March of Dimes gearing up for yearly event

Southeast Texas has always been a charitable area when called upon to donate for local causes, even in this economy that has ravaged charitable giving.

For Donna Blanchette and the March of Dimes program, they’re counting on the generosity of the area once again as they ramp up fundraising for this year’s March of Dimes 2012 March for Babies. This year’s event is a three-mile walk that will take place on the Lamar campus beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 21. Last year more than 1,000 people participated.

March of Dimes is a nonprofit that raises money to help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies. The March for Babies walk is a national event that raises millions of dollars each year to help fund the local March of Dimes chapters.

The Beaumont chapter of the March of Dimes kicked off its annual fundraising with a dinner and banquet at the MCM Eleganté Tuesday night, Feb. 7, to recognize last year’s top fundraisers while introducing the man tasked with making 2012 even more prosperous than 2011 – Slate Babineaux.

Blanchette, director of the program, said last year’s sum total – including sponsorships and money raised through the walk – was just under $200,000, and this year with Babineaux leading the fundraising charge, the goal has been set at $215,000, and all parties involved think is attainable.

“There is a lot of support down here and we’ve had success in the past raising money,” said Blanchette, who admits that charitable spending is down across the board for nonprofits, but that Southeast Texas always steps up to the plate thanks to the generosity of the people and businesses in this area. “It can be a challenge, but ultimately everybody pulls together and does really well.”

Blanchette said the organization is also looking for volunteers between now and April to help organize and put the event together. “Right now it’s just me and a part-time person, so we definitely need volunteers.”

One of the businesses that has been helpful is Air Comfort Inc., which has sponsored and donated to the March of Dimes event for the last 10 years. That was how Babineaux, vice president of Air Comfort, became involved with the March of Dimes, and now he’s gearing up to get with previous sponsors as well as reach out to new ones to help meet the lofty goal.

“We’ve had teams participate with March of Dimes in the past, so I know how well-organized it is and its importance to the community,” said Babineaux, who has not just a professional connection with March of Dimes but a personal one, as well, considering his child was born prematurely. Fortunately for Babineaux and his family, his twins born at about 37 weeks recovered well and did not have to spend any time in the NICU, but he knows how excruciating a period that was.

“It’s nice to know that in the event I would’ve needed help, March of Dimes would’ve been there,” Babineaux said. He also has a close friend of his whose two children were both born prematurely and ended up in the NICU, and it’s those kind of experiences that he keeps in the back of his mind when drumming up support for this year’s March for Babies.

“The March of Dimes is a great organization, and we’re going to work hard to go after new sponsorships as well as talking to those who have donated in the past,” said Babineaux. “We want to be successful in reaching our goal so we can give that money back to the March of Dimes and they can put it to good use.”

 

For information on volunteering, contact Donna Blanchette at (409) 835-7606. For sponsorship and donating information, contact Slate Babineaux at (409) 833-5665.

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