Elise Stopper became involved with the March of Dimes after the organization stepped up to the plate to help her when she suffered a devastating loss.
The Loyalsock Township woman gave birth to twin boys in 2007. They were 3 1/2 months premature.
One of the boys died.
Elise Stopper, of Loyalsock Township, helps her son, Jacob put on his shoe. Stopper volunteers her time for the March of Dimes, an organization that aided her when her twin sons were born prematurely in 2007. One boy died and the other, Jacob, developed cerebral palsy.
Her other son survived but suffered a brain bleed and developed cerebral palsy.
It was a tough time for Stopper, but March of Dimes representatives offered more support than she could have imagined.
"I found it real helpful," she said. "They just have an amazing way to reach out to families."
What's in a name?
The March of Dimes was founded in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At that time, however, it was named the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.
Its original mission was to "lead, direct and unify" the fight against polio, a paralyzing viral disease that was considered by man to be the most frightening public health problem in post-war America.
Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921 and, as a result of the disease, could not move his legs.
Originally, the foundation was tasked with raising money to support research and education. A network of local chapters united the organization throughout the country.
In 1955, an American medical researcher and virologist named Jonas Salk developed the first successful polio vaccine.
What's in a name?
With its original goal accomplished, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis either could disband or find a new mission. In 1958, it opted to focus on birth defects, arthritis and virus diseases and, in 1976, it again changed its name to the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.
The name "March of Dimes" was used for the foundation's annual fundraising event. Around the Christmas season, booths were set up and children were asked to donate a dime.
The name eventually became synonymous with the organization.
March of Dimes representatives, she added, made her realize she was not alone.
The care and support she received made Stopper realize she wanted to somehow become involved with March of Dimes.
It also was a way for her to honor the son she lost in childbirth.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of March of Dimes, an organization established to eliminate premature births.
Lynn Miller, spokeswoman and volunteer for the March of Dimes, serves as the honorary chair for Susquehanna Valley March for Babies.
Nationwide, walks are held to raise money for March of Dimes.
The Susquehanna Valley March for Babies is set for May 5 in Danville.
"We are trying to raise about $86,000," Miller said. "Last year we had 900 walkers and raised $83,000. We hope to get 1,000 walkers this year. I think it's very doable. We have had great success in the past."
Stopper will be among those participating in the 2.5-mile walk around the Geisinger campus and the surrounding neighborhoods. She has her own team of walkers that raises money.
Beyond the walk, Stopper has involved herself in other ways with the March of Dimes, including educating others about preventing premature births.
A few years ago, a fundraiser held by one of her friends brought in $15,000 for the March of Dimes.
"We had it catered," she said. "It was extremely overwhelming."
Miller said the March of Dimes has a very active group at Geisinger Medical Center.
"Here at the medical center we have a staff person who works with families whose babies are born premature," she said. "They partner with us with education with expectant mothers and our staff. They were here on campus last week to get people involved in the walk."
Premature births are the No. 1 cause of deaths in the first month of life, according to Miller.
That's why education is so important.
"People need to educate themselves before they give birth," she said. "Right now in the U.S., about a half million babies are born premature."
The walk, Miller said, is the local chapter's biggest fundraiser.
Some 750 communities nationwide hold walks, with more than 7 million people participating either as walkers or sponsors.
"We are working hard to make sure people hear about the cause," she said. "Certainly, I think it's something that people can support."
More information on the walk is at www.marchforbabies.org.