LUMBERTON — When Robeson County native Millicent Collins was approached in October by the local chapter of the March of Dimes to take over the position of 2014 March for Babies Chair for the Lumber River area, she says her first thought was that she needed to “learn everything.”
Though Collins officially accepted the job in May, the announcement was only formerly made on Tuesday, which she says gave her plenty of time to study up on an organization she says is more important in Robeson County than ever.
“The March of Dimes is an organization that’s mission has been to improve the health of babies,” Collins said. “So upon finding out that premature infant fatalities are highest in Native American and African Americans, I knew this was something our community couldn’t ignore. There are 16,000 babies born too soon in our state (a year).”
Collins, who serves as grant writer for Robeson County, says that the nonprofit holds a personal place in her heart, in part because she is a mother of two.
“Having a baby too soon is a very delicate subject for mothers and fathers and we as humans are very private, so I learned friends who had babies premature, who I would have never known were going through that otherwise,” Collins said. “Once they realize there is a way to help, they want to get involved, and I am able to help them do that.”
The March for Babies walk, which will be taking place Sept. 27 at Luther Britt Park, is the largest annual fund-raising event for the March of Dimes.
As March for Babies chair, Collins will play an integral role in raising awareness and money to advance the scientific research and educational programs at the core of the March of Dimes effort to find causes and ways to prevent preterm birth and birth defects.
“There is still a lot that we do not know about premature birth and why it happens more to some groups than others,” Collins said. “It is one of the reasons funding this research is so important.”
The March of Dimes is a not-for-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status that was established in the 1930s in White Plains, N.Y. Today the organization has 51 chapters across the United States.
Residents are invited to sign up for the walk at marchforbabies.org and start a team with co-workers, family and friends. Last year, an estimated 300 people attended the event. Those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP to March of Dimes Community director, Stacey Prevette, at 910-778-5674.