The March for Dimes March for Babies will take place Saturday, Oct. 13 at Bonita Lakes Recreation Park in Meridian.
Participants will walk three miles at the event, which begins at 9 a.m.
Local businesses, organizations, families and individuals are encouraged to form teams and conduct fundraisers prior to the walk. For those who can't form a team, donations are welcome, organizers said. All proceeds will go to support local programs that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies, and it funds research to find answers to health problems that threaten babies.
Formerly known as WalkAmerica, March for Babies is the March of Dimes signature fundraiser and takes place in communities all across America. This year an estimated 7 million people in 900 communities are expected to participate in the annual event, which has raised $2 billion since its inception in 1970, according to the organization's website.
One of the main focuses of March of Dimes is dealing with the effects of premature birth in babies, said Lea Banks, community director for Mississippi.
"Mississippi has the highest rate of premature babies in the nation," Banks said. "This is what people really need to walk for."
Children born prematurely can have a host of medical problems, including poorly developed organs. Some of the estimated 500,000 children born prematurely in the U.S. each year do not survive.
Students and staff with Meridian Community College's Phi Beta Lambda, Business and Office chapter, put together a team in honor of a coach at the school who lost a grandchild — a twin — who was born premature at 26 weeks.
"We are going to have baby footprints and the baby's name printed on the back of our team T-shirts," said Flora Sumrall, an instructor with the college's Business and Office department.
For Sumrall the walk is personal. Two of her children were born with sickle cell anemia, one of the many diseases that affects newborns for which the March of Dimes funds research.
"I know what it is to have a child that is sick," Sumrall said.
Not only is Phi Beta Lambda putting together a team, last month they challenged other MCC departments and organizations to field their own teams.
In past years, up to 500 people from three counties have participated in the annual event in Meridian. Banks hopes those numbers are topped this year.
"We need Meridian to stand up and make it the biggest best walk they've ever had," Banks said.
Editor's note: This article originally ran in the October/November issue of "393" magazine. For more local news and events, pick up your copy on stands now.
Want To Go?
• What: March for Babies
• When: Saturday at 9 a.m., registration at 8 a.m.
• Where: Bonita Lakes Recreation Park in Meridian
• To donate, sponsor or register a team, call Lea Banks at 601-292-6661 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• For more information on March for Babies visit www.marchforbabies.org or www.marchofdimes.com.