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Harrison's Bosch to lead March for Babies

March of Dimes March for BabiesSeveral hundred people will be out in force on the streets of Silverdale on Saturday, April 17, to walk for a common cause: help babies get a healthy start in life. Kitsap County will be one of about 15 sites around Washington state that will participate in the annual, nationwide March for Babies, a March of Dimes fundraiser.

“The March of Dimes vision is that one day, all babies will be born healthy,” says Emily Sullins, community director for March of Dimes in Kitsap and Thurston counties. A Silverdale resident, she says the community’s engagement with this issue has been very inspirational.

“We have people who really care about families in Kitsap County,” she says. “Our community really gathers around people (in need) and this is another way to do that.”

Several local employers are sponsoring teams for the walk, including Harrison Medical Center (with about 10 teams), KPS Health Plans, and Advantage Nissan. In addition to getting pledges for the walk, employees of participating businesses can pay into a fund to wear blue jeans on designated days. Called Blue Jeans for Babies, the program gives companies another way to support March of Dimes.

“It’s a really fun program and a way for people to make a small donation to our mission,” Sullins says.

Scott Bosch, CEO of Harrison Medical Center, is the chairman of this year’s Kitsap campaign. He will lead the walk through Silverdale (which starts and ends at Ridgetop Junior High).

“March of Dimes is an important organization and one that has a lot in common with Harrison Medical Center, particularly as we talk about mothers and babies,” he says.

The hospital delivers about 2,000 babies a year, and many of them are premature and have health issues. Premature babies are not only a challenge for parents but also for the entire society, with everyone paying higher premiums and other costs because of it, Bosch says.

Bosch put together a Cabinet for the event, and each leader was tasked with creating teams, with the total goal of raising $146,000. His personal goal is to bring in $6,000 so Bosch has been collecting pledges.

“I’m very optimistic we’ll reach our goal. We have a talented and dedicated cabinet that’s putting a lot of time and effort to make the teams effective and motivated,” Bosch says. “They key is that we’re having fun raising money for an important cause… This is a very valid effort to make a difference in a very young life.”

The focus of March of Dimes is to prevent birth defects, premature births and infant mortality, so much of the funding goes to both education and research. Sullins says the majority of the funds raised locally stay in Washington state, and some go to the University of Washington for research.

Bob Westfall and his wife, Stacy, are a local couple whose life has been impacted by March of Dimes. They didn’t realize it when their son, Greyson, was born at 24 weeks that the organization was instrumental in the research behind surfactant — given to premature babies to keep their lungs inflated. Their son, now age 2, survived thanks to it, and when the Westfalls found out about the March of Dimes’ role, they decided to become involved. This will be their second year in the March for Babies.

“We feel that having gone through that experience with our son, we need to encourage other families going through similar situations,” Bob Westfall says. “One of the best things March of Dimes does is providing resources and support for families going through that experience.”

The $146,000 goal for this year’s campaign is ambitious — due to the economy, last year’s contributions were down, bringing in about $86,000 in Kitsap County. Sullins says the goal is to kick the total back up to levels of previous years. “We’re confident we’ll reach that goal but it’s still a stretch,” she says, adding that those who are unable to walk can contribute by volunteering during the event instead. People are needed for the start/finish station, on the streets to help with crossings, and other tasks.

“Volunteering is a great way for people to raise money and still participate if they can’t physically walk,” she says.

For more information about the local March of Dimes efforts, call (253) 752-9255; for information about the nationwide effort and to learn about the Washington state chapter, go to www.marchofdimes.com.

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