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Volume 68, Issue 105, Thursday, February 27, 2003


Campus community to march for Dimes

Cougar News Services

Students interested in participating in March of Dimes' annual WalkAmerica fundraiser should start lacing up their walking shoes because team registration is open in the Office of Student Affairs. Participants have two months to raise funds before WalkAmerica takes over Houston's streets April 27.

College campuses, businesses and other groups organize WalkAmerica sites across the nation, and the UH System hosts two of the five Houston WalkAmerica sites at the main campus and UH-Clear Lake. The main campus walk site is the largest in Houston, UH WalkAmerica coordinator Juanita Jackson said.

UH President Arthur K. Smith, who will be on hand the morning of April 27 to start the proceedings, encourages all students, faculty and staff to participate, Jackson said. Smith recently signed an agreement with March of Dimes to hold WalkAmerica at the University for another five years, said Ernestine Pina-Sandoval, director of communications for the Texas Gulf Coast March of Dimes.

Registration is under way and anyone can pick up a packet from the Office of Student Affairs to sign up a team.

In past years, a wide variety of campus organizations, including sororities and fraternities, the Metropolitan Volunteer Program, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and The Honors College have signed up teams to walk, but teams can be any size, Jackson said.

This year's proceeds from WalkAmerica will support March of Dimes' new five-year campaign to research the causes of premature births and reduce their occurrence. More than 460,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States every year, but medical research can only explain why in about half those cases, Pina-Sandoval said.

Besides being the leading cause of neonatal death, according to March of Dimes research, prematurity can lead to serious lifelong health problems such as mental retardation, chronic lung disease and cerebral palsy. The new campaign's research will help educate health care providers and pregnant women about risk factors for premature birth and possible ways to prevent it.

UH teams raised nearly $12,000 for March of Dimes last year, and about 40,000 people participated in the campus walk, Jackson said.

"We're trying to meet or beat last year's numbers," she said. "We're going to do the best that we can do." 

Students who want to contribute to the cause but cannot participate in the actual walk also have many on-campus options. Several locations on campus will be selling the trademark March of Dimes paper shoes, which are displayed with the buyer's name written on them. WalkAmerica teams can sell candy, Beanie Babies and raffle tickets for a 2003 Chevy S-10 pickup, which will be raffled off during the April 27 ceremonies.

Direct donations through the Office of Student Affairs are also welcome, Jackson said.

"We usually ask for at least $10, but if someone turns in a dollar or even a can ­ anything ­ we'll accept it," she said. "It all helps."

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