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Sheila and Jon Huffman, pictured with 6-month-old Xavier Huffman, were among the most successful fundraisers for the March of Dimes’ March for Babies. (MATTHEW A. WARD/SUFFOLK NEWS-HERALD)
Sheila and Jon Huffman, pictured with 6-month-old Xavier Huffman, were among the most successful fundraisers for the March of Dimes’ March for Babies. (MATTHEW A. WARD/SUFFOLK NEWS-HERALD)

Archived Story

Hundreds march for ‘preemies’

Published 12:28am Sunday, April 27, 2014

More than 350 people participated in the March of Dimes’ March for Babies at Constant’s Wharf on Saturday, organizers said, showing their support for “preemies” and their families.

“Our goal is $64,000, and we are pretty sure we are going to reach that,” march spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said. “We have some teams that continue to do fundraisers after today.”

A family new to Suffolk was among the larger fundraisers: Sheila and Jon Huffman hauled in almost $600.

The fact that their son, 6-month-old Xavier Huffman, was born at 30 weeks, weighing 1 pound 9 ounces and spending about two months in the neonatal intensive-care unit, drove the effort, Jon Huffman said.

“That was the driver,” he said. “We wanted to support a cause, and the best cause that we could think of was helping people through a (similar) situation.”

He was impressed by the large crowd of supporters: “Suffolk came out in force. There are a lot of people out here. The coordinators really did a lot to get everything together.”

Each year, organizers select a child born prematurely to serve as the event ambassador. This year’s ambassador for the Suffolk event was 6-year-old Sanaa Darden.

Clifton Peele, Sanaa’s grandfather, said the event made him feel proud. “It’s a good thing for the young and the old,” he said. “I’m 68 years old, and I think I’ve done it at least four or five times in the past six years.”

Many teams in the event were fielded from local businesses, city departments and community groups. Rosalind Britt, in her 25th march, said she organized “at least 35” fellow Suffolk police officers to participate.

In another example, 15 girls from Girl Scout Troop 5357, based at Main Street United Methodist Church, donned their best walking shoes, according to Joanne Wunderlich. One troop member, Callen Pabis, is a previous ambassador for the Suffolk march.

“I’m a pediatrician, so definitely it’s a close connection for me,” Wunderlich said, adding that her office, Nansemond Pediatrics, helps support the event.

Barbara Pabis, 8-year-old Callen Pabis’s mother, said it was a great turnout, benefitting from “fantastic” weather.

“It’s an invaluable resource as far as public awareness,” added Pabis, whose 2-year-old, Catia, was also born prematurely. “It’s getting it out there.”

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