The 2013 Mount Airy March for Babies event Saturday will mark 75 years nationally of the March of Dimes mission of advocacy and research on behalf of premature babies and infants born with birth defects. Northern Hospital of Surry County Volunteer and Community Services Coordinator Shawn Watson said the walk is set to begin at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park. Check-in for the event begins at 9 a.m.
The group’s continuing mission was evidenced recently by Gov. Pat McCory signed Senate Bill 98 into law May 6 which enacted legislation to require screening for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD) via pulse oximetry due to the continuing advocacy efforts of the March of Dimes in partnership with the American Heart Association.
The efforts on behalf of infants are not only fought on some legislative arena far away however, many local families can offer testimony on how this seemingly heartless genetic lottery has affected them as it endangers infants’ health. The Ambassador Family for this year’s walk is Kerrington, Sheena and James Jestes.
According to James, the couple found out in 2010 that Sheena’s pregnancy would be considered high risk and that their child’s health would be at risk as well. He said Sheena’s physician told them the likelihood of baby Kerrington being born prematurely was very high so the couple worked closely with the medical team to monitor the baby’s development.
Kerrington Jestes arrived four weeks early and tipped the scale at three pounds and 10 ounces and was immediately taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where the couple stayed with the infant. James Jestes reported that Kerrington is now 2 years old and is stronger that the two ever imagined. He said they are constantly on guard to her health and development, but they are grateful for all of the medical discoveries that made Kerrington’s survival possible.
“We were some of the lucky ones because all of her organs had developed. She was in the unit for only seven days,” said MOD Ambassador Mom Sheena Jestes. She said the team organized for the walk this year will go by the title “Team Baby K.” She credits the March of Dimes as well as the medical staff with giving them important information on Kerrington which helped them while in the hospital as well as when they left the facility.
“March of Dimes provides a lot of information as well as raising money for research, for premature babies and babies with birth defects,” added Sheena. “We had never done anything with MOD until we were directly affected by it (Kerrington’s premature birth).”
She said the first year of the walk in Mount Airy the course was tougher and included hills which was a bit more than she was prepared for because at that point it was just four months after Kerrington was born. She said changing the course to the Emily B. Taylor Greenway has helped participants.
The family had been involved with other MOD events previously. They became the Ambassador Family this year because Sheena’s mother, Robin White, who works at Northern Hospital, learned the walk was looking for ambassadors and knew her family was just the ones to step up and help.
WXII 12 Meteorologist Austin Caviness will serve as emcee for the walk. Free doughnuts and coffee for participants will be available in the morning before the walk, and hot dogs and pizza will be featured at lunch. Activities will include face painting, a petting zoo, bounce houses and local band Going Dutch as well as DeeJay, B-Dazzle Productions will provide entertainment.
Local sponsors for the walk include Renfro, Northern Hospital, SouthData and Nester Hosiery. Lowes Foods is a regional sponsor and Kmart is a national sponsor.
March of Dimes spokesperson Jamie Southern said the 75 year efforts of MOD included helping support the development of the Polio Vaccine in the 1950s. The group championed Phenylketonuria (PKU) testing as well as testing for 29 other serious conditions which can threaten infant health in the 1960s. In 1970, MOD focused on newborn intensive care, and in the 1980s, the group supported using surfactant therapy to help tiny lungs function. In the 1990s, March of Dimes used folic acid education to help eradicate neural tube defects, and efforts today are centered on preventing premature births.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.