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Palm Beach Post

March for Babies walk draws 4,000

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LAKE WORTH — Water bottles in hand and hats on their heads, close to 4,000 people came to John Prince Park on Saturday morning to walk four miles for "the babies."

The March of Dimes March for Babies began in 1970 and was the first walk of its kind in the nation, said Shanna St. John executive director, March of Dimes Palm Beach Division.

It's still going strong today as a nationwide event with 1 million participants in 900 communities. The march is expected to raise $535,000 in Palm Beach County from donations raised by walkers at John Prince Park and another 1,000 participants at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, St. John said.

The money goes to research, community services and education to prevent birth defects, premature births and infant mortality.

"We have a lot of families here today with babies who were born prematurely," St. John said.

Shaun Blogg, chairman of the event and a partner at Marcum LLP, a CPA firm in West Palm Beach, said, "Every baby should be born healthy. One in every eight babies in America is born too soon. For some families it takes away their hopes and dreams."

About 300 teams from family groups and businesses as well as individuals, were there to support the non-profit's mission, eat barbecue, hot dogs and ice cream or visit the "Kid's Korner" for face painting and bounce houses.

Many wore their hearts on their t-shirts, bearing names, photos and birth weights of babies who were once so tiny that their lives were in danger. They're grateful for the research that has made it possible for preemies to get the care they need survive and thrive.

Boynton Beach's Courtney Ambrefe was there with her son Aiden Brear, 10 months. Born two months early and weighing 3 pounds 3 ounces, he spent a month and a day at Bethesda Memorial Hospital. She remembers those days as "hell" as Aiden struggled to live.

"He was 12 inches long. He looked like a 12-inch hot dog," Ambrefe said. "When he came home he weighed 4 pounds, 6 ounces. When a preemie baby is on oxygen, it can mess up their eyes. He's fine. He's one of the lucky ones."

Shirley Bean, a Bank of America, Boynton Beach employee has raised $60,000 for the effort from fellow workers and customers since 2002.

"My sister had three premature babies. They're all fine," Bean said, as she stood next to her healthy 14-year-old nephew, Ladade Harley. "To see these babies survive with no disabilities was a miracle."

After an hour or so of walking and socializing the throngs of walkers, many pushing babies in strollers or pulling children in wagons, began to trickle in.

"We did it for our little cousins," said Miranda Cosme, 14, of Wellington. Thalia Pagan, 6, and Teyana Pagan, 2, weighed in at barely over 2 pounds at birth.

"Now they're beautiful little kids," she said.

 
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