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March for Babies fundraiser kicks off

By Tyler H. Jones

tjones@civitasmedia.com

Randy Burt, a district manager for the supermarket chain Publix, holds up a donation for the March for Babies fundraiser Friday at the Callaway Conference Center.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/02/web1_0205Babies02WEB-3.jpgRandy Burt, a district manager for the supermarket chain Publix, holds up a donation for the March for Babies fundraiser Friday at the Callaway Conference Center.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Matt Mallory, a supporter for March for Babies, takes a selfie with a sign showing why he supports the cause Friday at the Callaway Conference Center.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/02/web1_0205Babies03WEB-3.jpgMatt Mallory, a supporter for March for Babies, takes a selfie with a sign showing why he supports the cause Friday at the Callaway Conference Center.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

March for Babies supporters pick up promotional materials Friday after a fundraiser at the Callaway Conference Center.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/02/web1_0205Babies01WEB-3.jpgMarch for Babies supporters pick up promotional materials Friday after a fundraiser at the Callaway Conference Center.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

LaGRANGE — One in 10 babies in the United States are born premature — and that number is higher in Troup County, where 12.3 percent are born preterm annually.

Hoping to change that number, about 100 people gathered Friday at the Callaway Conference Center on Fort Drive to kick off the annual March for Dimes March for Babies fundraiser.

Last year in Troup County, the top 10 teams of supporters raised more than $64,500 to support research and programs with a grand fundraising total of $94,000. This year, organizers are hoping the top 10 teams will raise at least $92,000, said Chang Joo Lee, chairman of this year’s fundraiser and the president of Sewon America.

“March for Babies is the nation’s favorite walk event, and it raises awareness and funds to support life-saving research and programs to help moms have healthy, full-term babies,” Lee said.

Brooke Davies, this year’s March for Babies ambassador, knows exactly how important that research is. She and her husband, Rob Davies, are parents to 19-month-old Kaylee-Beth, who was born premature and spent the first 63 days of her life in an Atlanta hospital.

“I was given a steroid shot to try and stop labor,” Brooke Davies said. “However, Kaylee-Beth was ready to meet this big world and was delivered at 5:22 p.m. by emergency cesarean section on June 15, 2014, and weighed only 3 pounds, 10 ounces.”

The Davies family later learned their new daughter had a genetic condition that “scared us to death,” Brooke Davies said.

Kaylee-Beth is doing much better these days and clung to her father’s shoulders Friday as Brooke Davies spoke to the crowded fundraiser.

“Kaylee-Beth is not only our miracle, she is our saving grace,” Brooke Davies said. “She taught us more than we could have ever imagined and showed us what real love is.”

Although Brooke Davies’ story inspired many at Friday’s fundraiser, it isn’t the first time she’s been the face of March for Babies in Troup County. In a May 2, 1990, front-page article in LaGrange Daily News, a photograph of a 2-year-old Brooke smiles “dimpled and adorable,” as reporter Graham Duke wrote. Brooke, like her daughter, was also born with a genetic condition.

That year, March for Babies set a goal of raising $20,000 — $8,000 more than was raised in 1989.

The 2016 March for Babies walk-a-thon is slated for May 7 and anyone — individuals or teams — can join the effort and raise funds. To start a team or for more information, contact organizer Carla Starling at 706-845-0708 or cstarling@marchofdimes.com.

Note: Fundraising totals from 2015 were corrected in this article on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, at 5:31 p.m.

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.