March of Dimes walk set for May 20

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 14, 2007

FRANKLIN—An organization initially established in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fight polio is still going strong today.

Approximately 25 teams will participate in the upcoming Western Hampton Roads March of Dimes WalkAmerica 2007, which is the culmination of a campaign in support of healthier babies.

According to information released by the March of Dimes, premature birth is the No. 1 cause of death in newborns and has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.

The support of March of Dimes helps the organization continue to fund research that will prevent premature birth; educate women about the signs of pre-term labor; provide information and emotional support to families; help health care professionals to better detect women at risk for premature birth; and advocate for expanded access to health insurance for mothers and babies.

The event, scheduled for May 20 at Barrett’s Landing, will begin with registration at 1 p.m.

“Anyone can come out that day and walk,” said Susan Lassiter, a steering committee member and a volunteer for more than 20 years. “You don’t have to be assigned to a team to participate.” The walk begins at 2 p.m. and will be led by Dan Hunt of Franklin and his dog, Phinn.

The group will leave the landing along Main Street and turn up to Clay Street.

“We will walk all the way up to Kings and Queens lanes, circle back down Clay, head to High Street and South, and back to Barrett’s,” she said. The route is approximately five miles.

“Our goal is $22,000 this year,” said Lassiter. “We are having our Bank Day May 17 at SunTrust Bank. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., teams can turn in the funds they have already collected. They can also pick up their incentives and get their T-shirts for the walk.

“It keeps us from having so much to count at one time. Money may still be turned in after the walk.”

There will be hot dogs for the walkers and children’s activities. Ray Bennett will be deejaying throughout the event.

“This helps every child,” Lassiter said. “Some of the money helps pay for babies to get tested for various things when they are born, so it helps them from the beginning.

“It is important to get a good start in life.”

The ambassador family for this year’s WalkAmerica is Dita and Gene Bailey of Suffolk.

Their twin sons, Carter and Orion, were born Nov. 16, 2004, at 27 weeks gestation and weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces and 2 pounds respectively.

“Both were rushed off to the neonatal intensive care unit, and it was nearly three hours before we were able to finally see our boys,” said Gene. “We were so unprepared to see their tiny little bodies in incubators, unable to be touched for any period of time because their skin was so thin.

“My wife had waited her entire life to be a mother, and she could not even hold her children.”

Carter and Orion finally were able to go home with monitors attached after 84 days of intubations, breathing, reflux and belly issues, and a near-death experience for Carter. They were released from the hospital in February 2005 and have undergone physical and speech therapies.

“We were fortunate,” he said. “Today, we are happy to report they are both happy and relatively healthy, and we cherish every day.

“We share our story in the hopes that someone will learn you can get through it. Being a parent of a preemie is a unique gift, and no one else can understand it unless you have lived it.”