Walking for babies

WAILUA — Many of the nearly 200 walkers who turned out Saturday didn’t remember how long they’ve been walking in the March for Babies event benefiting the March of Dimes.

“It’s been a long time,” said Dana Garven of Kmart. “It has to be at least 20 years because that’s how old the store is and we’ve been doing this since we opened.”

Diane Melchor of Macy’s agreed.

“We’ve been doing this since we were Liberty House,” Melchor said. “That’s awhile back.”

On Saturday, nearly 200 walkers put their best foot forward to bring awareness to premature birth and celebrate those “preemies” who are now healthy at the annual March for Babies at Lydgate Park. Premature birth is the leading cause of death of newborns.

Carmella Hernandez, the March of Dimes director for Hawaii, said there are places which are still collecting, which makes a total amount raised hard to tally. There is a goal of $30,000 for Kauai.

Kmart is hosting collections for March of Dimes through Father’s Day, and there are other places that will be maintaining collections through May, Hernandez said.

Onio Punzal fashioned special headbands from the niu, or coconut, for Jacob “Smilie” Punzal and Kaeo, Jacob’s son who is designated as Kauai’s MOD Ambassador Family.

“I wear this at all special events,” Onio said. “The boys all have them today because it makes you feel special and it’s from the tree of life, the coconut.”

Also walking were six Girl Scouts from Troop 823, who recently completed selling their goal of 3,540 boxes of cookies through the month of March. While another troop was collecting food at the Eleele Big Save, the girls from Troop 823 were walking for babies.

“We have to support,” said Jayda Wakilina. “We reached our goal for cookie sales. Today, we’re just walking.”

The March of Dimes, founded in 1938, is a national, volunteer-based organization whose mission is to improve the health of pregnant women, infants and children by preventing birth defects, preterm birth and infant mortality through research, community services, education and advocacy.

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