March for Babies walk at Assateague State Park, Sat.

(May 1, 2015) About 200 walkers participating in the 25th annual Worcester March for Babies at Assateague State Park in Berlin Saturday, will help give hope to the 410 premature babies born on the Eastern Shore this year.

“Born and raised in Worcester County, the Eastern Shore is special to me. We are a very giving and philanthropic county,” said Jessica Hales, Eastern Shore March of Dimes Division director. “Watching our community come together for healthier babies is a beautiful sight to see.”

The walk begins at 10 a.m. with a 4-mile trek along Assateague State Park. Participants have the option to walk on the beach. Strollers and dogs are welcome, Hales added.

There is no cost to register and funds raised are from donations the participants seek out from friends, their family and the community. Some walkers held fundraising events for their teams to help raise money for babies, Hales said.

A registration tent will open at 9 a.m. for participants who want to sign up or turn funds in on event day and opening ceremonies begin at 9:40 a.m.

Moonbeam will be providing entertainment. There will be carnival games for children and a warm-up performance from Twisters Gymnastics in Berlin.

The Assateague Mobile Sport Fisherman’s Association (AMSA) will cook hot dogs for the returning walkers in its cook-shack, and beverages will be provided by Pepsi.

The walk lasts a little more than an hour and participants who raise $200 or more will receive a March for Babies T-shirt and are invited to an after-party at Seacrets with lite fare and beverages directly following the walk.

There will be a memory garden to remember the babies who were not able to be saved.

In 2014, Worcester March for Babies raised more than $25,000 with nearly 150 walkers.

The goal for this year is $35,000 and Hales is confident it will be met with 125 walkers already signed up as of April 24.

“We have high hopes for Assateague’s 25th year. So far, the community has really rallied behind the mission of healthy babies and we are very confident that they will reach their goals,” Hales said.

Worcester County has raised more than $700,000 for March of Dimes since 2002 with the annual walk, she said.

The West family of Snow Hill is the Eastern Shore Ambassador Family, Becky and Lee will be cutting the ribbon and leading the walk with their two daughters and son, Lee.

Lee arrived six weeks early and was airlifted to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. where he remained for 12 weeks fighting through multiple surgeries, procedures and Sepsis.

Today, he is an active 3-year-old and proudly calls the scar on his abdomen his “battle wound.”

“It is absolutely heart wrenching to watch your newborn baby fight for their life, while you as a parent cannot do anything to help them get better,” Becky West said. “Every day in the NICU feels like an eternity. We need to do everything we can to raise money for the March of Dimes to keep this kind of funding on the Eastern Shore.”

Ironically, West has participated in the Assateague Walk for Babies since 1997, never knowing she would one day deliver her son premature and said it’s more meaningful for her to walk now.

“The March of Dimes is not just about the premature babies or the sick babies, it is about all babies.  The babies that haven’t been born yet are what the cause is all about, ensuring that when it is their time they will be born healthy and full term,” she said. “If you have a niece, nephew, cousin or grandchild, you have been touched by the March of Dimes.”

March for Babies was established in 1970 and has raised more than $2 billion nationwide to benefit all babies. In 2015, walks will be held in almost 700 locations and they are the organization’s largest annual fundraising event.

For more than 75 years, mothers and their children have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines and scientific advances.

Preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality is its mission and has been important to March of Dimes since its inception. The funding the non-profit provides helps women to have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.

“I have already put in an order for a beautiful sunny day to march for babies. It will be a great day of fun and fellowship for all that attend,” Hales said.

For more information about March for Babies and to register or donate, visit www.marchforbabies.org or call 1-800-525-9255.

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