March of Dimes hosts Survivor Field Day

The University’s involvement in the fight against prematurity


The University’s March of Dimes collegiate council held its first “Survivor Field Day” last Friday, where students gathered on Nameless Field to compete for prizes with the ultimate aim of raising money to prevent premature birth.

While March of Dimes is a national organization which raises money for research and advocacy programs regarding infant health and pregnancy issues, 84 cents of each dollar raised by the Charlottesville chapter goes back to the local community.

Additionally, according to Bryan Harris, senior community director for the March of Dimes Charlottesville, the national organization plans to give about 1.5 million dollars to the University’s research hospital. The University Hospital cares for the majority of premature babies born in Virginia in its neonatal intensive care unit. Fourth-year Nursing student Margaret Bickley said she believes it is important for students to support those efforts.

“I know the majority of our students aren’t parents, so it could seem kind of abstract,” Bickley said, “But at the end of the day, I think it is important that students are aware of issues other than what they face on a daily basis.”

The University’s March of Dimes collegiate council often works closely in conjunction with the Charlottesville chapter. The regional group hosts an annual March for Babies — to be held April 27 — a fall gala, and various other fundraisers throughout the year.

“We just support that vision, and provide a network for families who have lost children who were born premature or who have children that have survived,“ Bickley said.

March of Dimes at the University has only been active for four years, and has remained a small, tightly-knit group. In the past, they have always held a 5k as a fundraiser, but this year the group decided to distinguish themselves by choosing an event more emblematic of the cause they support.

“We called it Survivor Day to show that as you are playing, you are helping a baby survive,” fourth-year College student Evanka Weerasinghe said. “We were just hoping that people would want to take part in fun, relay-type activities to resemble the endurance that babies have to go through to survive.”

There were 10 events overall, each consisting of an activity such as a hula-hoop contest, a dizzy bat race or a three-legged race, and winning teams received gift cards to restaurants on the Corner.

“People our age aren’t really thinking about this, but it is important to be informed about what your decisions now could do to affect your future,” Weerasinghe said. “Healthy babies start with healthy people, and so we just hope that we are able to inform people about the things that they need to do to take care of themselves.”

Harris said he has seen a large difference in the Charlottesville chapter’s success since the collegiate council was formed. March of Dimes has since become one of the most supported charities in the area, with their fall gala voted in the top two “must attend” galas in Charlottesville.

Going forward, the organization will continue to focus its efforts on the fight to end prematurity and the health risks associated with it. About 500,000 babies are born premature in the United States every year, and the babies who do survive frequently live with heart, lung or other defects.

Published April 20, 2014 in Life

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