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Nearly 300 walk at Martinsburg War Memorial Park for March of Dimes' March for Babies

April 27, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • from left -- Tara, Brittany, Jay Viands Tara Viands with her daughter, Brittany, 16, and son, Jay, 6, participated in the annual walk sponsored by the Eastern Panhandle March of Dimes.
By Richard F. Belisle

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Tara Viands joined a parade of nearly 300 people who walked a three-mile loop around War Memorial Park on Saturday morning to raise money for the March of Dimes’ March for Babies.

“I walked because my daughters can’t walk,” said Viands, a mother of two from Hedgesville, W.Va.

On July 25, 2006, her twin daughters, Macy and Carly, were born six weeks prematurely at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va. Macy weighed 3 pounds, 6 ounces. Carly was born two minutes later weighing 3 pounds, 3 ounces. Macy lived seven days; Carly for 23 days.

Viands, who has a daughter, Brittany, 16, and a son, Jay, 6, said she participates in the annual walk sponsored by the Eastern Panhandle March of Dimes “because it’s a way for my family to give back to the community for all the help we received.” 

Michelle Coffey of Martinsburg was, until this year, community director and the only paid employee of the Eastern Panhandle March of Dimes, one of three chapters in West Virginia, including Bridgeport and Charleston, that operate in the Mountain State.

Only the Charleston office survived closure brought on by budget cuts, Coffey said.

Before the local office closed, it ran two March for Babies fundraisers, one in Berkeley County and one in Jefferson County, she said.

Her job as the paid staffer was to coordinate both marches, line up corporate sponsors, recruit teams and volunteers, she said.

“Now, seven or eight volunteers have to do all that,” she said. “Before the economic downturn, the walk used to generate more than $100,000 from both counties every year.”

“Companies used to sponsor really big teams, but a lot of them are not in business anymore,” she said. “Some big teams would bring in $10,000 or more.”

This year, with only Berkeley County participating along with some marchers from Jefferson County, the projected goal was $60,000, she said.

The March for Babies has raised more than $2.6 million since it was started 75 years ago, according to a press release promoting Saturday’s march.

The March of Dimes is an offshoot of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis that was started in 1938 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a polio victim.

In those early days, children were asked to send dimes to the White Jouse. Several older walk participants Saturday remembered when an early fundraiser for the March of Dimes asked donors to fill cardboard cards with dimes.

Wyatt Truitt, at one month old, was Saturday’s youngest participant. He was pushed by his mother, Amber Shane, 21, of Martinsburg.

Jacob Elliott Truitt, Wyatt’s older brother, was stillborn Dec. 31, 2011.

“He’s why we’re walking,” his mother said.

Her sisters, Emily and Ashley Perryhill, and her cousins made up the 11-member JET family team, named in honor of Jacob. Cousin Crysta Barnhouse, 21, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., was the team captain.

“This is our second year,” Amber said. “It was Crysta’s idea.”

Eight-month-old Shawn Bradley also was participating in his first March for Babies.

He was born three months premature, said his mother, Sarah Bradley of Martinsburg.

She was suffering from severe high blood pressure during the pregnancy and had spent a month in bed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore when her doctors decided to take the baby by emergency C section. She was six months pregnant.

“He weighed one pound,” she said. “He’s perfect now. He weighs 14 pounds, just where he should be. He was awake and excited for the whole walk.”

Making up Shawn’s family team were, in addition to his mother, grandfather Dennis Kelly, great-grandmother Regina Kelly and cousins Kristen and Leanna Kelly, all from Hagerstown.

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