March of Dimes kicks off campaign to raise $800,000

Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 11:50 p.m.

The economy may be down, but expectations were up Tuesday as the North Central Florida chapter of the March of Dimes kicked off its 2011 fundraising.


Facts on prematurity

543,000 babies, or 1 in 8, are born prematurely each year.

Premature birth is the No. 1 killer of newborns.

Premature babies cost 10 times more than healthy babies.

Florida earned an F for its preterm birth rate for the past three years.

-March of Dimes

This year, organizers aim to raise $800,000 to help fund the fight against premature births.

Area CEOs and March of Dimes team leaders met at the Best Western Gateway Grand to celebrate the results of last year’s campaign, which raised $815,000, and to plan for this year’s March for Babies, set for March 26.

“We’d like to raise $1 million, but at least we can exceed the $800,000 goal,” said Betsy Trent, MOD executive director.

Danny Ponce, a member of the University of Florida’s board of trustees, and his wife, Nancy, are chairing the 2011 walk.

“2011 holds great promise despite a bad economy,” Ponce said. “Babies don’t know about the economy. They deserve a fighting chance at a healthy start.”

Ponce announced, “It’s commitment time.”

Jon Gardner of Bank of America chaired last year’s walk.

“This is always the national championship of walks,” he said.

Gainesville consistently ranks best in the country in terms of contributions per capita to the March of Dimes.

Ponce, who is photographed with his wife and tiny Austin Shaw in the campaign poster, told of slipping his Gator national championship ring on little Austin’s arm on a visit to the neonatal intensive care unit at Shands. It slipped all the way up to his shoulder.

Warning that the walk was just 74 days away, Ponce said, “Let’s take this year’s walk to the million-dollar level.”

Area residents who would like to start a team, sponsor a walker or make a contribution can find more information and a registration form at

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