Francine Verzi helped bring Sunday's Rockland County March for Babies into focus with a little crowd participation.
"Please raise your hands if you've ever loved, hugged, cared for or missed a little, tiny baby. That should be all of us," Verzi said. "Every one of us have been affected by the life of a little baby in one way, shape or form an many of us will never be the same again."
The March for Babies raises money for the March of Dimes to help promote infant health and provide aid for babies in need. That cause drew approximately 700 people to Blue Hill Plaza in Pearl River for the 2013 Rockland County March for Babies Sunday.
"The March of Dimes is a champion for babies, those who are born healthy and those who need help to survive and thrive like my own kids did," said Elizabeth Twomey-Galvin of the March of Dimes. "It’s a great cause, one that touches all of us, especially those of us here this morning."
Twomey-Galvin listed ways the March of Dimes supports infant health, including helping families of premature babies, informing women about healthy pregnancies and supporting research into medical issues that threaten the health of babies.
"Our mission is to improve the health of all babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality," Twomey-Galvin said. "By engaging more people in our mission and educating more pregnant women and moms about healthy babies, we hope to reach our goal of giving every baby a healthy start that much sooner."
Verzi's son Franco, now a healthy six-year-old, was born 14 weeks prematurely. The Verzis were this year's Rockland County March for Babies ambassador family.
"Unknowingly throughout this journey, Franco and I had a silent angel who sat quietly by our bedsides," Francine Verzi said. "The angel that I speak of was the March of Dimes program, whose spirit was with us every step of the way, navigating the skills and practices of our doctors through its invaluable years of research."
Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart joined in the walk after speaking to the crowd about the importance of helping pregnant women stay healthy.
"It's so inspiring to see the Verzi family here and to be part of the March of Dimes, which has done so much for having healthy births in the United States," Stewart said. "Just a moment ago, we raised our hands if you've ever loved or taken care of a child. Just as important as that and coming a little before is if you have helped a woman have a healthy pregnancy. Have you provided a good meal or supported her to get enough sleep? We all know what a big deal an how stressful it is to bring a child into the world and taking care of women during that time is so important."
Rockland County Legislator Ed Day spoke about the many health issues the March of Dimes has worked to address during its 75 years, beginning with the battle against Polio. He also spoke about the current mission.
"Everybody take a moment and look around you. Look at the faces of the children around you," Day said. "That's exactly what we are looking at doing today, to take care of the children in the community and prevent terrible diseases that often come upon our children."
Twomey-Galvin asked the crowd for a moment of silence for victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
"It's not as easy to gather together as it once was." she said.
Volunteers with the Pearl River Fire Department came to support the community event and promote fire safety. Rockland County Fire Prevention set up with information and demonstrations.
Trainers from Vision Fitness in Pearl River led the crowd through a warm-up before the walk. Sharon Masciovecchio of the March of Dimes said Sunday's event got a boost from the participation of members of the track and field teams at Nanuet High School and Clarkstown South High School.