March for Babies campaign kicks off
by Carly Grady
Feb 02, 2013 | 2050 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
March of Dimes
Callie and Andrew Palmer play with their son George.  The Palmers are Bartow County’s 2013 March of Dimes Ambassador Family. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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With their son born almost two months early, Callie Palmer and her husband Andrew know firsthand how March of Dimes is helping to support healthier babies through lifesaving research, community service, education and advocacy. Palmer shared her family’s story at the annual March for Babies, 75th anniversary, campaign kickoff on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the Cartersville Country Club.

The Palmers were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Atlanta when Callie went into labor, almost two months earlier than her due date.

“I guess the whole thing caught us by surprise because we were literally down in Atlanta just to celebrate New Year’s. I mean she’s two months away and I was literally thinking, ‘Oh, it’s probably not a problem. We’re just going to go down to the hospital and get a quick checkup and go back to the hotel so I can get some sleep,’” said Andrew. “That’s how the drive down Peachtree started and then when we got there things had progressed a little bit and we had got into the emergency lane at the hospital and the guys came and got her. It’s all a whirlwind after that. I thought they were literally gonna give her something to calm her down and we were going back [to the hotel] and that’s when the nurse came and said, ‘Well, are you ready?’ And I said, ‘Ready for what?’ And she said, ‘You’re going to be a dad tonight.’”

Their son, George, was born weighing 4 lbs, 4 oz and spent two and a half weeks in the NICU; he was not due until Feb. 15.

“They had to do an emergency C-section because he was stuck in my birth canal ... He couldn’t maintain his body temperature for the first two days and he had to learn how to suck and swallow but other than that, he didn’t have any major problems,” said Callie.

The Palmer family was named Bartow County’s 2013 Ambassador Family — representing March for Babies, sharing their story and raising awareness of the severity of premature birth. In Georgia alone, 19,500 babies were born premature last year. They are excited to spread the word of what the campaign is all about.

“Literally, I didn’t know how much they did until almost after the fact and that was the amazing part, it’s not in your face, it’s those things that make those traumatic times so much easier... They saved our kid,” Callie said.

March of Dimes has supported many important research breakthroughs in newborn and child health, including providing the funding which led to the identification of the double helix structure in DNA. Funding also led to the development of the first screening test for PKU (phenylketonuria). Today every baby is screened for conditions that can be life-threatening, thanks to research funded by March of Dimes.

This year’s March for Babies will be held at Dellinger Park on May 3. Registration for the 2-mile walk will begin at 6 p.m. with the race starting at 7 p.m. Last year $54,000 was raised from the march. The goal this year is to raise $75,000 for March of Dime’s 75th year.

In honor of the March of Dime’s 75th anniversary guest speaker Elizabeth “Betsy” Burton explained why the march is important to her. Burton is the great-granddaughter of Basil “Doc” O’Conner, who along with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt started what is known today as the March of Dimes.

“It’s really important to me to be involved because it was something that my great-grandfather worked very hard on. He was involved with the March of Dimes for over three decades and it was something he really believed in. He was actually still around when they had kind of won the battle with polio and he got everybody to shift their focus to figure out how they could still keep the March of Dimes going but serve the needs of others. And so before he died in 1972, he kind of knew the new mission of the March of Dimes and where it was headed. I’d like to be involved to be part of that and to keep that going, just because it really meant a lot to him and it was a good part of his life that he spent with the March of Dimes. So I’d like to keep that tradition alive.”

March of Dimes began after Roosevelt’s personal struggle with polio encouraged him and O’Conner to establish the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at a time when the viral disease was growing.

Radio fundraising asked Americans to “send your dime to President Roosevelt at the White House.” Fundraising was so successful that the foundation later became known as March of Dimes. Research funded by the campaign’s success led to the development of the polio vaccine, ultimately ending the polio pandemic in the United States.

After the foundation’s original mission had been completed, the focal point changed from the fight to end polio to preventing birth defects and infant mortality.

Since 2003 March of Dimes has launched a multi-year campaign designed to raise awareness and find the cause of prematurity through their Prematurity Campaign. In the United States, half a million babies are born early each year making prematurity the number one killer of newborns. In 2008, the campaign was expanded globally. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born premature, according to marchofdimes.com.

To participate in or donate to March for Babies, visit www.marchforbabies.org or contact Michele Beal with the March of Dimes at 678-564-5231 or mbeal@marchofdimes.com