More than 600 Harford County residents joined to support the nation's smallest citizens at the 2013 March for Babies on Sunday along Route 23 in Forest Hill, raising in excess of $100,000 to improve and protect the health of infants.
Now in its 43rd year, the nation's premier walking event is the largest fundraiser for the March of Dimes.
The master of ceremonies for the event, Chrissy Kalista of One Main Financial, who is also a Central Maryland Division March of Dimes board member, and Heather Lynch, Harford County community director for Central Maryland Division, March of Dimes, introduced the various dignitaries and groups, thanked the teams and volunteers, and restated the rules of the walk.
"Today, we are celebrating all babies – those born healthy, those born too soon and those who need our help," said 2013 Harford County March for Babies Walk Chair Tom Mottley, of RKS Realty. "I'm proud to be part of a community where people come together to support this important cause which brings us one step closer a day when all babies are born healthy," he added.
Klein's ShopRite of Maryland, the event's Presenting Sponsor, then displayed a $15,000 "big check," noting the aggregate donation and support it gave to the March of Dimes event. In presenting the check, Klein's ShopRite Vice President Michael J. Klein stated: "In this week of tragedy and crisis, we gather today in support of community and hope!"
Harford County government Director of Administration Mary Chance, the next speaker, said: "the task of the March of Dimes isn't done until all babies are born healthy. One million families a year worldwide lose a baby," she added, "So let us have a moment of silence both in memory of their loss, and also in appreciation of the hope and joy of healthy babies!"
In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the March of Dimes, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday!" and shouted out the names of babies many of the marchers were honoring.
Leslie Pennel, a mission mom for the Harford County March of Dimes, accompanied by her husband Kelton Pennel and their daughters Addisyn and Kyra, related her family's story, including the tragedy of the loss of Addisyn's twin sister. Afterward, Monica Rosenblatt, a graduate of Harford Day School which over the years has raised the most money of any supporting institution for the Harford march, sang the "Star Spangled Banner," while Kyra and Leslie Pennel waved the American flag.
The celebratory atmosphere included a DJ, food and drink stands, a stilts walker, and many walking pets. Before the march itself, Tiffany Wilhelm-Corrado of Stroller Strides of Harford County led the crowd in warm-up aerobics suitable for the chilly morning.
At 9:30 am the march itself occurred, comprised of Associates from Klein's ShopRite stores, individuals, families, other corporate teams and many pets, who filled the 2 1/2 mile course on Route 23 from the Commerce Road roundabout to Route 24, and back to Water Tower Way. The roads were closed to normal traffic until noon, courtesy of the Harford County Sheriff's Department.
According to Lynch, more than $110,000 was raised by this event to support the March of Dimes' mission to fight premature birth and other threats to a baby's health.
"The money will fund lifesaving research, education and local grants for programs such as NICU Family Support Program at Franklin Square Hospital," Lynch said.
The 2013 March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes number one corporate supporter Kmart, Farmers Insurance Group, Macy's, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur, Famous Footwear, Actavis, Mission Pharmacal, and United Airlines.
Local Harford County sponsors included Klein's ShopRite of Maryland and Rosedale Federal Savings and Loan Association
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.