From Polio to Prematurity, March of Dimes Celebrates 75 years of Lifesaving Achievements
Danielle Prenevost, March of Dimes, (612) 326-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org
FDR's Great-Granddaughter Kicksoff Celebration in MinnesotaSt. Paul, MN, January 30, 2013
March of Dimes, the leading non-profit organization for maternal and infant health, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and its ongoing work to help all babies get a healthy start in life. The March of Dimes launches the year-long celebration January 30th to honor the birthday of its founder, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Affected by polio himself, FDR established the Foundation in 1938 to “lead, direct and unify” the fight against polio.
On Wednesday, January 30th FDR’s great-granddaughter Liz Roosevelt Johnston will celebrate his work with the March for Babies kickoff at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. Roosevelt Johnston will share her personal experience with prematurity, the early birth of her twin daughters. The breakfast celebration will run from 7:30 to 9:00 am in the Bullard Rainforest Auditorium.
About 4 million babies are born in the United States each year, and the March of Dimes has helped each and every one through research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs.
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 got its name when comedian Eddie Cantor asked Americans to send their dimes to FDR at the White House to help defeat polio. The foundation later funded the development of the Salk vaccine which was tested in 1954 and licensed a year later, as well as the Sabin vaccine which became available in 1962. Nearly all babies born today still receive a lifesaving polio vaccine.
Throughout its history, the March of Dimes has supported many important research milestones that have benefitted 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.
Today, the March of Dimes is hard at work to prevent the epidemic of premature birth, which affects nearly a half million babies every year. It established the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine that is bringing together the brightest minds from many disciplines -- geneticists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, engineers, computer scientists and many others -- to work together and find answers to explain and prevent preterm birth. 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.
March of Dimes funds this work through its premiere fundraising event March for Babies. Led by the statewide March for Babies Chair Lawrence Massa, President and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association, more than 5,000 people will march for healthier babies on April 28 at Como Park. Walkers can register at marchforbabies.org. National March for Babies sponsors include Kmart, Farmers Insurance, Macy’s, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur, Famous Footwear, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Mission Pharmacal and United Airlines. Local sponsors include Medica, the Minnesota Hospital Association, Allina Health and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.