TAMPA, Fla. - Hillsborough County came together on Saturday to support the smallest members of our community, the babies.
Hundreds filled Thunder Alley at Amalie Arena for the 2019 March For Babies, hosted by March of Dimes Hillsborough County.
The march doubles as a fundraiser for preterm birth research and resources for families in the Tampa Bay Area, like the Mejia's.
Denny Mejia is a happy toddler who was born premature at just 26 weeks.
"He was really, really small," says his older sister Ennerys. "Now he's 35 pounds."
Denny stayed at the Tampa General Hospital NICU for the first two months of his life, and today the Mejia's are the 2019 March for Babies Ambassador Family.
"Everything is possible if you really believe, and first of all we always thank God for everything," his sister added.
In the March of Dimes world, purple and white have a special significance. The colors are reflected in the lei's handed out to participants.
Purple leis are given to parents of preemies, and white leis are given to those who have experienced infant loss, which happens a lot more in U.S. than you may think.
"One in ten babies are born too soon here in the United States," said Maternal and Child Health Director Brian Kirk, giving the most recent statistics. "It has long-term impacts on their health and well being. And what we're seeing now as well is significant health disparities between what we're seeing for African-American births and white births. What we're trying to do is make sure that we're raising all boats and ensuring that we can increase the education and awareness around issues that impact preterm birth."
Collectively, Hillsborough County raised over $220,200 in donations.
For more information on March of Dimes, click here.