Bloomington, MN (KROC-AM News) - Thousands are expected to turn out Saturday for the annual March for Babies event in Minnesota, the oldest such fundraiser in the country.

But there’s a big difference this year for those from the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota. Rather than holding the fundraising walks in cities, there will be one large event at the Mall of America.

Walkers from the Twin Cities, Rochester, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, Red Wing, Mankato, Marshall, New Ulm and Rice and Steele counties will take part in this first-of-its kind walk, which is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.

Six Minnesota mission families will lead the March for Babies at Mall of America, including Carrie and Theron Gammell of Rochester, who support March of Dimes in honor of their sons, Noah and Braeden. Noah was born 7 weeks premature weighing 3 lbs., 4 oz., and spent two weeks in the NICU. Carrie had preeclampsia with Braeden too, and although he made it to 5 lbs., he had some trouble breathing the first few days but came home within a week.

“Our sons would not be the healthy, vivacious and happy kids they are today without the lifesaving therapies and research supported by the March of Dimes,” Theron said. “As direct beneficiaries of the March of Dimes work, it is our duty to advocate for support and attempt to pay it forward.”

The March of Dimes has been improving the health of babies and children for more than 75 years. April 12 marked the 60th anniversary of the announcement that the vaccine developed by March of Dimes-funded researcher Dr. Jonas Salk was safe and effective vaccine for polio in 1955.

Today, premature birth is the most urgent infant health problem in the U.S. It affects nearly half a million babies each year, including one in 10 in Minnesota. Funds raised by March for Babies in Minnesota support research, local programs and advocacy efforts for stronger, healthier babies.

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