OCEANSIDE — More than 1,200 walkers are expected to participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies walk April 14. The goal is to raise funds and awareness for the prevention of birth defects and infant mortality.
“One in eight babies is born premature — that’s 12 percent,” Brad Pagano, March of Dimes senior director of fundraising San Diego and Imperial division, said. “It’s across the board. No one independent ethnicity is at risk.”
Families and supporters who participate in the walk share a special bond.
“We come together as a community to celebrate our successes,” Pagano said.
Last year Nellie Maya of San Jose took part in the walk to support her 4-year-old nephew who was born with a birth defect and benefited from March of Dimes services.
“They have wonderful services,” Maya said. “Never say never.”
There are many factors that can contribute to a premature birth. The March of Dimes works to educate caregivers, health care professionals and mothers about risks and healthy practices during pregnancy.
The consequences for a baby who is born premature may include underdeveloped eyes, ears, brain or other organs.
Research and medical advancements can now help infants survive who are born as early as 24 weeks of gestation.
Pagano said the March of Dimes also provides support and education programs for parents of premature newborns.
“Babies are born less than a pound and foot long,” Pagano said. “Parents don’t get to take the child home for weeks or months. It’s so overwhelming they need daily support and education to understand what’s happening.”
The 3.5-mile March for Babies walk starts at the Pier Amphitheatre at 8 a.m. April 14. Following the walk, a heath and fitness fair shares information, and features games and hands-on activities.
Participants are not required to pay a registration fee, but donations are welcome and incentive prizes are given for donations of $200 or more. Last year participants and company sponsors donated more than $160,000.
For more information on the March for Babies, visit marchforbabies.org.