TERRE HAUTE —
Thousands of people marched in Terre Haute on Saturday to fight for Wabash Valley’s smallest citizens — babies.
A group named “Jayden’s Walkers” were among the thousands who participated in the 2014 March for Babies to benefit the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that promotes pregnancy and baby health.
Jayden’s Walkers honored Jayden Snyder, who was born at 29 weeks gestation and spent weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. The walkers included Jayden’s parents Katie and Nick Snyder, older sister Jocelyn, grandparents, family friends and Jayden himself.
“It was a good way to give back to the community for a cause that’s personal to us,” Katie Snyder said as she pushed the stroller carrying Jayden, now 4, around Deming Park.
After learning about March of Dimes, the Snyder family started participating in the march. This year was their fourth year, and Jayden looked well and happy. He is scheduled to start preschool in the fall.
“Guess what?” he enthusiastically asked from the stroller. “[Jocelyn] can walk me to school.”
Families and teams — and many with strollers — filled Indiana State University’s Memorial Stadium before embarking on a two-mile walk for the event. Many of them wore T-shirts with words indicating who they were walking for.
One group walked “to give babies a healthy beginning,” while another — Team Phoebe Marie — was more specific. About 2,000 residents participated, organizers said.
Participants of all ages followed a route that went south on Brown Avenue, east on Ohio Boulevard and into Deming Park and went west on Ohio to Brown and back to the stadium. There were also options for walking longer.
Division Director Nikki Simpson said it was a “big day” for the community and also for the walkers “because it means so much to them personally.”
According to the March of Dimes, the most urgent infant health problem in the country is premature birth.
“It affects more than half a million babies each year, with the number growing every day,” a March of Dimes news release stated.
In Indiana 1 in 9, or more than 10,000, babies are born prematurely each year, it stated.
Another family walked not only to support the cause but also to get exercise.
Danielle Barrett walked with 4-year-old Bradan Myrtle, who participated in the walk for the first time. They were also accompanied by other relatives. Barrett said she took Bradan to the event to learn about the cause and get exercise as well.
“He loves to walk outdoors,” she said.
Before the walk, there was an opening ceremony, which included songs, a presentation of colors, a poem and remarks from some key people. Among those who were scheduled to speak were Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, Tom Bradley of GE Aviation, the 2014 March for Babies chairperson, and the Litz Family, 2014 ambassador for the event.
Parents Shane and Mendy Litz shared the story of the struggles surrounding the premature birth of their son, Anden. At almost three months premature, he weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces when he was born. He had some “ups and downs” while in the NICU for several weeks.
But now, at 2-years-old, he has become a happy, typical toddler who is full of life, the parents said.
March for Babies started in 1970, and events take place in more than 900 communities nationwide, Bradley said. More than 7 million people have participated as walkers, volunteers and sponsors, Bradley added, and since its inception, it has raised about $2 billion.
Simpson said the Wabash Valley’s goal this year is to raise $174,000, and the organizers are projecting they will meet that target.
The money raised by the event funds research, education and local community grants for programs such as Union Hospital NICU Friend Project and the Quality Improvement Grant, among others.
“We all care about babies, and we want to make a difference,” Bradley said. “We are well on our way to addressing the issues of prematurity, birth defects and infant mortality. Together, we can make a difference, and we start here today with March for Babies.”
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@ tribstar.com.