“We see that preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and among all racial/ethnic groups,” said March of Dimes president Stacey D. Stewart. “This is an unacceptable trend that requires immediate attention.”

The Rotary Club of Gonzales raised money for premature babies at the High Heels for High Hopes Ladies’ Gala at the Clarion Inn. The fundraiser benefits the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to pregnancy and healthy babies.

At the gala, local “celebrity” waiters served the ladies in the audience. State Representatives Clay Shexnayder and Johnny Berthelot, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley and Chief Deputy Bobby Webre, and Gonzales City Councilman Neal Bourque were just a few of the big-name servers at the event. Parish Public Information Officer Martin McConnell acted as MC for the night.

Event chairman Olin Berthelot said he was pleased with the turnout. He thanked the sponsors for their generous donations, which made the gala a tremendous success.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Berthelot said, “We’re raising a lot of money for a good cause.”

The event featured a variety of fundraisers aimed at collecting as many dollars as possible to support March of Dimes. Tables were reserved ahead of the event for a fee, and raffle tickets for door prizes donated by local businesses were sold throughout the night. A piggy bank on each table was “fed” when a bell rang out in the hall, and drinks were sold at the bar.

Silent and live auctions were held with items donated by area stores. Attendees could also purchase necklaces with keys on them. The keys were later used to try to open a chest containing a necklace worth more than $2,000. All of the money raised supports the March of Dimes.

This is the fifth year the Rotary Club of Gonzales has sponsored the event. Last year’s event raised more than $30,000 for the March of Dimes. Berthelot said the goal was to top last year’s donation total.

The event comes after Louisiana received an F rating on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. According to March of Dimes, more than 380,000 babies are born preterm in the U.S. each year, the leading contributor to infant death in the country. In Louisiana, 12.6 percent of babies are born premature, earning the state an F on the 2017 Report Card.

“We see that preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and among all racial/ethnic groups,” said March of Dimes president Stacey D. Stewart. “This is an unacceptable trend that requires immediate attention.”

Stewart said the March of Dimes is committed to giving every baby a fair chance for a healthy start in life, making the organization’s work more vital than ever. Birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy is the largest contributor to infant deaths in the U.S. Babies who survive an early birth often face health problems like jaundice, vision loss, intellectual delays, breathing problems, and cerebral palsy. Preterm births account for more than $26 billion in annual medical costs, according to the National Academy of Medicine.

“In addition to discovering new ways to prevent premature birth, and improve the care that women receive, it’s essential that we improve the broader social context for health,” says Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes. “Only then will our nation be able to level the playing field for mothers and babies in every community.”

There is no cause of preterm birth and no simple solution. The March of Dimes is taking action on multiple fronts both at the state and national levels to spread known innovations to give every baby a fighting chance.

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