FROM POLIO TO PREMATURITY: MARCH OF DIMES CELEBRATES 75 YEARS OF LIFE-SAVING ACHIEVEMENTS
The March of Dimes, the leading non-profit organization for maternal and infant health, will kick off its 75th anniversary Jan. 30 at the Cartersville Country Club. Sponsored by Georgia Power and South 107, the event will bring together supporters and teams for the 2013 March for Babies to begin preparing for the annual fundraising event to give every baby a healthy start.
“This year’s walk chair persons are Rodney Scott and Janet Queen of Georgia Power Plant Bowen,” said March of Dimes Community Director Michele Beal. “We’re honored to have her on board and look forward to an exciting kick-off celebration.”
Highlighted at the January 30 event will be guest speaker Betsy Burton. Burton is the great granddaughter of Basil O’Connor, a lawyer who, in co-operation with Franklin D. Roosevelt, started two foundations for the rehabilitation of polio patients and the research on polio preventions and treatment.
The March of Dimes chose January 30 to launch the year-long celebration as a way to honor the group’s founder, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was born 131 years ago that day. In FDR’s day, polio was an epidemic disease that paralyzed or killed up to 52,000 Americans, mostly children, every year. The March of Dimes fulfilled President Roosevelt’s dream of a nation free of this fearful disease by funding the development of the first safe and effective polio vaccines by Dr. Jonas Salk (1955) and Dr. Albert Sabin (1962).
In the quest for a vaccine, the March of Dimes supported many other important research milestones in newborn and child health. For example, in 1953, James D. Watson and Francis Crick identified the double helix structure of DNA, announcing, “We have found the secret of life.” Watson had received a grant from the March of Dimes that helped support his research on “protein patterns.” The team’s work won the Nobel Prize in 1962 and paved the way for modern genetic medicine, including the mapping of the human genome.
Another research breakthrough came in the early 1960s when March of Dimes-supported researcher Dr. Robert Guthrie developed the first screening test for PKU (phenylketonuria), allowing prevention of intellectual disabilities through diet. Since that time, the March of Dimes and family groups have campaigned tirelessly for expanded newborn screening. Today every baby born in every state in the U.S. receives screening for dozens of conditions that could cause catastrophic health problems or death if not detected and treated promptly at birth.
“For 75 years, March of Dimes has dedicated itself to giving all children a healthy start in life,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of March of Dimes. “Since our founding, research has been a key strategy that has led to many new treatments and saved thousands of lives.”
The March of Dimes current research portfolio consists of about $100 million in grants to investigators throughout the United States and in about a dozen countries worldwide. It includes the development of new transdisciplinary research centers to learn how to prevent and treat serious disorders such as birth defects and premature birth, offering children the hope of leading healthier, longer lives.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies®, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.