Storm Lake Walk-America hopes to kick its annual jaunt into a higher gear this year to help prevent a growing trend toward premature births.
The Pilot-Tribune, along with Tyson Foods and KAYL Radio, is co-sponsoring the March of Dimes WalkAmerica on Saturday, May 8, starting at Chautauqua Park. The goal this year is to raise $15,000, a strong increase from $11,800 in 2003.
"We are trying to build the event up, to hopefully make it a lot more effective and a big activity this community can look forward to every year," said Jill Wooster, regional event organizer for the March of Dimes.
Despite medical advances, one in every eight babies is born premature, she said.
"In over 50 percent of the cases, we still don't know why. The rate of premature births has also started to rise again, in part due to people choosing to have some riskier pregnancies, including those using fertility drugs."
The March of Dimes walks raise money for research, prevention and services for families with premature births.
"Storm Lake has been a great community for us. The walkers and the business sponsors have been very good to us," Wooster said.
People should know that while they may register as a business team, that isn't necessary. People can register as an individual, family, club, school or church group, or just a group of friends, she said.
"It's a great way to go for a good healthy stroll with a lot of fun people, and enjoy the beauty of the Storm Lake parks, while raising money to help people," Wooster said.
For the first time this year, walkers can register on line at walkamerica.org, and can even forward information from the web via e-mail to their friends to solicit pledge donations.
Donor envelopes are also available at the Pilot-Tribune at 111 West 7th Street, Storm Lake banks, Hy-Vee, KAYL and Pizza Hut.
Interested persons may also call 1-877-343-6101 to register a team and have information sent to them.
This year's walk will stress family, and people are urged to take part with their families. Children may use their bikes while parents walk, if they wish. Organizers are considering shortening the route if participants desire.
There will be food, prizes, entertainment, and a support vehicle provided.
An Ambassador Family will be named soon.
One of the people visiting for the Storm Lake walk will be Tari Byrd, Milford, who recently gave birth to a premature child at 1 pound, 11 ounces. Such visitors will help drive home the point of the walk, Wooster said.
Last year's top team was Sara Lee, and that company has since added community involvement incentives for their entire workforce, Wooster said. Other top money-raising teams were Washington High School of Cherokee, K-Mart of Cherokee, Buena Vista University, and Buena Vista Regional Medical Center. Last year's top individual money-raiser was Terry Vrieze, bringing in over $500 in pledges.