A chilly late-April morning didn’t discourage dozens of people from coming out to the Old Fairgrounds Park in Valparaiso on Sunday. March of Dimes participants gathered for a walk around Valparaiso to raise money for babies who are born prematurely or with birth defects.
“The March for Babies is the country’s first grassroots fundraising event,” said Victor Garcia, the Northwest Division Director for March of Dimes Indiana. “We’ve been doing this for a long time. Our mission is to make sure babies are born healthy by reducing preterm births, birth defects and infant mortality. We can only do it with the success of this event; this is 90 percent of our fundraising for the year.”
March of Dimes had a goal of raising $65,000-70,000 on Sunday and had raised nearly $60,000 before the event even started via sponsorships and online donations.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to get there,” Garcia said. “We can only do this with the support of local businesses and local families.”
One local business sponsoring the event was the Town and Country Market on Calumet Avenue in Valparaiso. The grocer donated food available to walkers on Sunday and the Strack and Van Til family of stores helps raise over $20,000 per year for March of Dimes, Garcia said.
“Strack and Van Til and Town and Country Market have been helping out for many, many years,” said Bill Nolan, general manager of Town and Country’s Calumet Ave. store. “We also sponsor (March of Dimes) in Lake County with our Strack and Van Til and Ultra Foods stores. It means a lot to me because I had a granddaughter who was born really early. March of Dimes does awesome things and saves a lot of lives. It’s a great thing.”
Sunday’s march started at the Old Fairgrounds Park and the corner of Calumet and Evans Avenues, touring the city along Roosevelt Street, Lincolnway, Campbell Street and Glendale Boulevard before returning to the park.
Refreshment stations were set up along the route, including by Krichoff Park on Roosevelt, on the corner of Washington Street in the downtown and in front of Northview Elementary. The Valparaiso Police Department helped with street crossings and Arnell Chevy-Kia provided a fleet of vehicles to pick up those along the route who needed a ride.
Many participants brought their dogs along for the walk. Young children rode in wagons and a few took to the course on bicycles or roller skates. The chilly weather didn’t appear to have much of an effect on the participants, who smiled and chatted during the march.
“We’re really excited,” Garcia said. “It’s great to see so many people in the community come out and support an event even when the weather is really crummy. Having this really cold morning that we had given that it’s the end of April, the turnout that we had really speaks volumes toward how much people really care about the mission of the March of Dimes.”