By Staff Reports
(Victorville)– It was the best feel-good moment of the week when more than 500 people from the High Desert community came together in support of the smallest citizens in the High Desert—babies—by participating in the 2014 March of Dimes March for Babies charity event on April 12, 2014. Victor Valley College was packed with strollers, families, and corporate teams who raised more than $85,000 to support the mission of March of Dimes.
Special guests at the day’s events included: 2014 March for Babies High Desert chair Suzanne Richards, CEO of presenting sponsor Victor Valley Global Medical Center; Louise Bevilacqua from long time sponsor Desert Community Bank; stars of the hit show CHIPS, Robert Pine and Larry Wilcox; local hero Tom Schibusch, who in 1979, at the age of 13 put together the High Desert’s first March of Dimes Walkathon; and Donny and Destiny Wetzel, their twins Nicholas and Aubree and their son Jaxon, the High Desert’s 2014 March of Dimes Ambassador Family. They joined walkers on the route as Jim “Jimmer” Dilman of KAT-Country 100.7 FM sent them on their way. Employees from the Apple Valley and Victorville Target stores volunteered their time to this great cause, cheering on participants and handing out goodies as the walkers returned to the festival site from the route.
“We’ve seen today how important the health of moms and babies are to the people of the High Desert,” said Chris Huyett, March of Dimes Inland Empire Division Director. “I’m so proud to be part of a community where people come together for such a great cause. Helping our babies should be a top priority, and we’re excited about what we’ve accomplished here today.”
“It was a memorable and rewarding day for all of us,” said Destiny Wetzel, whose family served as the 2014 High Desert Ambassador family. “When Jaxon was born 13 weeks premature, we decided we wanted to do everything possible to help spare other families from the trauma we experienced and give other families a happy result. We’re honored to represent the March of Dimes today in return for all the support they’ve given us and our family.”
Money raised by the event funds research, advocacy efforts, education and local community grants for programs of the California Chapter of the March of Dimes which supported High Desert organizations that address the health concerns of infants and pregnant women. In 2014, the March of Dimes has 27 research grants active in California totaling nearly $9 million. One of these grants is to Dr. Jikui Song, Assistant Professor in Biochemistry at UC Riverside. His grant of $150,000 helps fund his research to determine the underlying molecular cause of Meier-Gorlin syndrome (MGS), a form of dwarfism, as a basis for developing treatment. A Community Award of $2,000 was also given to support a smoking cessation program for pregnant women in San Bernardino County.
Premature birth is the most urgent infant health problem in the U.S. today. It affects more than half a million babies each year, including nearly 10% of babies born in California. In November of each year, the March of Dimes issues its annual Premature Birth Report Card, last year giving the nation a “C” and California an “A.” Babies born too soon are more likely to die or have lifelong disabilities. The March of Dimes is committed to reducing this toll by funding research to find the answers to premature birth and providing comfort and information to affected families.
The final 2014 Inland Empire March for Babies event was held on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at Fairmount Park in Riverside. There is still time to participate – for more information go to www.marchforbabies.org. The 2014 High Desert March for Babies event was chaired by Suzanne Richards, Chief Executive Officer of Victor Valley Global Medical Center and she will join us once again as the 2015 March for Babies event chair. For more information on the 2015 March for Babies walk, please call 760-879-6452.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.org/ca or nacersano.org. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/marchofdimesca and follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/MODCAL.
The High Desert March for Babies event in presented by Victor Valley Global Medical Center, silver sponsors Desert Community Bank, bronze sponsor Choice Medical Group, and media sponsors KVFG-FM the Route 103, Charter and Time Warner Cable.
The March of Dimes March for Babies event is sponsored nationally by Actavis, Cigna, Famous Footwear, Kmart, Macy’s, Mission Pharmacal, and United Airlines.