WILLIAMSTOWN - Tomlinson Park will soon host the annual March for Babies walk with more than 200 participants raising funds for the March of Dimes.
"The goal for this year's walk is $67,000," said Beth Nease-Criner, community director for the West Virginia Chapter of the March of Dimes. "We have a pretty lofty goal, but I think we will get there."
Nease-Criner said the March for Babies was originally known as Walk America when it began in 1970 and is the oldest walk fundraiser in the country. Because West Virginia has one of the highest premature birth rates in the country, the event is relevant to the area, she said.
As one in eight babies is born premature, Nease-Criner said people participate in the walk for different reasons.
"Some people walk in memory of a child lost to premature birth, to honor healthy preemies and others because they support the March of Dimes and its work in their communities to help give every baby a healthy start," she said.
Funds raised through the walk will benefit life-saving research and educational programs aimed at helping women and babies in communities across the state and throughout the country.
* About 200 people are expected to participate in the annual March for Babies walk sponsored by the March of Dimes.
* The event will begin with registration at 10 a.m. on June 8 in Williamstown's Tomlinson Park with the walk kicking off at 11 a.m.
* The event will recognize children saved through the March of Dimes' work and celebrate those who lost the fight for life.
This year's walk will be held in Tomlinson Park on June 8 with registration at 10 a.m. and the walk beginning at 11 a.m.
"So far, we have about 30 teams registered and last year we had about 40 teams of families and corporations," Nease-Criner said.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the March of Dimes. In that three-quarters of a century, the organization has worked to reduce the financial costs of hospital infant care on families and prevent premature birth and other infant health problems through research and community outreach.
Funds raised by March for Babies in West Virginia help support prenatal wellness programs, research grants, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) family support programs and advocacy efforts for stronger, healthier babies.
"Babies born in 2013 have a better chance for a long and healthy life than earlier generations, thanks to health advances made possible in part by the March of Dimes," said Nease-Criner. "They are also much less likely to die from an infectious disease thanks to widespread use of vaccinations to prevent polio, rubella, measles and other infections."
The March of Dimes was founded in January 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A polio sufferer himself, Roosevelt founded the organization to "lead, direct and unify" the fight against polio.
To join the March for Babies, visit marchforbabies.org.