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March of Dimes to kick off campaign

The Selma Times-Journal

Born 15 weeks premature, the baby girl weighed only one pound, four ounces.

Her mother developed dangerously high blood pressure and the baby had to be delivered by emergency c-section. She suffered breathing problems and bleeding in her brain. Miraculously surviving the odds, the baby will continue to suffer health problems because of her premature birth throughout her life, including mild cerebral palsy and a permanent shunt in her brain. She will attend physical therapy classes for many years.

This story, taken from the March of Dimes website, is only one of many shared by survivors of prematurity.

According to Rusty Aldridge, Montgomery-based March of Dimes Community Director, one in eight babies born in the U.S. suffer from prematurity and one in six born in the state of Alabama suffer. Aldridge said the highest percentage of premature births in the state, 17 percent, occurs in the Black Belt region of Alabama.

That is why this year, the March of Dimes is focusing their Blue Jeans for Babies campaign on Dallas, Lowndes and Perry Counties in an attempt to bring awareness to the community on the issue of premature births while raising funds to support research for a cure.

“No one really knows what causes prematurity,” Aldridge said. “It could be a number of different things, anywhere from lack of prenatal care to the young age of the mother. What most people don’t realize is that it can happen to anybody, regardless of race or age.”

According to the website, in an average week in Alabama, 1,145 babies are born, with 180 of those born preterm and 10 of them dying before they reach their first birthday. Every three and a half minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the U.S.

This year, the local March of Dimes will be attempting to raise money to fund the continuing effort to find the cause and the cure for premature birth in Dallas, Perry and Lowndes counties. March of Dimes is asking that everyone in the workplace purchase a t-shirt to wear on Blue Jeans for Babies Day, which will take place on Friday, June 23, 2006. Prices of the shirts will be $12 and $15 for the larger sizes. Shirts can be purchased by calling the March of Dimes office at (334) 277-6910 and sending in an order form. Aldridge will distribute the shirts at a designated place and time to be announced later. The office also has pens for sale to those who are not interested in a t-shirt.

There will also be sponsorship opportunities with the shirts, where people can have the name of their business or organization put onto the back.

“We usually sale 2-3 thousand shirts,” Aldridge said. “We’ve just started the process – calling people, going door-to-door – of getting them committed so we don’t have any sponsors just yet. Our organization is volunteer driven and there are only three of us working in the office so it helps to know a lot of people.”

According to Aldridge, the March of Dimes gives 89 cents of every dollar raised back to research. In February of this

year, the March of Dimes awarded six new grants as part of its Prematurity Research Initiative (PRI). The body of the work represented in these grants will build on previous basic research, such as gene-suppression strategy, the website noted.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health charity first founded in 1938 to defeat the epidemic disease polio. Today the organization funds researchers working in biochemistry, microbiology, developmental biology, genetics, pediatrics and many other fields.

To view the Blue Jeans for Babies t-shirt design, go to www.goakd.com.