When a not-for-profit organization outgrows both its “birth name” and existing mission, what happens next determines either its brilliant future, or its eventual demise.
All too often, organizations resist or reject change. Then, without compelling new challenges to undertake, they fade into the proverbial sunset. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis recognized long ago that its cumbersome name needed to be retired in favor of something more relevant, less medical and easier to remember. The simple but dramatic new one – The March of Dimes™ (adopted in 1949) addressed the need to make their group more inclusive and compelling. It also subsequently challenged them to expand their outreach. This well-regarded national organization has accomplished their mission and continues to be recognized not only across our commonwealth, but also for leadership all across America.
The March of Dimes – Then, Today, Tomorrow
Infantile paralysis, or polio, is an infectious and debilitating disease that swept across America in the late 1930s, leaving victims partly or fully paralyzed. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted the disease in 1921 when he was only 39 and was unable to walk unaided for the remainder of his life. Roosevelt was committed to funding research to drastically curb and ultimately eliminate the epidemic of polio across the world. In 1938 he appointed close friend and former law partner Basil O’Connor to lead the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), which later became known as the March of Dimes. Radio star and philanthropist Eddie Cantor helped the effort by urging his listeners to send their spare change to the group, “a march of dimes to reach all the way to the White House”.
Audiences responded enthusiastically, the organization got a new name, and by 1945 it had raised 18.9 million dollars towards uncovering the mysteries of polio and preventing it from spreading.
The organization’s greatest hope for a vaccine that would ultimately eliminate polio centered around the research and field testing of a March of Dimes grantee, Jonas Salk, M.D. Dr. Salk, realizing the enormous trust placed in him, often worked around the clock to create, test, and ultimately deploy the vaccine. When it was deemed safe, the vaccine – a relatively painless injection – was initially tested in volunteers, including Salk, his wife, three sons, and his laboratory staff. In 1954 national testing began on one million school children aged six to nine, who later were known as the Polio Pioneers. On April 12, 1955, a grateful nation learned that the polio vaccine was safe and effective. Since then, widespread use of the vaccine has virtually eliminated polio not only domestically, but throughout the world.
Healthy Babies Are Worth The Wait
In the decades after the use of Salk’s successful vaccine, the March of Dimes has redirected its mission towards improving the health of babies through preventing birth defects, premature births and infant mortality. The organization’s current focus is “Healthy Babies Are Worth The Wait”.
For the past thirty years, premature births in the United States have risen alarmingly. To combat this serious trend, the national March of Dimes organization created its Prematurity Campaign. This initiative’s goal was to increase public awareness and to decrease the preterm birth rate to 8.1% by 2020. It encourages pregnant mothers to take better care of themselves and their babies before, during, and after the child’s birth. The Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait outreach program uses professional and community education to stress waiting until labor begins on its own if both mother and baby are healthy. It focuses on every aspect of pregnancy in order to help mothers have the healthiest baby possible.
The last few weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby’s development. Major organs like the brains, lungs and liver are still growing, the senses continue to develop, and the baby is learning to suck and swallow. Yet every year, nearly 6,000 Kentucky babies are born prematurely. There are as many causes for the situation as there are opportunities to significantly diminish the statistic, most critically the need to disseminate information targeted to pregnant mothers.
The March of Dimes wants to help decrease preterm births and ensure that every baby gets the benefit of a full-term pregnancy. This caring organization’s objectives include:
• Providing resources and knowledge about factors causing premature births
• Stressing the importance of the last few weeks of a pregnancy to proper fetal development
• Changing attitudes and behaviors of providers and consumers in order to impact community-specific risk factors.
If you’re young, pregnant, possibly frightened or just want to know more about what you can do to create the healthiest outcome for your baby, the March of Dimes organization can be of assistance. There is FREE, confidential, and easy-to-understand information available online for mothers- and fathers-to-be online at marchofdimes.com.
Kris & Blake Church
This year, Kris & Blake Church will be honored as the 2015 Greater Bluegrass Signature Chefs Auction Ambassador Family in loving memory of their daughters Kaylin and Tennyson. Compassion and understanding from many different individuals and organizations has helped Kris and Blake keep their faith and survive the unimaginable loss of the twins three months before their due date. It’s immediately evident how their lives have been changed through their experience and why they’ve chosen to become involved with the March of Dimes in honor of their daughters. This is Kris’s narrative:
“Blake and I had no warning that our babies were in trouble until I needed to be rushed to the hospital. Up until that day, I’d enjoyed a relatively comfortable pregnancy – but when we viewed the ultrasound, we knew that we were in serious danger of losing our twins. Although the hospital medical staff was incredibly caring, and they utilized all of the medical interventions possible to save our twins, God had a different plan for our family.
“Our girls entered the world at 21 weeks old – a point at which life is not sustainable. Blake and I got to hold our daughters before they received their tiny angel wings: those precious moments and the packing up of all their matching clothes and gifts at home was an experience we will never forget. I took a month off of teaching to help myself heal physically, spiritually and emotionally.
“During that time I began researching premature birth and the grieving process for families losing children too soon. I came across information on the March of Dimes website and contacted them to see how we could get involved, not only to honor Kaylin and Tennyson, but also to possibly help other families who might have to face the same circumstances. These amazing, caring folks helped me to work through my grief: over 2 months’ time, I learned not only a great deal about the March of Dimes, but also came to realize what a vast and powerful force that organization is – locally and beyond.
“I returned to the classroom at Southern Middle School – still with a heavy heart (but never once with a ‘Why us, God?’ question.) Through the help of my Southern Middle School family, the local community, and our family and friends, we were able to raise more than $8,000 for the March of Dimes for research towards preventing premature births. Losing Kaylin and Tennyson has become a forever part of our story; it has given our family a forever connection with the March of Dimes because we know, first hand, what a caring organization they are, and that they want the best for Lexington’s next generation of babies. Now that we have our newest daughter, Emerson, our story has come full circle.”
Signature Chefs Auction
A message from the March of Dimes’ Greater Bluegrass Signature Chefs Auction Event Chair: Laura T. Boison Lexington Market President / US Bank
“We all benefit from the research and treatments discovered or sponsored by the March of Dimes: the end of polio; the emphasis on genetic research to better understand premature births; the efforts to prevent birth defects. My husband and I are parents of five and grandparents of two: there is no greater gift than the health of ALL children!!”
Your support for the March of Dimes will be greatly appreciated:
Join us for a special evening of fun for a purpose:
The 2015 Greater Bluegrass Signature Chefs Auction to the Benefit of the March of Dimes on Friday, October 9th, at Marriott Griffin Gate Resort & Spa 6-9:30 pm. Featuring savory tastings, prepared by 15 awesome chefs!
Live Auction featuring the Bermuda Mavericks Comedy Team.
Questions about the March of Dimes or the Signature Chefs Auction? Please contact Holly Collins at 859-402-1707