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Schools lead March of Dimes effort

Suffolk Public Schools is leading the commonwealth in the march to save the lives of and improve the health of babies.

The school system was honored by the March of Dimes on Thursday for raising the most donations among Virginia public schools and for raising the third most donations among organizations in 2009.

“Suffolk Public Schools has always been a strong force for us,” said Kristin French of the March of Dimes. “Out of all the teams in the state that participate, they collectively turned in more money than all but two of the teams. They beat out organizations with much more – like Amerigroup, Lipton, QVC and other big companies.”

March of Dimes is a non-profit organization aimed at “[improving] the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality,” its mission statement states. Donations fund research and education, which are fundamental to give babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health.

The Suffolk school system has participated in the March of Dimes for at least the past 20 years, according to Bethanne Bradshaw, SPS public information officer. Records for the March of Dimes date back only 13 years, but since that time Suffolk schools have raised $221,000.

“We help raise money to prevent birth defects and premature birth,” Bradshaw said. “As a public school system, our teachers and staff see-first hand the results of what happens when a child has a birth defect.”

The school system hopes that the research and education SPS will play a role to either improve or eliminate the challenges that special needs children have. Additionally, efforts at SPS help raise awareness among women, since the school system is a female-dominant workplace with many teachers at a childbearing age. Lowering the number of high-risk pregnancies also could help to lower insurance costs.

“The bottom line for us though is to get the word out that there is something we can do to make the quality life better for every child that is born,” Bradshaw said. “I hope our accomplishment will challenge other school divisions in the area to do similar.”

This year’s walk is on the afternoon of April 24, and its kick-off breakfast will be held on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Visit www.marchofdimes.com for more information.