The March of Dimes brought local companies and families together during the kickoff of another campaign designed to offer answers for babies born too soon.
For more than 40 years, the March of Dimes’ March for Babies has been raising money to find answers for premature birth and birth defects with the help of legions of people who pull together for a common cause.
Last year, Orangeburg and Calhoun counties were among more than 400 communities nationwide whose citizens laced up their sneakers to participate and raise $80 million.
Dee Anne Miller, the development specialist for the tri-county area of Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties, gathered with volunteers at the Regional Medical Center to launch this year’s event.
The March for Babies walk will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 12, at Centennial Park in Edisto Memorial Gardens. Registration will begin at 5 p.m.
This year’s campaign fundraising goal is $60,000.
Miller said while past walks have traditionally been held on Saturdays, this year's Thursday walk will hopefully boost attendance for the event.
"It came up in one of our leadership meetings that our attendance kept dropping a little bit. The money was going up, but the attendance was going down. And the attendance, to me, is very important. Having raised three kids in Orangeburg, I'd love to have stuff to do for my kids," Miller said.
"So we have decided that just for this year - if it works out - to have it on a Thursday night. ... But I think it'll be kind of fun, and I've gotten some really good feedback on it. Of course, there's always hesitation because it is a change. It might be the worst thing we've ever done, and we'll go right back to the way it was before" if it is, she said.
During the kickoff, team captains and new volunteers picked up materials for the walk. The March of Dimes' Circle of Champions - people raising $1,000 or more - were also recognized. They included Stephanie Crider, Larry Rivers, Brooke Pantaleon, Karen Summers, Brenda Wigfall and John Fields.
Top fundraisers of the 2017 campaign were also recognized as follows: The Regional Medical Center, top company team; Alpha Phi Alpha, Iota Eta Lambda Chapter, top civic organization; Jamie Fair's Tiny Tiger Tales, top family team; and the CU Team from Claflin University, top school.
To register for this year's walk, visit https://www.marchforbabies.org/.
While individuals can use walker envelopes to solicit funds from friends and family, they can also develop their own online fundraising page at marchforbabies.org, where the lasteset resources and information can also be found. The March of Dimes is also on Facebook and Twitter.
Stephanie Crider, director of RMC's maternity care unit, Her Place, is a team captain who shared fundraising ideas at the kickoff event.
"You can do all kinds of things to raise money for March of Dimes, and there are so many resources out there," she said, noting that a March for Babies app can be downloaded by iPhone and Android phone users to raise funds on the go, reach out to donors, share progress and more.
"And you can share your team like on Facebook to try to raise money that way. People could donate money right on the app from your Facebook or Twitter. You can share to any social media site," Crider said.
Shannon Zeigler, practice director at Orangeburg Surgical Associates, will be participating in this year's walk, and she shared her story of her daughter, Cassidy, who was born at 25 weeks gestation weighing just 1 pound, 12 ounces.
"We spent 86 long days in the NICU at (Palmetto Health) Richland. It was the biggest roller coaster you'll ever be on. With Cassidy, she has profound cerebral palsy," Zeigler said. She said Cassidy has taught her family so many lessons on survival.
Steve and Titoriya Jarvis were introduced as the 2018 Ambassador Family. They were accompanied by their 10-year-old son, Chris, and their 5-year-old daughter, Skylar, who was born at 32 weeks gestation weighing just 1 pound, 15 ounces.
Skylar spent nearly a month and a half in a neonatal intensive care unit following her birth. Now she is a bubbly, active child who is considered a blessing by her parents.
"We thought this was going to be a normal pregnancy and we'll have our baby showers and all these other things. But, of course, it didn't happen that way," Titoriya said, adding that the family's faith took them through their struggles.
"I immediately go into the praying mode because we are a family of faith. ... You just get to a point where you just accept certain (things) and you just do what you need to do," she said. "Fast forward all of these years, we have Skylar, who now has had one eye surgery and, other than that, we've been good to go."
Steve said, "We're blessed to have healthy children. I know that some parents aren't as fortunate. Sometimes it's not your blessing to keep; it's your blessing to pass on. ... We just want to be a part of the movement to help support our community."
The March of Dimes is celebrating its 80th anniversary in the fight to prevent premature births and birth defects.
Miller said she appreciates the tremendous support from Orangeburg and Calhoun counties for the organization and its March for Babies fundraising event.
"Not only does it come from corporate support from the corporations in Orangeburg, but the families, schools and small businesses that come out. It's just amazing to me, it really is," she said. "For such a small town, it raises a lot of money because it's such a good cause. And it's such a trustworthy cause because there's so many fly-by-night things but, you know, this is 80 years."
For more information, including how to sign up for the walk or create a team, call Miller at 803-387-7680 or e-mail Dmmiller@marchofdimes.org.
To make a donation, call 803-252-5200, or mail donations to: March of Dimes, Midlands Division, South Carolina Chapter, 240 Stoneridge Drive, One Greystone Building, Suite 206, Columbia, SC 29210-8013.