Fundraising has officially kicked off for March of Dimes' March for Babies event April 28 in Jefferson City.
The event, slated for 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Park, includes a walk/run, as well as family-friendly activities, such as face painting, a bean bag toss and a bounce house.
"It's a great event to come and enjoy the day as a family," said Joyce Brandt, chair of Jefferson City's March for Babies on behalf of St. Mary's Health Center. "Once you attend, you get committed to helping."
March of Dimes' funds, including funds from March for Babies, go to four different areas - research, education, advocacy and services.
"A majority of our funds do go to research," said Christy Carel, director of the March of Dimes' Central Missouri Division. "The goal of the March of Dimes is to reduce infant mortality and premature births, as well as birth defects."
Last year, Jefferson City's March for Babies event raised nearly $132,000 and Carel said this year's goal is $140,000.
She said teams and individuals can sign up online at marchforbabiesmo.org and then begin fundraising.
This year is March of Dimes' 75th anniversary and for the Jefferson City event, the organization is offering the "75th Anniversary Diamond Challenge." Vandelicht Jewelry has donated a diamond pendant. For every $75 raised online, the person's name will be entered in a drawing for the pendant.
An incentive throughout the state is a chance to win a Family Night at the Ballpark at a Cardinals home game, as well as an opportunity to throw the first pitch. For every $200 raised online, the person's name will be entered in a statewide drawing for the prize.
Carel said March of Dimes has selected 75 ambassador families from throughout the state to help spread the word about March of Dimes.
Brandt and her family were ambassadors a couple of years ago. Her youngest son was born 11 weeks premature, weighing about two pounds. He received a specific therapy that is one of March of Dimes' research projects.
"Honestly, without March of Dimes, we wouldn't have him," Brandt said. "This will be our family's fourth walk and we started a couple months after he was born."
She said her family is honored to be asked to help chair the event.
"It's obviously very near and dear to our hearts," she said.
She said it's important for anyone and everyone to get involved with March of Dimes.
"Our biggest thing is just to raise awareness about how many babies are born premature and try to prevent just one family from having a similar journey," Brandt said.
To sign up for March for Babies or to learn more about the event, visit www.marchforbabiesmo.org.