The Food’s Great, But That’s Not Why I Go

Tuesday night I’ll be attending my third Signature Chefs Auction in Saratoga to benefit the March of Dimes of Northeastern New York. The event is a lot of fun, featuring many area chefs offering one or two signature dishes from their repertoire in tapas-sized portions, as well as an Iron Chef-like competition between five of the chefs and an auction (both silent and auctioneered) to raise more money for the March of Dimes. I look forward to it not only because the food is wonderful, but also because it’s yet another opportunity to help raise money for a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.

The March of Dimes is the reason that my second son is here. If it weren’t for various therapies and treatment regimens developed through grants and other support support from the March of Dimes, The Kid likely would have died long before he came home. With prenatal (and postnatal) decadron treatments and surfactant therapy, the March of Dimes made sure that he’d be able to breathe even though he was born at 28 weeks with lungs not quite ready for the real world. Doctors monitored his eyes and were able to determine that he had retinopathy of prematurity and stop the overgrowth of his retina before it claimed his sight. The wonderful NICU staff at St. Peter’s Hospital were able to stay on top of every developing issue and keep him healthy.

Is it any wonder that I raise money for the March of Dimes?

I only wonder what might have happened if the hospital where Benjamin was born had availed themselves of the information available from the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes is actually on its third mission, having crushed its first two foes. In January 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) to fight polio. Comedian Eddie Cantor came up with the name “March of Dimes” as a parody of the newsreel series “The March of Time” and appealed to listeners of his radio show to send their dimes directly to the White House. (Ever wonder why Roosevelt’s face is on the dime? Now you know.) The NFIP provided funding to help develop both the Salk and Sabin vaccines for polio, eventually defeating the disease. There has not been a new case of the disease in the Western Hemisphere since 1991, and in 2001 the World Health Organization reported just 480 cases of polio worldwide. The NFIP eventually changed its name to the March of Dimes in 1979.

In 1968, as polio faded, the March of Dimes next expanded its view to take on all birth defects and other causes of infant mortality. Over the years, preventative measures developed and championed by the March of Dimes have greatly decreased the incidence and severity of birth defects. In 2003, the March of Dimes shifted focus, primarily targeting premature birth and all complications arising from it, while continuing to fight birth defects. It’s a daunting task, but the tide is turning. The rate of premature births in the U.S. has been dropping for the last three years.

Still, 543,000 babies are born prematurely every year. That’s more than one every minute. Many of them now survive and have normal lives, like The Kid, thanks to the March of Dimes. Still, 112,000 suffer serious long-term consequences and 4,800 die every year. All of those lives full of potential snuffed out because they were born too soon.  When I think of all that my son has to contribute to the world through his music and other creative ideas, it’s painful to consider just how much potential is lost through these unfortunate preemies that never make it home, or go home but with permanent physical challenges that make it difficult to achieve their potential.

Parents of newborns should take their children home from the hospital, not to the cemetery. Having been on both sides of that equation, I can attest to the polar opposites of the emotions, and the ongoing effects of both.

If you’re in the Capital Region, please consider joining us at the Signature Chefs Auction Tuesday night. If you live elsewhere, please consider supporting the March of Dimes through a donation. There are links on the right hand side of this page (and every page of this site) where you can support the cause. I thank you, The Kid thanks you, and all of the babies yet to be born thank you.

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