By Jason A. Smith
The local arm of the March of Dimes will hold a "March for Babies" fund-raising event on May 15, at Heritage Park in McDonough.
The event will include a 3.2-mile walk on trails at the park, according to Melissa Cox, the group's community director for Henry, Coweta, Fayette and Spalding counties.
The walk, she said, supports the March of Dimes' mission to "help give every baby a healthy start."
"We do that by trying to prevent birth defects, premature births and infant mortality," Cox said. "This is the largest fund-raising event for the March of Dimes. It takes place in more than 900 communities across the country. More than half a million people take part in the March for Babies each year."
The March of Dimes was originally focused on providing care to victims of polio and finding a vaccine, but later shifted its focus to preventing birth defects, premature births and low birthweight.
Last year's fund-raising walk in Henry County, Cox added, raised $84,000 for the March of Dimes. She said she hopes to exceed that figure with this year's event.
"Our goal for Henry County is [to raise] $93,000," said Cox.
The 2010 March of Dimes ambassador is 6-year-old Maisie Ballenberg of Stockbridge, who was born 13 weeks prematurely in September 2003. The child's father, David Ballenberg, said the early struggles his daughter faced influenced him to support the March of Dimes.
"After my daughter was born, she was in the hospital for 11 weeks," Ballenberg said. "The technology, resources and amazing care that she received at the hospital was due, in some part, to the March of Dimes. Now, she is completely normal, which is extremely rare for any baby at that stage of gestation. We were very lucky."
Kay Embrey, a financial services representative for First State Bank and the chairperson of the March for Babies in Henry County, said the walk is important to her on personal and professional levels.
"As a business leader, this campaign gives me a unique opportunity to help the community that I love," Embrey said. "As a mother, I can't think of a more important cause than our babies."
Sponsors for the walk include Famous Footwear, Kaiser Permanente, Pinstrikes Entertainment Center, Henry Medical Center, SEKO Worldwide freight transportation, Publix and Alpla, Inc. Registration for the event will begin at 8 a.m., with the walk beginning at 9:30 a.m.
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