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March for Babies seeks volunteers

BEMIDJI – About 350 people gather each year inside the Gillette Recreation-Fitness Center to walk and raise money for the health of all babies.

The annual Bemidji March for Babies supports the March of Dimes, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

“It’s just a fabulous event to be involved with,” said Tracy Bailey, the chairwoman of the Bemidji March for Babies committee. “It’s a wonderful experience.”

The committee this year is seeking new members to help plan this year’s event, scheduled for April 13 at Bemidji State University’s recreation center.

Some walkers come together to walk in memory of babies who did not survive; others walk to celebrate those who have overcome complications.

The day of the walk, which also features a silent auction and program, is filled with laughter and tears, Bailey noted.

“There are so many positives,” she said regarding children who survive their premature births. “That’s where the research, the fundraising all comes through.”

Bailey, promotions director with RP Broadcasting, got involved after the company was approached in 2004 about serving as the media sponsor.

She said she was touched by premature birth when her niece, Oriana, was born in January 2003. After living about 9 minutes, Oriana’s family asked that memorials be made in her honor to the March of Dimes in lieu of flowers.

Bailey said she never realized how local, and active, the March of Dimes is in Bemidji until she got involved in the organization and began attending the annual March for Babies.

“I’m honored to be a part of it,” she said. “Words can’t express what you see that day.”

Bailey said her extended family comes together to walk in honor of Oriana, who was born after about six months gestation with a condition that caused some of her internal organs to develop outside of her body.

While Oriana’s mother – one of Bailey’s two sisters – has not physically attended the walk, she supports the March of Dimes’ efforts and Oriana’s two siblings join about 20 family members who walk in her memory.

“It’s an emotional day,” Bailey said.

Bailey, who has two sons of her own, said she walks in memory of Oriana and also in honor of her two sons, a niece, two nephews and a godson.

“I have had healthy babies because of (the March of Dimes’) research,” she said.

Bailey, who has been the chairwoman of the Walk for Babies committee for about five years, said the annual walk and silent auction generate about $50,000 each year for the March of Dimes.

“Whether (a walker raises) $10 or $10,000, it all comes together and helps bring more awareness to premature births,” she said.

The Walk for Babies committee will next meet at noon Wednesday at RP Broadcasting, 2115 Washington Ave. SE. It also is a chance for anyone to learn more about building a corporate or family team or sponsorships.

Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP to Bailey at 751-7777.