WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — An estimated 5,000 people participated in the Westchester County March for Babies, one of 900 nationwide for the March of Dimes, to help fund the battle against premature births, infant mortality and birth defects.
Martin and Kristin Ball of Yonkers were two marchers directly affected by premature birth, as their 19-month old twins, Martin and Charlotte, were born early and had to spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit.
“It really means a lot to us to have so many people come out to support the research that helped our babies and helped so many other babies,” said Kristin, who has marched with her husband “about five or six times.” She stressed the far-reaching effect of the March of Dimes on everybody.
“The March of Dimes is something that touches everyone. Whether you have a healthy baby or a baby that needs to be in the NICU, the research that goes into healthy pregnancies affects everybody. So anybody that has children or wants to have children or has grandchildren, the March of Dimes affects them.”
According to Annette Trotta-Flynn, executive director of the March of Dimes’ Northern Metro Division, the six-mile White Plains march — one of 24 in New York State — will raise $1 million from sponsors and participants. The organization’s fundraising goal for the 900 marches is $110 million; it has raised $2 billion since the annual event first began in 1970.
Trotta-Flynn was born five weeks premature and knew that she wanted to make a difference in the health of newborns and infants. The 13-year-member of the organization said 12.2 percent of New York State babies are born pre-term.
“We need to prevent that through our programs of research, education and advocacy,” said the Hopewell Junction resident. “That helps to prevent that from occurring in our state and nationwide.”
Local hospitals have been improved due to the March of Dimes’ efforts, said Trotta-Flynn.
“Westchester Medical Center is the highest-level neonatal intensive care unit and all the sickest babies in our area go there,” she said. “We also have a great relationship with White Plains Hospital, which deals with very, very sick babies as well. So, there’s a system in place and that system’s in place because of the March of Dimes.”
The organization has been “instrumental” in legislation for more than 40 screenings for newborns, she said.
“I want to ensure the next generation,” said Trotta-Flynn, on why she joined the March of Dimes. “I want to ensure their health.”
White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach, who attended the march with Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino and Latin recording artist Thalia, said it was “really a great day.”
“We’re proud of the work they do,” Roach said of the 42-year-old national nonprofit organization. “It’s wonderful to see so many people give up their time to help these kids and it’s really helping all of us, so I thank all the volunteers and all the participants.”