, a consequence of coming into the world too soon.

There, he was fed through tubes and battled jaundice. But there was a fragile tenacity in that tiny fighter and three weeks later - well ahead of schedule - his parents brought him home.

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Saturday morning, Waldeck arrived at Long Meadow Shopping Center to participate in an annual fundraising walk sponsored by the March of Dimes.

She was joined by family and friends, as well as Nathan, who now is a healthy 2-year-old.

"I've been walking in this event for years," said Waldeck, a resident of Martinsburg, W.Va. "The March of Dimes had affected me long before my son was born. I had walked in honor of friends who have had healthy babies. I had walked for a person I know who had polio. Now, with my personal experience, I feel it's more important than ever to be a part of this."

Waldeck was among more than 650 people who participated in the March for Babies, a March of Dimes fundraiser previously known as WalkAmerica.

The approximately six-mile hike started at Long Meadow Shopping Center and continued through downtown Hagerstown and back.

Jessica Wagoner, community director for the March of Dimes, said organizers were hoping to raise $100,000 from the event.

"That's very achievable," she said. "In fact, with the turnout, I think we'll pass it."

Wagoner said the walk was renamed to better reflect the mission of March of Dimes - to improve the health of all babies by preventing premature births, birth defects and infant mortality.

"We want babies to survive and thrive," she said.

Money raised from the walk will be used for research, advocacy, community programs and education, Wagoner said.

The event, which started nationwide in the 1970s, continues to receive a great deal of community support - from major sponsors to walkers, she said.

"For the tiniest lives, the most innocent lives, everybody puts their hearts into it," Wagoner said.

According to the March of Dimes, the No. 1 killer of newborns in the United States is complications from premature births.

Premature birth touches a half-million babies and their families each year, and babies born too soon are more likely to have lifelong disabilities.

"We were extremely fortunate," Waldeck said. "Nathan has no lasting problems and is coming along beautifully. The first couple of months were very hard. We worried all the time about what or who he was exposed to. Now, he's healthy and energetic. He's pure boy."

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