PORTLAND – Hundreds of walkers made their way around Back Cove on Sunday morning to benefit the March for Babies fundraiser.
The Portland walk was one of a dozen fundraisers being held by the March of Dimes across the state during the first two weekends in May to help mothers have healthy full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.
This year’s goal was to raise $425,000, said Erin O’Connor Jones, state director. Last year, the walk brought in more than $400,000, she said.
Many of those participating had personal experience with premature babies.
“I hold this day very close to my heart,” said Kristen Gosselin of Boothbay Harbor, whose daughter, Jamie Sprague, was born prematurely at 31/2 pounds 25 years ago. Sprague delivered her own son, Caleb, who turns 1 on Monday, a month early.
Walkers gathered at Cheverus High School, where they were treated to snacks, a walking kit and other items donated by merchants, and a dance performance by the Sea Dogs Dance Team of Gorham before setting out for the three-mile amble. More than 1,000 people participated in Portland, while another 1,000 showed up at the other walks across the state.
The March of Dimes March for Babies, previously called the Walk for America, is the oldest fundraising walk in the country.
“We have been doing this since the ’70s,” Jones said.
Karen Gardner of Buxton, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Maine Medical Center in Portland, walked with her husband, David Gardner, their daughter, Paige, and their pug, Molly. Gardner said the walk is a chance for her to visit with the families of the babies she takes care of.
“It’s like a reunion,” Gardner said.
Others walked in teams. Karen Grant of Gorham and a couple of dozen friends and family members did so in honor of her daughter, who was born three months early at 2 pounds, 2 ounces and now is a healthy 21-year-old.
Savanna Wing of Westbrook got the whole family up early to take part in the walk as a team.
“It’s our first time. I felt it would be a good cause,” she said.
Everyone made it around Back Cove without incident, Jones said. She said she was grateful that so many people showed up despite any concerns they might have had about large gatherings in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The cool, sunny weather also helped, Jones said.
“This was our best walk ever,” she said.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: