Sanaa Darden, 6, the March of Dimes’ March for Babies 2014 Suffolk ambassador, poses for a photo with mom, Titania Darden, during a kickoff breakfast for the walk in Suffolk, held at QVC Distribution Center on Friday.
Sanaa Darden, 6, the March of Dimes’ March for Babies 2014 Suffolk ambassador, poses for a photo with mom, Titania Darden, during a kickoff breakfast for the walk in Suffolk, held at QVC Distribution Center on Friday.

Counting down to ‘March’

Published 10:42pm Friday, February 28, 2014

About six years ago, Suffolk newborn Sanaa Darden arrived home on the day her mother had been due to deliver. But it wasn’t her first time home.

When Sanaa was born on Dec. 3, 2007, her weight started dropping from 3 pounds 2 ounces. She was kept in the hospital a month before Titania and Frederick Darden were finally able to bring her home.

“That first night home, she just cried all night long,” Sanaa’s mother said Friday at the QVC Distribution Center off Wilroy Road, where a kickoff breakfast was held for this year’s March of Dimes March for Babies in Suffolk.

Sanaa Darden is the event’s 2014 ambassador for Suffolk, and at the breakfast was presented as such for the first time.

“I just knew something was wrong,” Titania Darden continued. “The next morning we took her to CHKD (the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters), and immediately she was admitted.”

Sanaa had surgery on her intestines and was kept in the neonatal intensive care unit for a month. Born two months premature, she arrived home the second time on Feb. 3, 2008.

“She’s a wonderful, healthy, smart girl,” Sanaa’s mom said. “She’s very active, and she has a strong personality; she seems to be shy, but she’s not.”

She said she never thought her family would play such a role in such an event, adding, “I thank God for CHKD and I thank God for March of Dimes to be able to help with the babies and support the babies.”

The breakfast was an opportunity for event organizers to drum up new support and to thank individuals, businesses and other organizations already involved.

QVC presented the nonprofit with a $2,500 donation. John Niemeyer, the distribution center’s manager, said his two boys were both born prematurely.

“I have two healthy boys now — and a grandchild,” Niemeyer said, adding of the company’s contribution to March of Dimes, “They do so much to support us; we want to support them.”

Susan Smith, executive director of the nonprofit’s Greater Hampton Roads chapter, explained how March of Dimes was created to find a cure for polio.

It was actually started by President Franklin Roosevelt, who suffered from the disease. Eddie Cantor, a popular comedian of the day, coined the name of the organization that would switch to birth defects, and then later again the prevention of pre-term births, after the discovery of a vaccine that led to polio’s eradication in much of the world.

Jamie Stump, the nonprofit’s community director for Greater Hampton Roads, thanked supporters of the cause in Suffolk, singling out Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw for her 24 years of support.

The school district understands the importance of the March of Dimes mission, because it deals with some of the results of pre-term births, such as special-needs students, she said.

The district raised $24,000 last year, she said, with Creekside Elementary School in the lead, followed by John Yeates Middle School, Southwestern Elementary School and then Northern Shores Elementary School.

Tracy Turner of Smithfield Foods, a March of Dimes Greater Hampton Roads board member, urged local businesses come up with creative ways of supporting the event.

“It’s an awesome organization you are dealing with here,” he said.

The March for Babies will be held at Constant’s Wharf Park on April 26. For more information, visit www.marchofdimes.com/Virginia.

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