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March for Babies raises $41,210

With a few swipes of a scissors and a round of cheers, about 248 walkers began a 6.5-mile walk to raise money and awareness to help babies be born healthy.

A number of individuals and businesses donated money to the March of Dimes’ March for Babies Saturday morning, raising a total of $41,210 — just less than last year’s total. While co-chair Peggy Young said they typically aim to raise a little more than the previous year, she said she was happy with the total given the economy.

The money is used to raise awareness and aid local organizations in helping families face health threats like premature birth, birth defects and low birth weight.

“We all have a vested interest in children,” Young said. “Whether they’re ours or somebody else’s, we have to do what we can to make sure that they’re born healthy and stay healthy.”

A minimum pledge of $25 is accepted from participants at registration; however, the organizers were happy with any size donation.

“It really is the walkers bringing in the $10 bills, the $20 bills and the change that makes all the difference,” Young said, whose son was the ambassador baby in 2001.

The March of Dimes’ March For Babies dates back to the mid- to late 1980s in Austin. Young said the participation in the event is typically steady.

“We see a lot of repeats,” she said.

The money goes toward research, and equipment to use on premature babies, Young said.

Sixteen-month-old Nathan Dorsey, the ambassador baby for Saturday’s march, is one of the babies the March for Babies helps. Nathan was born prematurely, weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces and without the left half of his heart.

Michelle Dorsey, Nathan’s mother, said she, her husband Chris and the rest of their family has spent the about eight months of the last year in the hospital. Nathan has had three open heart surgeries, and he is scheduled to have a third surgery.

Michelle wasn’t sure Nathan would be able to attend the event, as adverse weather can affect his health. However, he was able to start the 6.5 mile walk in a stroller shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday.

Michelle walked with Nathan for a short distance, before returning to the Holiday Inn to greet walkers as they come back. Devon and Alia, Nathan’s siblings, walked with their grandparents.

Nathan is still tube fed because his heart condition makes him weak and affects his growth. He also developed an intestinal infection.

“He had a rough road, but he’s happy. He’s a happy boy,” Michelle said.

Nathan shared a bit of that happiness when Michelle spoke to the walkers before the march began. He continually tried to pull the microphone away from Michelle, drawing laughs from his mother and the audience.

Even before Nathan was born prematurely, Michelle said her family had been involved with the March of Dimes.

One of Michelle’s friends gave birth to premature twins a few years ago. While Michelle said the family had previously given money to the March of Dimes, they had never walked before.

“It’s kind of one of those things that you know about, but you really don’t understand until you need it,” she said.

Even before the walk, Alia, 8, and Devon, 13, visited some neighbors asking for donations.

“It’s really an honor,” she said. “The kids have had a really good time collecting money and telling all the neighbors about their brother.”

Chantell Piepho attended the event with her two-week old daughter, Brianna. The Piephos will be the ambassador family next year. Piepho and about 15 family members walk each year to remember Chantell’s son, Daniel, who died after being born prematurely.

Piepho’s 5-year-old son, Caleb, was born three weeks early and Brianna was born four weeks early. Brianna stayed with her grandparents while her mother walked.

Piepho and her family have been involved raising money for the March of Dimes since Daniel’s death. She even had a fundraiser selling cake pans to raise money for the March for Babies.

“It’s a wonderful thing that they can help the babies and that there’s someone out there trying to take care of the babies that are premature,” she said.

Piepho tells friends and family that any donation to the March of Dimes helps.

“Small amounts add up,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a large donation. It can be a small donation.”

Young and other organizers will be looking for donations large and small for the 2011 March for Babies, because the cause is ongoing.

“There’s still work to be done, and there’s no end in sight,” Young said.