A nonprofit organization, the March of Dimes advocates for the
health of new and expectant mothers and their babies, providing the
latest in medical research and physician education and encouraging
community involvement through local events.
By Sara Browning
March of Dimes is about the health of babies… all babies. A nationwide,
nonprofit organization with chapters in all 50 states, the March of
Dimes, through education and intervention, helps mothers-to-be and new
mothers learn how to take care of themselves before, during, and after
pregnancy. In fact, the March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit
organization for pregnancy and baby health.
“We’re Mom’s caring
friend and the number one resource to help her benefit from full-term
pregnancies and have healthy babies,” said L. Shannon Mathis, March of
Dimes Central Illinois Division Director. “We partner with medical
groups and organizations to establish guidelines for how to care for
pregnant women. We research the problems that threaten our babies, such
as prematurity, and make strides to prevent them. And if something does
go wrong, we offer information and comfort to families.”
became familiar with the March of Dimes when her first baby was born
premature, then her second, and her third. Having firsthand experience
with the health challenges that threaten newborns, she understands the
importance of the March of Dimes’ work and mission.
ago, I joined the March of Dimes so I could make a difference in the
lives of others,” Mathis said. “Serving as the Central Illinois Division
Director has given me an opportunity to get to know many families that
have been touched by the March of Dimes through prematurity, birth
defects, and infant mortality.”
The March of Dimes offers
information to help expectant mothers prepare for a healthy baby. The
organization also educates expectant mothers on proper health and
nutrition, prenatal care, signs of labor, postpartum depression, newborn
screenings, and newborn care to give more babies a healthy start in
The March of Dimes
dates back to President Franklin Roosevelt’s personal struggle with
polio, which led to the creation of the National Foundation for
Infantile Paralysis. Later known as the March of Dimes, the foundation
turned its attention to preventing birth defects and infant mortality
after a cure for polio was found.
More than 76 years later, the
March of Dimes is still defending the health of babies. The nonprofit
helped each of the 4 million babies born last year through research,
education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. Over 2 million moms, dads, and
health professionals received community services and education to
improve their baby’s health.
Encouraging Local Involvement
Programs and events in local communities throughout Illinois are aimed
at supporting moms-to-be and their little ones as well as health
professionals. Started in 1970, March for Babies, an annual walking
event that takes place this year on Saturday, April 26 at the Illinois
State Fair Grounds - Orr Building, gives hope to the more than half a
million newborns who are born premature every year. Funds raised from
the walk support community programs that help expectant mothers carry
babies to full term and research to curb the health challenges that
threaten babies. The event has raised $2 billion to help babies begin
Each year, millions of people walk with family and
friends in approximately 900 communities across the country. Volunteers
and staff encourage and support each year’s participants in their
efforts to raise funds and awareness. Regardless of how many years a
person has participated in the walk, the event is a fun, rewarding, and
incredibly worthwhile experience.
“Families can take steps for
healthy moms and babies right here in Springfield,” Mathis explained.
“Family teams are the heart of March for Babies. The teams are made up
of family members and friends. They walk to celebrate, honor, or
remember the little ones who have touched their lives.”
Registration for March for Babies begins at 9 a.m. on April 26, and the
event starts at 10 a.m. For more information, or to register, visit
Ambassadors for Health
Local events, such as March for Babies, would not be possible without
the tireless efforts of families and communities who selflessly give
their time and effort to help raise awareness of the March for Dimes
mission. Each year, the March of Dimes chooses one family to represent
the local community. The March of Dimes 2014 Ambassador Family for
Central Illinois is Shawn and Becky Griffith, son Kyle and daughter
Born five-and-a-half weeks early and weighing just 4
pounds, 16 ounces, Kinley spent 18 days in the neonatal intensive care
unit (NICU) before coming home for the first time. Her mom, Becky,
co-owns A New You Salon & Spa located at 2760 West Jefferson in
Springfield. A New You Salon & Spa holds special giveaways
throughout the year and also organizes a large team to walk in the March
for Babies event.
“You never think that something like this
would happen to you until it does,” Becky Griffith said. “I’m so
grateful for the comfort and support the March of Dimes gave our family
after the birth of Kinley. We participated in March for Babies, and I
saw firsthand how so many families were impacted by the nonprofit
through prematurity, birth defects, and infant mortality. I’m excited to
be a part of this great organization!”
For more information on
how to become involved in March for Babies, contact Griffith at
217-698-8220. Garnering Local Support In addition to A New You Salon
& Spa, other Springfield businesses team with the March of Dimes to
ensure babies are born healthy and strong. Mylas Copeland, General
Manager of Green Toyota Scion, Audi and VW, works with his business at
Green Family Stores to contribute to the health of babies. Like the
Griffins, the Copeland’s baby was born premature.
“After having a
baby too early and spending some time in the NICU, my wife and I
realized just how much the March of Dimes does to save babies’ lives,”
Copeland said. “We will forever be grateful for the research and
programs the March of Dimes has put into place. This is why we support
the March of Dimes. After all, we’re all in this together!”
Advocating for Little Heroes
Advocacy is an important part of the March for Dimes’ mission. During
the 2013 Legislative Session, the Illinois Chapter of the March of Dimes
advocated for and composed several of pieces of legislation put in
place to protect the health of newborn babies.
with the Illinois Heart Association, the Illinois Chapter composed
legislation and successfully advocated for Critical Congenital Heart
Disease (CCHD) to be added to Newborn Screening in Illinois. As a
result, all newborn babies in the state will be screened for CCHD.
Babies that have been identified with the disease can receive
specialized care from cardiologists that can prevent disability and even
death early in life.
The March of Dimes also drafted and
advocated for legislation mandating neonatal intensive care unit
personnel to discuss the health risks of pertussis (whooping cough) with
the families and caretakers of hospitalized babies in the NICU. The
legislation also requires personnel to tell parents who have babies with
the illness where they may obtain the vaccine. This legislation will
serve to increase adult vaccination levels, resulting in reduced infant
exposure to a disease that is highly life threatening.
Illinois Chapter successfully advocated for the Illinois Medicaid
program to be expanded. Because of this legislation, in coordination
with several health advocates around the state, all adults between the
ages of 19 and 64 who live at or below the federal poverty line are
eligible for Medicaid. The program’s expansion provides coverage for
women of childbearing age who currently do not have access to
preconception, interconception, and postpartum care.
March of Dimes mission families and volunteers meet with elected
officials to advocate for stronger, healthier babies in our state.
Individuals interested in participating in Lobby Day on May 7 in
Springfield may contact Shelly Musser, State Director of Government
Affairs, at 217-303-8877.
A Worthy Cause
The research, education, and events the March of Dimes Illinois Chapter
provides could not be possible without the efforts of its supporters.
Supporting the March of Dimes, whether through financial giving or
volunteering, is a substantial part of what makes the nonprofit
Individuals interested in volunteering can become
involved in any number of venues, including participating in events,
recruiting new volunteers, assisting with marketing communications, or
coordinating mission outreach.
“Everyone — volunteer, supporter,
mother — has their own story, but each shares the same goal: stronger,
healthier babies,” Mathis said. “Thanks to our dedicated supporters,
every dollar we raise helps more babies begin healthy lives. Communities
come alive with joy and hope when thousands of businesses and families
team up with the March for Dimes in any capacity. We look forward to
working with you.”
March of Dimes Central Illinois Division Office is located at 2060 West
Iles Avenue, Street D, Springfield, IL 62704. Call 217-303-8876 for
information on research, education, partnership, donations or community
involvement. For more information on the March of Dimes Illinois
Chapter, visit www.marchofdimes.com/illinois.
Back to Top