by Beth Leftwich
Rock Creek Park will be the new site for the March of Dimes WalkAmerica on Saturday, April 21st beginning with registration at 8:00 a.m. followed by the walk at 9:00 a.m.
The 3.5-mile trek is the walk that saves babies! It is the March of Dimes biggest fundraiser, with walks held across the country that are expected to attract 1 million walkers. WalkAmerica supports research and programs to help prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant death. Since its beginning in 1970, WalkAmerica has raised more than $1.7 billion to help give babies a fighting chance.
Marshall County WalkAmerica held a kick-off recently at the Lewisburg Gas Department with refreshments provided by First Farmers & Merchants Bank. Brenda Wolaver of F&M is this year's chairman and she welcomed the attendees and thanked them for their support.
"Join in on the fun," she encouraged everyone, noting there will be free music, balloons, and games at Rock Creek Park during the family-friendly event.
State Director of Communications Todd Grantham dressed as Howie Mandel and did a short "Deal or No Deal" skit with the assistance of several MCHS students and Christy Harwell of Sanford to get the attendees excited about this year's goal of $75,000.
Last year, 26 teams accounted for 94 percent of the more than $55,000 raised to help save babies in Marshall County. Teams represent companies, unions, schools, associations and clubs, and can range in size from five walkers to more than 10,000.
Wolaver also stressed that people can walk as individuals too and also get involved as a volunteer to help with registration, man checkpoints or offer refreshments if that is of interest to them.
This year's Marshall County Ambassador is 5-year old Abbey Cahill, daughter of Lisa and Jimmy Cahill of Chapel Hill. Abbey and her identical twin sister, Kaleigh, were born prematurely on September 12, 2001 with complications, and unfortunately Kaleigh did not survive. However, the family is grateful for the help they received in part from the March of Dimes and would like to give back to the organization. (See the Cahill's story accompanying this feature).
Grantham provided lots of literature for the attendees to make registration easy for individuals and teams, plus promotional items like banners, cut-out sneakers, cardboard banks to collect money, as well as samples of the prize incentives for this year. Those who raise $100 will earn a colorful t-shirt; $500 or more will earn a canvas fold-up chair; and $1000 or more will earn a picnic backpack with blanket.
Fundraising is easier than ever nowadays, as teams and individuals can register and fundraise online via the WalkAmerica website at www.walkamerica.org - you will need to register and create a user name and password. You can customize your webpage with a photo and a personal story if you would like and donors can contribute to your campaign securely with a credit card or by PayPal.
Dixie Hobby and her two children attended the kick-off and she says she's been involved in WalkAmerica for 15 years because "I have a nephew who was a preemie and he's 17 today and still has health problems."
If you need additional information or would like to get involved in Marshall County WalkAmerica feel free to contact Brenda Wolaver at 364-2062.