Last updated: April 14. 2014 10:10AM - 918 Views
By Kevin Boozer kboozer@civitasmedia.com

Brian Fitzgerald, his son, Vaden, and wife, Karen, lead the marchers down Nance Street in Newberry.
Brian Fitzgerald, his son, Vaden, and wife, Karen, lead the marchers down Nance Street in Newberry.
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NEWBERRY — Mothers pushed strollers, policemen directed traffic and nearly $30,000 was raised in the fight against birth defects Saturday afternoon during Newberry County’s annual March of Dimes March for Babies.

Many in the crowd had stories of lives touched by a child born prematurely while some had lost a child who was born prematurely.

Newberry Academy Headmaster Brian Fitzgerald and his wife, Karen, said they were honored to be this year’s ambassador family. They led a Newberry Academy team that raised $940.

Karen Fitzgerald gave birth on June 18, 2012, to their son at 30 weeks gestation, despite receiving what she described as excellent prenatal care. She had HELLP, a rare condition where her body rejected the pregnancy.

Their son, Vaden, spent six weeks in the NICU and six months wearing a monitor once he was released.

The Fitzgeralds were not alone in their experience. Other families, like theirs, received support through the March of Dimes.

For Jenkinsville’s Lashonda Alexander, the effort honored both of her children, Dallas and Brooklyn.

“Dallas died at five weeks and Brooklyn was in the NICU for five months,” Alexander said. “I wanted to donate to March of Dimes after my experience but then saw I could make a team and that is what I did. I am so thankful for the family and community support.”

Alexander won the team captain award as her family team Team Dallas Brooklyn exceeded its goal of raising $1,000.

In just her second year with a March of Dimes team, she also won the T-shirt contest competition for the theme “All Aboard for Healthy Babies.”

William Gray said he and his wife are expecting their first child in the summer so he walked for himself and his wife on the NaWilSte team.

Reuben Elementary team captain Candice Lominick has been a March of Dimes advocate ever since her son was born and placed in the NICU. Her son is now 11 and Lominick says their experience would have been different without the work of the March of Dimes.

Reuben Elementary also had special musical support from Breanna Tepper, son of WCS/Reuben Elementary Guidance Counselor Matthew Tepper, who at age 8 gave a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that numerous audience members congratulated her for.

Ronnie Garland said he has become passionate about March of Dimes in the past two years thanks to leadership from his church, First Church of God on College Street. He was a member of the Shepherd’s Helpers team led by Wanda Shealy.

Garland, now a pipe-fitter with V.C. Summer, was born at Mills Clinic in Prosperity and spent three months in an incubator, weighing just three pounds at birth.

LaShonda Cromer with BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) Health Ministry said her 15-person team was an outreach of their ministry to area churches.

“We emphasize healthy lifestyle changes, make presentations at churches, hold blood drives and exercising here helps (meet our mission) and, more importantly helps prevent birth defects,” Cromer said.

Top supporters

Funds raised support research and grants awarded to programs that improve infant and maternal health in South Carolina, where premature birth touches more than 8,000 babies each year and increases morbidity and mortality rates for those children.

Lavetta Pope of Kraft Foods was tops in online fund raising and the Large Company Team Award went to Kraft Foods, which raised $13,000. They have a goal of $40,000 by the end of the year.

The Small Company Team Award went to Newberry County Memorial Hospital and the top school team was Reuben Elementary.

The Top Family Team was Shepherd’s Helpers led by Wanda Shealy. Shepherd’s Helpers raised around $3,500 and Shealy was top individual fundraiser.

Circle of Champions members who raised over $1,000 by Bank Day included S.W. Shealy, Wanda Shealy and Kathy Meetze.

March for Babies was sponsored locally by Kraft Foods, Newberry County Memorial Hospital, WKDK Radio, Newberry Magazine, Health Source Chiropractic and Progressive Wellness, and Brigman’s Septic Tank Service.

Carlos Ruiz of Kraft Foods is the new community chairman for 2015.

“We realize the commitment this community makes to our plant and understand how important our commitment to the community is to the future of our plant,” Ruiz said. “So, we continue to support all efforts by the March of Dimes for healthier babies.”

The Newberry County goal for 2014 is $50,000.

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