If a Martian had landed at a crowded Veterans Memorial Park Saturday, knowing nothing about Mount Airy or the March of Dimes, the reason for the gathering would’ve been readily apparent to him.
It was all about babies.
The park grounds were filled with people as far as the eye could see, with Saturday’s official registration of 560 for an annual March of Dimes walk dwarfing the 400 attendees of last year. About 50 different teams were involved in the fundraising event, sporting their own specially designed T-shirts displaying nearly every color of the rainbow to set them apart during their hike along the greenway adjoining the park.
But the babies seemed to stand out more than anything — whether sitting quietly in strollers, cradled in Mother’s arms or perched atop Dad’s shoulders. Their mere presence highlighted the “celebration” of healthy births that was one goal of Saturday’s event, explained Velvet Linville-Scales, Greater Triad Division director for the March of Dimes.
Another was to raise money to help prevent birth-related problems and assist parents and children who do experience them. “We are hoping to raise $60,000,” Linville-Scales said.
Some of the babies spotted in the crowd were actually living, breathing success stories that reflected the March of Dimes’ mission to alleviate birth defects, infant mortality and premature births.
Chelsa Childress, a mother who attended from Germanton, offered one such story as she waited for the walk to begin with Kyle David, her 3-month-old son.
“He was born with a brain aneurysm,” confided Childress, who was attending the March of Dimes walk in Mount Airy for the first time.
It was important for her to be there, she said, to express thanks to the charitable organization for the support it has given to families of children born with problems such as her son’s.
“He’s doing good,” she said of Kyle’s outlook as a result.
Twins Take Spotlight
Such appreciation was echoed by the Milton and Greta Cave family of Elkin, and their identical twin daughters Jillian and Jullian, tapped for the yearly honor of ambassador family for the walk. There was a time when the family unit was an uncertainty, however.
The Caves had reacted happily, as do other couples, when they learned twins were on the way.
But as the multitude listened to Greta Cave’s voice as she spoke from a microphone on a stage, she described the ordeal her daughters faced when born premature on June 4, 2012. They had to be delivered at 24 weeks due to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, a rare condition in which one identical twin receives an overabundance of blood while the other is denied.
One of the babies weighed only 1 pound, 5 ounces and the other just 2 ounces more at birth, posing a laundry list of problems for the pair.
The two immediately were placed on ventilators due to their lungs not being fully formed, and underwent multiple surgeries for intestinal and other problems during several months’ stay in a neonatal intensive care unit.
“They (doctors) told us it would be a long road even if they made it,” Greta Cave said of the prognosis for her babies. “They really didn’t give them any hope at all.”
Through the miracle of modern medicine, made possible partly by money raised through the March of Dimes, Jillian and Jullian have made it and seem to be doing well. One of the girls ran around the stage Saturday while the other fidgeted in her father’s arms.
“As you can see, they’re both live wires,” their elated mother told the crowd.
Yet this would have not been the case without such good care.
“You just don’t know how great the March of Dimes is to my family, and this march for babies,” Greta Cave continued. “If it wasn’t for the March of Dimes, they (Jillian and Jullian) wouldn’t have been saved — and there are so many babies that aren’t.”
Linville-Scales, the Greater Triad Division March of Dimes official, said the proceeds from Saturday’s walk will help ensure similar success stories by funding key research and other programs.
She credited the efforts of the 50 or so teams that were involved, which mounted various individual campaigns to provide contributions to the cause. “People do all sorts of different fundraisers — raffle, bingo” and more, Linville-Scales said.
The teams represented businesses, school groups, civic clubs, churches and others. “Some are two people and some are 90 people,” the March of Dimes official said.
But they all had one thing in common, which the chairman of this year’s walk, Greg Little, the superintendent of Mount Airy public schools, alluded to in remarks before participants’ two-mile jaunt down the greenway and back.
“Because you’re here today,” Little told those gathered, “we’ll be able to continue to work with the women in our community on neonatal care, so they’ll have a better chance of having healthy babies.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.