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March of Dimes




Story by Emily Robertson

In Kentucky, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely. Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to infant death in the U.S., but March of Dimes is working tirelessly to change those statistics and give more babies the best possible start. Started in 1938 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the organization began as a way to defeat polio.

“President Roosevelt called on all Americans to give to this cause even if the only amount they could give was a dime,” March of Dimes Development Specialist Brandi Keller said. “The money sent in funded the research that created the vaccine that eradicated polio. After finding the cure for polio, March of Dimes became focused on birth defects, infant mortality and preventing premature birth.”

Premature birth is something that can happen during even the healthiest of pregnancies. Keller says that a mother can do everything in her power to have a healthy pregnancy and still go into preterm labor.

“March of Dimes has five prematurity research centers in the United States, including one center each in Ohio and St. Louis,” Keller said. “Each center is dedicated to solving the mysteries of premature birth. The centers are pioneering a brand new way of doing “team science”, bringing together an unprecedented array of scientists dedicated solely to examining, identifying and preventing the causes of preterm birth.”

March of Dimes fights for the health of all moms and babies in several key ways: the organization funds research that focuses on saving the lives of babies born prematurely or with a life threatening birth defect. March of Dimes also works to educate mothers on how to have healthy, full-term pregnancies. Lastly, the group advocates for women’s health care to ensure that moms and babies are both getting medical care that they need before and throughout pregnancy and beyond delivery.

Locally March of Dimes partners with local NICUs and nurseries through a program called Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait. Through the initiative, March of Dimes gives pregnant women information on why getting to 39 weeks gestation is so vital to a baby’s health. The Medical Center is a Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait site.

The organization’s signature event each year is the March of Babies walk, which was started in 1970 as Walk America. In 2007, the organization changed the name to March for Babies, and Keller says that the event is a way to support so many different types of families.

“The walk gives hope to expecting mothers and families with a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU),” Keller said. “We also remember babies we have lost and honor them throughout our walk site. We celebrate every baby, including the NICU graduates who fought so hard to go home.” Bowling Green and the Warren County area fall under the Western Kentucky March of Dimes district. As the sole staff person in the area, Keller organizes March for Babies events in Bowling Green, Owensboro and Madisonville.

“March of Dimes is always looking for new volunteers, ambassadors and fundraisers to help support our mission for healthy moms and strong babies,” Keller said. “Volunteers can become a team captain for their local March for Babies event and raise funds that support our mission, share their story of how their family is connected to March of Dimes or volunteer during the March of Babies campaign that runs January through May each year. We can never have too many volunteers!”

Keller graduated from University of Kentucky and completed an internship at a non-profit where she helped with fundraising. She then joined March of Dimes in August 2013 as a part-time Community Director. She now serves as the Development Specialist for both southwest Indiana and western Kentucky.

“The best part of being involved with March of Dimes is meeting the families,” Keller said. “Every family has a story to share that is unique to them, and I feel like I get to be a part of that story. It is hard to believe that the NICU families I met when I first started five years ago will have little ones heading to kindergarten in the fall. It is amazing to see their journey.”
March of Dimes is celebrating its 80th anniversary and would love to have new people join in their mission as they begin preparation for the 2019 March for Babies events. For more information and to get involved locally, click here.

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