marching for dimes and keiki

Each week in Hawaii, on average, 43 babies are born prematurely. That’s where the good work of the March of Dimes comes in. Thanks to Kmart employees and shoppers, and those who participate in the April 26 Walk for Babies, that good work will continue to grow. Lou and Marci Nishida will never forget the first birthday celebration of their baby MarLou. That’s because it’s a miracle that their child survived her first

Susan Sunderland
Friday - April 11, 2008
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Novelita Dela Cruz and son Roger purchase a cutout from Stadium Kmart clerk Tony Corpuz
Novelita Dela Cruz and son Roger purchase a cutout from Stadium Kmart clerk Tony Corpuz

Lou and Marci Nishida will never forget the first birthday celebration of their baby MarLou. That’s because it’s a miracle that their child survived her first year of life. Thanks to advances in neonatal medicine as well as nonprofit and corporate “angels” that care, babies like MarLou are surviving and doing well.

MarLou is one of 43 babies born prematurely in an average week in Hawaii. She arrived 15 weeks early and weighed only 2 pounds at birth. She spent six months in intensive care at Kapiolani Medical Center and is still hospitalized a year later. Many of the medical advances keeping MarLou alive were researched and discovered by funding provided by the March of Dimes.

It is this hope for healthy babies that brings more than 2,500 walkers to Kapiolani Park Saturday, April 26, for the March of Dimes’ 38th annual March for Babies. The event, formerly known as WalkAmerica, is the organization’s premier fundraiser. March of Dimes originated the concept of charity walks.


Over the last five years, March for Babies has raised an average of $90 million annually on a nationwide basis. In Hawaii, the 2007 charity walk raised more than $500,000 thanks to more than 3,500 walkers and volunteers statewide. The 2008 goal for Hawaii is $540,000.

More than 90 percent of walkers participate in teams. Team Walk is comprised of companies, families, schools, unions, associations and clubs with five walkers or more.

According to March of Dimes state director Carmella Hernandez, 100 teams are assembled this year.

The largest team is from Kmart with 100 associates from four stores on Oahu. Kmart and March of Dimes have a special bond that dates back more than two decades.

“Kmart’s commitment to the March of Dimes in protecting the health of babies and their families is unparalleled,” says Jim Provenzano, Hawaii district manager.

March of Dimes state director Carmella Hernandez with Kmart's  Brittany James
March of Dimes state director Carmella Hernandez with Kmart’s Brittany James

Over the past 24 years, Kmart nationally has raised $63 million - more than any other corporation - the largest, single donation in March of Dimes history.

“It’s one of the most successful associate-driven and customer-supported initiatives of its kind,” Provenzano says.

Last year, Hawaii Kmart stores raised $91,244 with two locations among the Top Five fundraising stores in the country. The Lihue store ranked fourth and the Salt Lake/Stadium store was fifth.

Salt Lake store manager Mike Lane hopes to beat that performance this year. His store is the “best in the west” for Kmart contributions.

Customers who visit any Kmart store through May 10 can purchase a March for Babies paper cutout for $1, $5 or $10. All of the money raised is donated to March of Dimes.


Local stores also support March for Babies with bake sales, car washes, golf tournaments, auctions and other employee motivational events.

“Kmart associates never cease to amaze with their winning spirit of fun and creativity,” says Provenzano. “They continue to prove that they are doers and true leaders.”

March of Dimes’ Hernandez acknowledges that there are economic challenges this year. Like other charitable organizations, the agency is feeling the crunch of an economic downturn.

MarLou Nishida
MarLou Nishida

“The people of Hawaii are very generous,” Hernandez says. “However, our walkers have told us that it’s been more difficult to raise money this year. They say that people are still willing to make donations, but they are giving less than in previous years.”

It is certainly not from lack of compassion or desire to help the needy in our community.

According to a Hawaii Giving Study conducted in 2002 by the Hawaii Community Foundation, there is a “great resiliency in Hawaii’s giving. Through tough economic times, the people of Hawaii remain exceptionally generous, giving more than $1,100 a year on the average.”

The study also points out that

 

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