About 10,000 people walked Sunday in the annual March for Babies downtown, and these families and friends all crossed over Interstate 670 on the Walnut Street bridge, known this day as “Baby Boulevard.”
Amy Moreland is the volunteer who made it so. Many hours before the 10 a.m. start of the annual March of Dimes fundraiser, she posted hundreds of babies’ photos on the fencing on both sides of the bridge.
Small posters included the premature babies’ names, birth weights and number of weeks gestation. Next to their birth photos were their more current “Look at me now!” pictures.
Mixed among those photos were the “angels,” tiny preemies who didn’t make it, often with tributes from their families.
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“The pictures represent so much to those families,” said Moreland of Edwardsville. “For some it’s a sign of the battle of everything they did to make it through. For some, it’s a memory — their guardian angels up there.”
With help from her son, daughter and a few friends, Moreland posted 493 pictures, in alphabetical order, turning the bridge into a photo gallery.
“I get out there and fall in love with every picture I hang up,” she said.
Baby Boulevard has been a volunteer project for Moreland for about seven years. She has made good friends through the work and grew particularly close to Bridget and Ken Swearingen and their daughter, Maggie, of Kansas City, Kan.
The Swearingens, Moreland and other friends and family members in their group of 15 were easy to spot Sunday, all wearing purple and white tutus. Why tutus?
“The princess asked for them,” said Bridget Swearingen, nodding to 9-year-old Maggie, who grinned.
Maggie was born weighing 1 pound, 5 ounces, and spent two months in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Hospital, said Bridget Swearingen, who had lost a baby boy before Maggie.
“I love seeing all these people,” Bridget Swearingen said. “Some are here for their families, some are here to support the cause. It is so awesome.”
The Walnut Street bridge is near the start line. Tempestt Richard of Kansas City was there, snapping a picture of her 2-year-old, Izaiah Frederick, next to his “Baby Boulevard” photo. She said she was thrilled to be walking with so many others.
Izaiah was born at 25 weeks gestation weighing 2 pounds, 1 ounce, and spent 94 days at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“It was a roller-coaster,” Richard said.
Jennifer Hamblin Robinson, communications director of the March of Dimes’ Kansas chapter, said the walk was expected to raise about $1 million. The event offered one- and three-mile routes.
The March of Dimes calls premature birth the most urgent infant health problem in the country. The organization supports research, prenatal wellness and programs for families with babies in neonatal intensive care units.