Suffolk hosting kickoff for WalkAmerica

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 7, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Lace up those walking shoes and gear up for the 2004 Annual Suffolk WalkAmerica on April 25.

The festivities will kick off with a breakfast at 8 a.m. Feb. 19, where any group, organization or business interested in forming a team for this year’s walk will meet. The meal will be hosted by Holiday Inn Suffolk, 2864 Pruden Blvd.


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&uot;If you want to find out how to be a part of this exciting local event designed to raise money for the March of Dimes, come to the kick-off breakfast,&uot; said Bethanne Bradshaw, chairwoman of the Suffolk walk. &uot;Or you can call Stacey Sult at the March of Dimes regional office at 361-0000 to RSVP by Friday, Feb. 13.&uot;

Each year, the March of Dimes selects a local child to serve as Suffolk’s Ambassador Child. This year, 2-year-old Ashlynn Marie Bennett was chosen for that honor.

The daughter of Ray and Lorrie Bennett, owners of Ray’s Florist, Ashlynn was born prematurely on Aug. 26, 2001. On Thursday, her parents were making arrangements for her fourth open-heart surgery taking place this spring at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

The little girl battled pneumonia, clinging to life by a slender thread for her first 11 days of existence. She was transported to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters where she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease.

&uot;We were blessed that our little girl came with a determination to survive and opportunities provided by the March of Dimes-funded research,&uot; said Ray Bennett. &uot;With great faith in God and the advances in open-heart surgery, Ashlynn had her first surgery when she was 15 days old at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.&uot;

Ashlynn spent the next 26 days in the cardiac intensive care unit, then underwent a second heart operation. Her heart condition continues to be constantly monitored by specialists.

&uot;She is a true blessing with her happy personality, beautiful smile and healthy progress,&uot; said Bennett. &uot;As parents, we urge support of the March of Dimes so all children will have the chance for a healthy life.&uot;

The 2003 Suffolk TeamWalk saw the enthusiasm of more than 300 walkers making the loop from downtown through Riverview, Lakeside, and back. The walkers raised almost $60,000 to help the March of Dimes’ Campaign for Healthier Babies.

The target for WalkAmerica 2004 in Suffolk is $63,617. The kick-off point and after-walk celebration will be held at the courtyard beside the Mills E. Godwin Municipal Court Complex on North Main Street.

WalkAmerica is the March of Dimes’ largest fundraiser. Last year, more than 500,000 people walked in some 1,400 communities, raising more than a million dollars.

WalkAmerica supports March of Dimes’ programs to help babies be born healthy.

More babies in this country die because of birth defects, low birth weight, and premature births than any other cause.

Through its nationwide Campaign for Healthier Babies, the March of Dimes raises funds to support research, education and health services to overcome these critical problems. Over the years, the March of Dimes has ensured many successes – conquering the ravages of polio, developing the PKU newborn screening tests, creating the life-saving surfactant therapy to help premature babies breathe, and building neonatal intensive care units such as the one at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.

To date, the following organizations have registered walking teams: Suffolk Public Schools, Wilroy Baptist Church, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Suffolk Health Department, Lakeview Medical Center, the city of Suffolk’s Parks and Recreation, Ashlynn’s Team, Community Electric, Nansemond River Pilot Club, Oakland Christian Church, QVC, Sara Lee Coffee & Tea, Obici Health Systems, Lake Prince Retirement Center, First Federal Savings Bank, Virginia Employment Commission and the Suffolk Police Department.

Sponsorships are still available for the April 25 event, Bradshaw said. Thus far, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, QVC and Sara Lee Coffee & Tea are gold sponsors, $2,000 level, of this year’s event; Physical Therapy Works and Dominion Virginia Power, silver sponsors, $1,500 level; Karen’s for Kids will be sponsoring a new Children’s Activities Tent, $750 level; Lakeview Medical Center’s pediatrics department and Supreme Foods are start/finish sponsors, $500 level; Starr Motors, $250 level; and Univar USA Inc., $100 sponsor.

Still available are T-shirt sponsorships for $1,000 each, and mile-post marker or mission sign sponsorships for $100 each. Call Sult for additional information.

Besides Bennett and Bradshaw, this year’s local committee includes Jackie Russell, Suffolk Health Department; April O’Berry, Ciba Specialty Chemicals; Lori White, Obici Health Systems; Sharon Lassister, Sharon’s Hair Design; Donna McIntosh, Lakeview Medical Center; Bill Kelly, city of Suffolk’s Parks and Recreation Department; Jeanne Banks and Tara Moore, Nansemond River Pilot Club; and Melissa Carr and Joe Garlitz, Suffolk Kiwanis Club.

More information on the March of Dimes is available on the organization’s Web sites, and