Newport Beach | Thursday, April 6, 2017

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Thousands of families and local business leaders will join together on Sunday, April 30 at Fashion Island for the 2017 March for Babies, the nation’s oldest fundraising walk, to support the March of Dimes. Funds raised through March for Babies help in the fight against premature birth, now the leading global cause of death for children under five years old. In the United States, one in ten babies is born preterm ranking among the worst in high-resource countries. Babies who survive often face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

The March for Babies campaign has special meaning for the Rivers family, this year’s Orange County March for Babies Ambassador Family. After a difficult pregnancy wrought with weight loss and severe illness, Ritamarie and Jonathan Rivers delivered their baby 7 weeks too soon. Francesca (Frankie) Marlysse was born weighing only 4.5 pounds. Ritamarie never imagined that it would be more than 24 hours after Frankie was delivered that she would get to meet her daughter for the first time. Frankie needed help breathing as her lungs hadn’t finished developing, as well as feeding tubes and IVs to help her grow and fight infections. After 8 days in the NICU at St. Joseph’s Hoag Health, Frankie’s parents were finally able to take their baby home. Frankie continued receiving home healthcare assistance for another 3 months. Frankie turned 3 this past July and is thriving. Her development is on track, and although weight gain has been slow, she is growing and healthy.

            “Supporting March for Babies is a natural fit for our organization,” said Marcia Manker, CEO, Orange Coast Memorial and Saddleback Memorial Medical Centers. “MemorialCare Health System delivered over 10,500 babies last year, so we take a very real interest in supporting the work of March of Dimes to ensure that all babies are born healthy. We believe it is important to be proactive in meeting the needs of the communities where we live and work.  In fact, many of our own employees have been affected by the mission of March of Dimes.”

                        March for Babies is the largest annual fundraising event of the March of Dimes, but it also is a special celebration for many families. There is a sense of community among families who have experienced having a baby in the NICU. These families have experienced the roller coaster of emotions — from heart wrenching to joy.

“March for Babies is a memorable and rewarding event for the whole family,” said Michele Warner, March of Dimes Orange County Senior Development Manager. “We celebrate children and parents who experienced the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or special care nursery.  We’ll recognize these families throughout the day with a Superhero Sprint for kids, complete with a purple cape, a symbolic lei for mom and dad and loads of fun in the kids’ zone. And, for the first time, participants will have the opportunity to walk through our Memory Mile and visit our unforgettable March for Babies Butterfly Garden. Those who have experienced loss will find a meaningful way to remember their baby,” she said.

Premature birth is the leading cause of death among babies in the United States. It affects about 380,000 babies — that’s 1 in 10 — born each year, including 41,560 in California. Funds raised by March for Babies in Orange County support March of Dimes programs that provide comfort and support for moms and babies as well as innovative research, including 32 research grants totaling almost $9 million in California alone, to find the unknown causes of premature birth and birth defects.

            March for Babies on-site registration begins on Sunday, April 30 at 7:00 a.m. with the 3-mile walk kicking off at 8:30 a.m. NBC4 Southern California is the exclusive media sponsor with NBC4 Anchor Carolyn Johnson and “Today in LA” Reporter Annette Arrelola as hosts of the Orange County March for Babies program.  Participants can sign up today at to start a team with co-workers, family or friends; or make a donation to help more babies get a healthy start in life.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites and If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our community to find comfort and support. For detailed national, state and local perinatal statistics, visit Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The 2017 March for Babies is sponsored nationally by Kmart, Famous Footwear, Macy’s, Cigna, HCA, and regional sponsor Publix Super Markets, Inc. Orange County March for Babies is sponsored by Gold Sponsors: Big 5 Sporting Goods, MemorialCare Health System, The Grainger Foundation, Cisco, and Wells Fargo. Media Sponsor: NBC4 Southern California

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About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

Visit or for more information. Visit for comfort and support. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.