March of Dimes raises $20,000

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

March of Dimes Ambassador Child Rachel Blythe, 5, of Courtland leads the Franklin fundraising walk on Sunday with Mayor Jim Councill and her mother, Kim, by her side. -- DON BRIDGERS | TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—Rachel Blythe’s four steps grabbed the hearts of Sunday’s record-breaking crowd of 200 for the Western Hampton Roads March for Babies in Franklin.

“She then lunged forward to her dad and had the biggest smile of achievement,” said Susan Smith, executive director for the Greater Hampton Roads Division for March of Dimes.

Rachel was the Ambassador Child for this year’s walk, which surpassed its $15,000 goal by raising $20,000, Smith said.

The 5-year-old Nottoway Elementary School preschooler was born premature and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She normally uses a walker or wheelchair and just recently began taking three to five steps by herself, said her mother, Kim Blythe.

The start of the Franklin walk was unlike others, Smith said.

“When you go to most walks, people are out the gate,” she said. “Everybody stood outside and watched Rachel. It was almost like an absolute calm. Silence, and then clapping and cheering.”

Smith attributed the walk’s success to its chairwoman, Franklin Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle.

“She encouraged all schools to be involved and we had more school participation and from families,” Smith said.

Twelve-year-old Brittni Baker, the daughter of Starla and Brian Baker, singlehandedly raised $1,000.

“We’re excited and pleased,” Smith said. “It’s just wonderful when you have a person that motivated and that involved.”