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Ben's Team is the top fundraising team at Athens WalkAmerica 2004

By Jennifer Brunelle

On May 16, over 500 Ohio University students, faculty and staff members and Athens County residents joined together in WalkAmerica to support March of Dimes research to find the causes of premature birth.

Athens WalkAmerica 2004 was held in memory of Ben Hayes, son of Ohio University Assistant Professor of Trombone Chris Hayes and his wife Michele. Ben was born 10 weeks early in December 2001 and weighed only 1 pound, 15 ounces. He suffered from numerous complications as a result of being born premature and had to undergo several operations. Ben attended the Ohio University Child Development Center. When he passed away last April at only 16 months old, he had touched the lives of many people here in Athens. Jennifer Waligura and Cheryl Schroer are two such people. They are both teachers at the Child Development Center and served as the co-chairs for this year's event, as well as the captains of Ben's Team.

Ben's Team was the largest team and raised the most money at this year's Athens WalkAmerica. Their 400-person team raised $18,445. Overall, the event raised almost $33,000 and money is still being collected. Plans are already underway for WalkAmerica 2005 and Ben's Team is planning to grow and raise even more money for the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes has been a champion for children's health since its founding in 1938 to save America's youth from polio. Now they are taking on the growing problem of premature birth in the United States. In January 2003, the March of Dimes began a five-year, $75 million research, awareness and education campaign to help American families have healthier babies.

The problem:

  • More than 467,000 babies (about 1 in 8) are born prematurely each year in the U. S.
  • The rate of premature birth has increased over the last three decades; the current rate is 12 percent. Ross County is even higher with 14.2 percent
  • Nearly half of all premature births have unknown causes
  • Prematurity is the leading cause of death in the first month of life
  • 50 percent of babies born early suffer from lifelong health problems

The aims of the campaign are to:

  • invest in more scientific research to find causes of and interventions for preterm labor
  • raise public awareness of the problem
  • educate women of childbearing age about the warning signs of preterm labor
  • assist health professionals in improving detection of high-risk pregnancies and addressing risk factors
  • expand access to health insurance to improve prenatal care and infant health outcomes.

Over the last 34 years, WalkAmerica has raised more than $1 billion to fund March of Dimes research and programs that help save babies from premature birth, birth defects, and other threats to their health

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at www.marchofdimes.com, the Spanish Web site at www.nacersano.org, or call 1-888-MODIMES.

Jennifer Brunelle is with the March of Dimes Central Ohio division and coordinates the Athens WalkAmerica.

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