By Kim Walter
There's still time to register for the upcoming March for Babies in Front Royal, which will take place Saturday.
The event is scheduled to start at 9 a.m., though last minute walkers or runners can sign up and donate beginning at 8 a.m. This year's walk will be different from those in the past, as it will begin at the Valley Health Wellness Center on Commerce Avenue.
The walk's mission to is to raise funds and awareness for premature births.
Crissie Burcham, the local event's chair, said that this year's goal is to raise $54,000 to go toward research and screenings that help detect issues during pregnancy. Last year the goal was lower, and it was surpassed.
On Wednesday, Burcham said the raised amount was up to $11,000, but noted that Thursday would be the day that teams would turn in funds.
"That's when we get the bulk of our money, so I'm sure we'll be much closer to our goal after that," she said.
So far there are 25 teams signed up. The money those teams raise will go toward awards that will be given out after the event. Individuals can still sign up with a team before Saturday, or register and donate as an individual the morning of the walk, Burcham added.
Burcham has been involved with the March for Babies for some time. She participated in her first walk 18 years ago. She's steadily been a part of the movement and has increasingly realized the importance of premature birth research.
"When [I] started looking into the statistics and stories from moms, it really hit me that this can happen to anyone," she said. "You can have a totally normal pregnancy and not have any risk factors, but wind up giving birth before the full term."
Of the 103,002 births a year in Virginia, 11,969 of them are premature, she said, with more than 3,000 of premature babies having some type of defect.
While the average medical cost for a full term, healthy baby is about $4,320, Burcham said the cost rises to $55,025 for babies born prematurely - and that's just for those who come out of the early birth without complications.
"But the babies who are born prematurely and do have issues ... I know from hearing from mothers who have gone through it that it's even more expensive," she said. "They call them their 'million dollar babies.'"
The event on Saturday is family friendly, Burcham said. Students from area schools will be in attendance, setting up different booths for refreshments or other activities like face painting. After the walk, a festive picnic and celebration will be held.
The route is three miles long, and will be different from what participants have experienced during past events. Burcham said a larger portion of the route is on paved ground, and there are fewer spots where participants will need to cross the street.
"It will be safer and more accessible, so hopefully even more people will come out," she said.
This year marks the 75th anniversary for the March of Dimes, Burcham noted. The organization's original focus was to combat polio. April 12 is the anniversary of the polio vaccine being released.
In the years following the discovery of a cure, the attention of the organization shifted to a focus on preventing premature births. Now, 84 cents of every dollar raised in Virginia goes toward research and programs that help ensure the health of all babies. Additionally, March of Dimes funds four of the 29 screenings that take place during a pregnancy.
"This is a great cause to be a part of," Burcham said. "You just never know if it could happen to you."
To register for the Front Royal March for Babies, or to get more information, go to www.marchofdimes.com/virginia.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org