GREENFIELD — For many families, the Tri-County March for Babies is a day of mixed emotions.
More than 100 people came together Sunday to celebrate the March of Dimes campaign to end premature birth. And all of them had a story connecting them to the cause.
For some participants, it is a tale of celebration – a child’s survival in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. For others, the event is bittersweet, a time to remember a loved one lost.
Each year, the walk starts at Greenfield-Central High School and has a two-mile and three-mile route, both of which make a loop around the high school and Hancock County Public Library.
Sunday, Team W.E.B. walked in memory of William Edward Brown, who died in 2007. He was 9 days old. William was born just after Christmas, about four weeks early. He weighed in at just 3 pounds, 12 ounces.
“He just wouldn’t grow,” his mother, Amanda Brown of Bloomingdale, said. “I didn’t look like I was pregnant.”
Brown got involved with the Greenfield walk through a friend. Each year, they raise money to support March of Dimes and celebrate her firstborn.
“It’s just nice to remember him, and what the March of Dimes is doing is really good,” she said.
The event also helps keep William’s memory alive for his siblings.
“Some people lose a baby, and they don’t want to talk about it,” Brown said. “We talk about him. They need to know they had a brother.
Keyera, 5, never met her brother.
“But we have a bunch of pictures of him,” she said.
Team Triple E also incorporated their honoree’s name into their team moniker. They walked in honor of Erin Elizabeth Erwin, who attended the walk in a team shirt and bright purple tutu.
Erin was born at 27 weeks and spent the first three months of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit. Today, at 23 months, she is a happy and healthy toddler.
“We were very blessed,” her mother, Amy Erwin of Greenfield, said. “She actually ended up doing wonderful. She just thrived very well.”
Erwin still gets teary-eyed at events like the March for Babies. She knows she easily could have been among those families that grieve the loss of a child.
“You never forget that,” she said.
Since its inception here in 1997, the tri-county walk serving Hancock, Henry and Shelby counties has raised more than $362,000 for research to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Sunday’s event raised about $12,000, organizer Derek Nutty said.
Sunday, family members of Bailey Stepp joined together to form Team Bailey Bug, celebrating Bailey’s journey. Born at 26 weeks, Bailey was never expected to be born. Her mother, Julie Glenn of Greenfield, went to the doctor when she was just 19 weeks pregnant after her water broke.
The doctors told her to go home and prepare for a miscarriage, but it never happened.
Seven weeks later, the family welcomed Bailey, who was 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Today, at 9½ months, Bailey looks more like a 6-month-old baby.
She is tiny, but she is a fighter, her grandmother, Debra Nulliner, said.
“She is tough,” she said.
This marks the 75th anniversary of March of Dimes, which puts on March for Babies events in 900 communities, 30 of which are in Indiana.
The initial focus of March of Dimes, founded in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was to fund research to cure polio.
Following the development of a vaccine that effectively ended the polio epidemic, that mission shifted to preventing birth defects and infant mortality.
The campaign to end premature birth ramped up in the early 2000s.
Premature birth is considered the most urgent infant health problem in the nation, affecting half a million babies across the country each year, according to the March of Dimes.