Goal is ambitious for 2010 March for Babies
Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 6:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 6:06 p.m.
On Tuesday, Gainesville residents Benjamin and Laura Lok got a chance to thank team captains and corporate CEOs whose efforts made the 2009 March of Dimes March for Babies a success.
Benjamin Lok, an associate professor in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Florida, and his wife, Laura, a marketing professional, weren't thinking about the March of Dimes' campaign against premature birth as they awaited the birth of twins last year.
But when the twins arrived in July, just 27 weeks into the pregnancy, the couple's world was narrowed to the neonatal intensive care unit at Shands UF, where tiny Brandon and Sophia struggled to survive.
"After 140 days in the ICU, I can say I've seen parents from every walk of life. What we all have in common is that we are scared," Benjamin Lok said. "By the many little things they do, the March of Dimes let us know we are not alone."
Sophia, who weighed 1 pound. 14 ounces at birth, has been able to come home. Her brother Brandon, who weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces, remains in the ICU.
Brandon will have the second surgery of his short life this month to put a feeding tube in his stomach so that he too can go home.
Jon and Cathy Gardner, co-chairs of this year's Walk for Babies, want donors and teams to aim high this year.
Despite the current economic climate, the campaign's goal is to raise $800,000 by March 27, the day of the walk.
"We know that 2010 will be another tough year, but the babies don't read the Wall Street Journal," Jon Gardner told several hundred team leaders and corporate heads gathered at the Best Western Gateway Grand. "We are asking you to lead from the front."
Gardner, area president for Bank of America, has been in Gainesville for eight years but says he has walked for the March of Dimes for 25 years.
He noted that 2007 was the first time in 30 years that the rate of premature birth dropped in the United States. The shift was slight, from 12.8 percent to 12.7 percent. At the same time, the costs of prematurity, in health care, schooling and elsewhere, have continued to climb.
In recent years, the North Central Florida division of the March of Dimes has topped the list of walks nationally, in terms of contributions per capita. Last year's march raised about $815,000.
The Gardners want to keep the string unbroken.
"The walk is 74 days from today," Jon Gardner said. "You have to get an early start, because it's going to be a tough year."
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