March of Dimes to return to Shelby - Fundraising efforts to benefit baby health

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By Scotty McDaniel

As the leading nonprofit organization in the fight for pregnancy and baby health, the March of Dimes will hold the Shelby County March for Babies fundraiser at the First Baptist Church on Sept. 27 at 9:30 a.m.

March of Dimes works to spread awareness on serious threats to infant health, as well as raise money to research those issues and provide comfort and information to families affected by them.

One of the biggest threats is premature birth. Half a million babies are born prematurely every year, including 15.2 percent of all babies born in Kentucky. These babies are more likely to die or suffer from disabilities.

As March of Dimes ambassadors for the event, Shelby County's Chase and Tyler Smither are living proof of the organization's efforts.

Both Chase and Tyler were born six weeks early. Now five-months old, Tyler has a heart condition and Chase is healthy. But because of the quality care they received during the two weeks they had to spend in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Norton Suburban Hospital, they are both alive.

"They (March of Dimes) were very nice to us when we were in the NICU, and they provided us with a lot of helpful information," said the boys' mother, Megan Smither.

That's why she and her husband Jake are proud to tell their story. Seventy-five cents of every dollar raised by March for Babies in Shelby County will be spread throughout the Greater Kentucky Chapter to fund research grants for the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville to study premature birth. The funds will also provide community grants and support the March of Dimes NICU Family Support Project at Norton Suburban Hospital.

"This year we are trying to raise $43,000," said March of Dimes representative Delaurah Kamrani. "It's up from last year. Every year our goal goes up and every year we've reached it."

To help in the fight by walking or donating, people are encouraged to visit marchforbabies.org or call toll-free 1-800-255-5857 to sign up.

March for Babies, formerly known as WalkAmerica, is the premier fundraiser that the March of Dimes puts on to benefit baby health.

This year's efforts have many sponsors, including Shelby County's own Martinrea Heavy Stamping, Village Plaza Shopping Center, Citizens Union Bank and Commonwealth Bank & Trust Company.

The fundraiser will include walking, lunch, activities for kids, and an awards ceremony. But the primary goal of the event is to make more people aware of the struggles of premature birth.

"I'm hoping that we'll raise money and be able to help families in the future that have preemie babies," Megan said. "And hopefully one day we won't have so many preemie babies."