TROY - The annual Bradford/Sullivan/Tioga Counties March for Babies in Troy may not be the largest event of its kind, but it's definitely making an impact.

"This is small in terms of population, but every year, you are exceeding your (fundraising) goal," Yasmin Kidwell, March for Babies community director, told organizers of the event Saturday in Troy during the kick-off meeting at the Western Alliance EMS building.

And they're hoping to do the same this year, as well.

Last year, $48,500 was raised, and the fundraising goal this year is $50,000.

According to a news release, March for Babies is the largest annual fundraising event for the March of Dimes, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2013. More than 4 million babies are born in the United States each year and the March of Dimes has helped each and every one of them through research, education, vaccines and breakthroughs, the March of Dimes noted.

This spring, the Bradford/Sullivan/Tioga Counties March for Babies will take place on Saturday, May 11 at Alparon Park in Troy. Families and businesses throughout the area will join together in March for Babies to support the March of Dimes work of helping moms have full-term pregnancies and babies begin healthy lives, according to the March of Dimes.

During the kick-off meeting Saturday in Troy, the 2013 Ambassador Family, the Miller Family from the Canton area, shared their story. They are Ray and Sherry Miller and their 1-year-old son, Zander.

In a prepared statement, Sherry said, "My husband Ray and I are very honored to serve as the Ambassador Family for the Bradford/Sullivan/Tioga Counties March for Babies event because we care very deeply about the mission of improving the health of babies. We joined the March of Dimes in 2010 in memory of our angel baby Lexi Rae Miller. We want to help raise money so all babies can be born healthy. Since 2010, I'm proud to say our team has raised almost $10,000!"

She said their baby, Lexi Rae, was born at 35 weeks as a stillborn on Nov. 1, 2009.

"It was a normal pregnancy with no known medical conditions for mom or baby," she said. "We were devastated. The loss of a child is absolutely heart breaking. But we have an amazing support system and decided to try again. After three rounds of in vitro fertilization, it worked and we found out in July 2011 we were pregnant with Zander."

"I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was closely monitored," she continued. "During one ultrasound, it was found that the baby's left kidney was slightly enlarged and soon after, it was discovered that Zander had fluid around his lung. At 38 weeks, Zander was delivered via emergency c-section during which it was found that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck twice. The NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) found no abnormalities and Zander was cleared to go to the nursery. Three days later, Zander and I were released and went home to be with our family."

She said that some babies arrive too soon and too small to survive, and others are born with a birth defect that requires surgery and extended care in a special care nursery.

"March of Dimes funded the research on many of the treatments in these nurseries, including surfactant therapy and nitric oxide, two applications that help underdeveloped lungs of pre-term babies to breathe easier," she said. "Since the development of these two therapies, two-thirds of the babies who would have died from respiratory distress syndrome now survive their early birth."

"Thanks to the care that we received, and the support of the March of Dimes research and treatment, we were able to experience the relief and joy when Zander was healthy enough to leave the hospital and come home. Today, Zander has grown into an active 1-year-old who loves to play."

In a news release, March of Dimes provided the following information about its efforts:

"Babies who are born too soon or sick usually spend weeks or even months in the hospital and they often have to cope with lifelong health problems or disabilities. The emotional costs to families are high and so are the financial costs to families and their employers. More than 20,000 companies big and small partner with the March of Dimes through March for Babies to reduce the burden and help improve the health of babies. Funds raised by March for Babies help support prenatal wellness programs, research grants, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) family support programs and advocacy efforts for stronger, healthier babies."

"Currently, the March of Dimes is investing more than $99 million nationally and $4.5 million in Pennsylvania in research and programs. Babies born in 2013 have a better chance for a long and healthy life than earlier generations, thanks to 75 years of health advances made possible in part by the March of Dimes. They will live longer and are less likely to have a birth defect than babies born 75 years ago. They are also much less likely to die from an infectious disease thanks to widespread use of vaccinations to prevent polio, rubella, measles and other infections."

At the kick-off meeting, Kidwell said that brochures regarding the March for Babies will be placed in local businesses in the area, and the organization hopes to get schools involved this year in fundraising.

"This is a pretty big focus of ours this year," she said. For example, she noted that classrooms in a school could compete by seeing which class has the most dime wrappers. A prize might be a cake or a healthier option, she noted.

She also noted that there will be a special emphasis on the 75th anniversary of March of Dimes.

For more information about the March for Babies, visit http://marchforbabies.org/.

Becky Leljedal, the local March for Babies chair, also attended the kick-off. She said participation in the event has grown over the years.

In addition, the top teams from 2012 were recognized. They were Team Chesapeake, Kruzin in Memory of Kolten, Addy Lou, Grayson's Gang, and Live Love Babies. Also, the top walkers from 2012 were acknowledged. They were Crystal McCusker, Jennifer Dolan, Becky Leljedal, Serena Cahoon, and Sherry Miller.

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com.