Despite rain, fundraising event marches up Broadway

Sunday, May 3, 2009
About 180 people participated in the March of Dimes March for Babies Saturday in Cape Girardeau. The course began downtown and went to Houck Stadium and back. Organizers expected to raise about $35,000 at the event. (FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com)

During Saturday morning's chilly showers, about 180 people dressed in their rainy-weather gear met in downtown Cape Girardeau and ventured out for a wet walk in support of March for Babies. As early as 8 a.m., teams gathered at the Riverfront Park Pavilion between Main and Water streets to take part in the two-mile walk following Broadway to Houck Stadium and back.

Debbie Atchison, director of the March of Dimes' Southeast Division, thanked the group of eventgoers for coming out to show their support "on such a rainy, cold day."

Atchison said the organization has raised about $37,500 locally this year. Seventy-seven cents of every dollar raised at the March for Babies is used to support research and programs that help mothers have full-term pregnancies and babies begin healthy lives.

A team of nurses from the neonatal intensive care unit at Southeast Missouri Hospital said they have participated in the March for Babies every year since its inception, and the inclement weather is "par for the course."

Susan Stroder reminisced about the 20-mile fundraising walk in 1973 that left her sunburned and covered in blisters. More than 25 years later, Stroder and the other nurses from Southeast said they do it all for the babies.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to promote prematurity awareness. Our tiniest community members often don't have a voice of their own, so we're blessed to provide one for them," said Southeast NICU nurse Emily Shanks. "The March of Dimes continues to do wonderful things for our sick and premature infants and we are proud to support them."

Sidda's story

Sidda Purcell weighed only 1 pound and 14 ounces when she was born 12 weeks early. But 2-year-old Sidda is doing just fine, thanks to strides in medical care and research for premature babies funded in part by the March of Dimes.

Autenee and Justin Purcell, with their daughters Sidda and Crissie, drove from Tennessee to be the ambassador family for this year's March for Babies in Cape Girardeau. Joined by family members from Tennessee and Indiana, and one of Sidda's previous nurses from Saint Francis Medical Center who drove from Arkansas, the Purcell family celebrated Sidda's health and the research conducted through funds raised by the March for Dimes.

Autenee Purcell said the not-for-profit organization helped develop therapies that saved baby Sidda's life and provided inspiration to her own and other families with premature or sick infants.

"The research that the March of Dimes does with the money that they raise helps these babies in every way -- from their heads to their toes. This event supports infants that can't do it for themselves," she said.

The March of Dimes' Southeast Division holds other fundraisers like golf tournaments and poker runs, and it plans another March for Babies walk will be held in Poplar Bluff, Mo., in October. Atchison said the Southeast Division is the only division in Missouri to host a fall walk. For more information about the fundraising events, contact Debbie Atchison at 573-986-1302.

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