Minutes before the March of Dimes fundraising walk began Sunday morning, thunder clapped and rain clawed at the plastic roof covering the Power & Light District.
Most families opted to hang out in the sheltered mezzanine, especially when the rain began to roar overhead. But all those kids, parents and grandparents turned the washout into an impromptu party instead.
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The crowd swayed and boogied to the rock music of Parachute Adam, a band whose four members are all daddies, including one whose wife had a premature baby.
March of Dimes spokeswoman Erin Kiekbusch said that some 8,000 people registered for the event and that her group reached its goal of raising $1 million.
The crowd swelled as the thunder grew louder. Boy Scouts and others wearing volunteer badges passed out bags of free lunches: a grilled hot dog, potato chips and a banana.
A few hardy families decided to splash through the one-mile fun course.
They said they had already endured a marathon of stormy days and nights, with scary births, serious surgeries on their tiny family members and the stark surrealism of entering a neonatal unit.
“So what’s a little rain after all that?” asked Carrie Hall, shrugging.
The mom from Buckner was soaked. Her hair was plastered to her head, her clothes dripping. Hall and her family looked like they had jumped into a swimming pool. But as she talked, she leaned over to double-check 4-month-old Ella, their newest family member and the reason they decided as a family to raise almost $500.
Ella was warm and dry, pink-cheeked and snuggly in her stroller.
A healthy little baby.
Nearby, a group of women without any children held three dog leashes. They were neonatal nurse practitioners from Children’s Mercy Hospital. All wore the same blue T-shirt with the motto “There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.”
“It’s so heartwarming to see our patients here,” explained Kerry Kohrs, who said this was the seventh year she has participated. “On a bad day, you can remember coming here and seeing your former patients and know that everything you do is worth it. … It’s great to know your job makes a difference.”