PORTLAND — It was an emotional day for Anne Duffy.


She sat on the curb Sunday morning after participating in the March of Dimes annual March for Babies walk, a day she has long considered her son Dylan’s birthday. Her son was due May 5, 2005. Duffy went into labor on Jan. 13 during her 23th week of pregnancy and Dylan was born weighing 1 pound, 1.5 ounces. He died 20 minutes later.


To honor Dylan, Duffy wore a light blue shirt with Dylan’s name and his tiny hand prints on the front of the shirt and footprints in the back. The shirt said, “Always in our hearts.”


“It’s really our day to remember him,” Duffy said. “I have two other children. It’s kind of easy to forget in the day-to-day grind. This event helps to keep his memory alive and reminds us that there are other babies born prematurely every day.”


About 600 people turned out for the March of Dimes fundraiser at Martin’s Point Health Care on Washington Avenue. The event, held in 13 locations across the state, honors babies born healthy and those who need help to survive and thrive.


Susan Braziel, state director for the March of Dimes, said its mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Proceeds from the event will help provide support to families, advocacy, education programs, and social activities at Maine Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Braziel said their goal was to raise $440,000.


“Today is fabulous,” Braziel said during the walk. “It’s wonderful to see so many people here.”


According to a booklet distributed at the event, in Maine 272 babies are born on average each week. Of those, 81 babies are delivered by caesarean section and 30 babies are born preterm. March of Dime’s research shows that every week, 19 babies are born with low birth weight and two babies die before reaching their first birthday.


This year, the Maine chapter plans to sponsor presentations on the risks of late preterm birth, expand its outreach to local hospitals, and continue to strengthen its relationship with the families and staff at Maine Med.

This year, the March of Dimes has also advocated for legislation related to the health of babies and newborn screenings.


Lori and David Ventimiglia spoke to the crowd before the walk. Lori Ventimiglia shared the story of their son Preston, who was born 10 weeks premature and weighed 2 pounds 11 ounces. She described the days following his birth and the care he received at the NICU at Maine Med. Now 2 years old, Preston is a healthy, happy and normal boy.


“He is here today because of the progress the March of Dimes has made,” Lori Ventimiglia said in an interview after the walk. “If he was born 50 years ago, I don’t know if he would be with us.”


Tim and Tara Hannan also walked in the event with their 7-year-old twin sons, Austin and Kaleb, who spent six months in the NICU. Tara, of Gray, said it’s the seventh year they have walked in the event.


“The funding for research for premature babies is why we are here today,” she said. “This event means a lot to us.”


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