THOMASVILLE — At noon Wednesday at the Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce, officials from the March of Dimes will host a kick-off luncheon where interested team captains from local companies or families will meet to jump start their annual WalkAmerica campaign. Attendees will hear from various volunteers on the importance of WalkAmerica to the health of babies and receive campaign materials to get started with fund-raising for 2007.

WalkAmerica, the walk to save babies, is Saturday, March 12 at Thomas University. WalkAmerica supports the March of Dimes’ fight to save babies from premature birth — the leading killer of newborns — and from other serious threats to infant health.

“WalkAmerica is truly a community event and we invite anyone who is interested in forming a company or family team to attend,” said Debbie Palmer, 2007 WalkAmerica chair. “By being a part of WalkAmerica, we can help save babies and give hope to families. We can help give all babies the gift of a healthy start,” she added.

More than 12 percent of all babies born in Georgia are born too soon. Many will die or suffer from lifetime disability.

“Last year, Thomasville raised more than $23,000 to help find the causes of premature birth. Our goal this year is to reach $25,000,” Palmer said. “Join me and the millions of compassionate people across the country who support WalkAmerica every year. If you would like to attend this luncheon, contact the March of Dimes office in Albany at (229) 432-1201.”

With Thomasville's support in WalkAmerica, the March of Dimes conducts top-level research into causes and preventions of premature birth and birth defects. The March of Dimes also brings information and emotional support to families who have had a premature or sick baby who is being treated in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Since its beginning 37 years ago, WalkAmerica has raised more than $1 billion to help give babies a fighting chance and takes place on the last weekend in April in nearly 1,500 locations across the nation.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth.

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