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Give from the heart to save babies

The March of Dimes is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit volunteer health agencies in the United States. Its mission is quite simply to help improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature births and infant mortality. For the past 63 years, the March of Dimes has been saving the lives of babies. In 1938, President FDR founded the March of Dimes in response to the polio epidemic. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers for the March of Dimes, enough money was raised to fund the research that would lead to development of the vaccine that would end polio in the United States.

After polio was conquered, the March of Dimes turned the focus to birth defects such as cleft palate, spina bifida and Down syndrome. They helped establish regional birth defect centers at universities and taught comprehensive care for babies born with birth defects. Funds raised by the March of Dimes also led to prenatal diagnosis of a number of birth defects allowing for treatment through medication and even surgery while a baby is still in the womb.

In recent years the March of Dimes has taken on the issue of premature birth and all the problems associated with it. For many premature infants, a life of disabilities and health problems await them. Some of the problems that plague premature infants are blindness, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, deafness and lung problems. Many premature babies have great difficulty breathing, but the March of Dimes helped develop surfactant therapy to help them breathe easier, which has saved countless little lives.

Premature birth is the No. 1 killer of newborns in the first month of life. In response to this alarming issue, the March of Dimes has undertaken a multimillion dollar campaign to continue to find ways to save babies born too soon. The prematurity campaign has several other important focuses such as educating childbearing age women about risk, supporting affected families, encouraging the investment of research money and advocating for better health coverage for mothers and their babies.

For the 1,300 babies born far too early each month right here in Georgia, it is critical for everyone to get involved to reduce these numbers. The cost of prematurity is mounting and it is shared by all of us.

Every day, babies are born fighting for their lives. And, every day, the March of Dimes is there to help them win. With your help this holiday season and throughout the year, we will see the day we dream of - the day every baby is born healthy. When you think of giving, please give from your heart and help the March of Dimes continue to save the lives of our babies.

To make a tax-deductible contribution, please make your check payable to March of Dimes NE Division and send it to 2955 Horizon Park Drive, Suite B, Suwanee, GA 30024. If you would like additional information about local March of Dimes efforts and volunteer opportunities, please call our office at 678-546-0023. Thank you for helping us fulfill our commitment to improving the health of our babies.

To learn more the March of Dimes, please visit our Web site www.marchofdimes.com.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Lisa Tully of the March of Dimes.