March for Babies

I’m bracing for a jam-packed week. Between the primary election Tuesday and an exciting but challenging news project that’s causing me to lose sleep, I know the tiny slivers of free time I’ve grown to depend on are about to disappear – temporarily.

It goes with the territory in the news business, and with my personality type. I was talking to State. Rep. Peggy Welch as part of my project the other day, and she summed up exactly the way I feel when I have big agenda items on my plate. “I’m pretty much the type that has to get an A+ every time, ” she told me. Yep. I know the pressure. Self-inflicted, unencumbered dread of being mediocre. So…. if I’m a little less bloggy in the upcoming days, you’ll know exactly why.

BUT – I could not let this occasion pass without sharing it here. Yesterday, I found myself standing in the middle of White River State Park,surrounded by thousands of people setting aside their Saturday morning to March for Babies. RTV6 was a sponsor for the event, and I’ve been a partner to the March of Dimes for several years now.

My biggest soft spot is for babies and children who are at risk, and the work the March of Dimes does to advocate for healthy babies never fails to bring tears to my eyes when I describe it to someone. They are all OVER the media with health and prematurity prevention campaigns, making sure the latest research gets out to the public. They help support families facing enormous medical costs due to premature babies. They conduct research into the issues of prematurity and birth defects. They lobby for these causes to get the attention they deserve. And because of their longstanding reputation, when the March of Dimes talks, people listen.

It’s a cause I simply can’t say no to. “You call me any time,” I always tell the director of the Indiana March of Dimes, Tanya Hand. “You know I will be there!”

For this event, they asked me to share my voice, so I showed up at the March for Babies to sing the National Anthem. (Of course I was hoping for an A+ performance, but my nerves got to me. That darned song – so ridiculously intimidating!! Probably a B-. I hope the babies are forgiving. )

My colleague Stacia Matthews nailed her job as Mistress of Ceremonies, and the weather cooperated beautifully.

What I didn’t expect (silly me) was how emotional I would find the entire experience. Parents were given different colored beads to represent their children. Purple for healthy babies, silver and gold representing preemies, and babies who didn’t survive past their first year. We observed a moment of silence recognizing those babies and their families. I saw several parents wiping back tears during that moment, and it all became very real. We were not just out there raising some funds for “a good cause.” We were raising funds for research to prevent devastating heartbreak, and give tiny lives a fighting chance.

As the walk began, an beautiful and poignant song was playing over the speakers, and group after group marched past, many pushing strollers, some pushing wheel chairs, some wearing t-shirts bearing the photos of babies who are no longer with us. I choked back tears, and started snapping photos, determined to capture the beauty of this effort on a windy Saturday morning. Thousands of strangers, together, trying to change futures.

“Thanks for singing!” so many of them said to me as they stepped onto the path. “No, thank YOU for marching,” I’d say back. I stared at my own healthy baby girl, so content and oblivious as she batted at the purple balloon tied to her stroller. This is the kind of beginning every family wants and deserves, I kept thinking.

I have three purple strands of beads, for three healthy, full-term babies. It’s the very least I can do to step up and help this organization fight for the babies who have much more traumatic beginnings.

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