Friday, May 02, 2008

Miscarriage spurred Brenda Panone to help

Portage's Brenda Panone experienced a nightmare more than two years ago -- the loss of an infant shortly after birth.

But she has turned that experience around and has used it to become a volunteer with the Kalamazoo Division of the March of Dimes and is working to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Panone was just 22 weeks pregnant when the premature delivery took place.

Dana DeLuca, Kalamazoo March of Dimes division director, wrote about the rest of the story. ``Their son was born and only lived for one hour,'' DeLuca wrote. ``When he passed away, Brenda and her husband experienced a gamut of emotions ranging from sorrow to anger, helplessness and, ultimately, despair. ...

``Eventually, Brenda's aim became to trade all of her negative feelings to positive ones. She felt she owed it to her son to honor and celebrate his life and not consistently grieve over his death.''

Then Panone saw the TV commercial. It was about the March of Dimes and its mission to give every baby a healthy start on life. She went to the Kalamazoo Division of the March of Dimes and inquired about volunteering to help others. She has been a volunteer for more than two years.

She has been a volunteer force in the annual WalkAmerica event, now the March for Babies. She has also worked the Signature Chefs Auction, the Change for Babies and the annual Breadlift.

``I've gotten a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that some of the children I have met who were born prematurely are now raising funds to help their babies,'' Panone said. ``It is my hope that the work the March of Dimes accomplishes continues to give the problem of pre-term labor, birth defects and infant mortality a voice, so that one day all babies can be born healthy.''

WalkAmerica, the March of Dimes largest fund-raising event, has been renamed the March for Babies this year.

In Kalamazoo, the event is May 3. Registration begins at 8 a.m. in Kalamazoo's downtown Arcadia Creek festival site. Last year, more than 500 area residents gathered to raise more than $71,000 for the organization. The March for Babies Web site -- -- has more information on signing up to take part or call 1-800-525-9255 to sign up for the walk or donate. Sponsor forms are also available at Kmart -- a major sponsor of the march -- or Famous Footwear. Many other businesses, nationwide, are behind the event.

DeLuca stressed that the mission priority of is to fight the growing incidence of premature birth. ``Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death,'' she said. ``We are committed to reducing its toll. By engaging more people in our mission and educating more pregnant women and moms about healthy babies, we hope to reach that goal much sooner.''


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