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March for Babies® Kicks Off At New York Stock Exchange

GE's Bill Fitzgerald, Honorary Chair of Event, is Joined by Eight-year-old Girl Born Prematurely, And Top Volunteers to Ring The Closing Bell®

NEW YORK, Feb. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Bill Fitzgerald, Vice President and General Manager of Commercial Engines Operation at GE Aviation and National Chairman of this year's March for Babies, was joined today by eight-year-old Nina Centofanti to ring The Closing Bell® at the New York Stock Exchange and kick off March for Babies fundraising season. Nina, the March of Dimes 2013 National Ambassador, was born premature weighing less than 3 pounds.

"As chairman for the March for Babies campaign, it is an honor to represent the many dedicated volunteers and donors today at the closing bell of the NYSE," says Mr. Fitzgerald. "Their work, energy, donations and advocacy help make a difference every day. Little Nina has proven what a great ambassador she is for March of Dimes. She and her family's story give us hope and serve as inspiration to families across the country. Events like this one today will increase awareness, participation and funding for this year's March for Babies campaign."

One major healthcare problem facing the U.S. today is the alarming rate of babies born preterm. Nearly 500,000 babies are born too soon in the United States each year, costing the nation more than $26 billion annually. Babies who survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges including cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and other chronic conditions.

"March of Dimes research helped save me when I was born premature," says Nina. "As national ambassador I hope I can help other babies from being born too soon."

Nina, now a healthy eight-year-old, will tour the country with her mother and father, Chris and Vince Centofanti, helping to raise awareness that premature birth can happen to anyone. Chris was a neonatal nurse who had cared for hundreds of babies, and Vince works for GE Healthcare Maternal Infant Care division -- and despite their experience, they were not prepared for the emotional trauma caused by Nina's early birth. The family will participate in March for Babies events later this spring. Most events occur the last weekend in April: April 27th and 28th.

Over the past 25 years, GE employees have supported the March for Babies, walking every April to raise money and awareness. Last year, 143 GE teams from 25 different sites participated in March for Babies. In 2013, GE's employee-led support hopes to increase participation and raise $1 million.

Last year, nearly 20,000 companies took part in March for Babies and accounted for approximately 75 percent of the $106 million raised on behalf of stronger, healthier babies. The goal for this year's event is $109 million.  March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes' number one corporate supporter, Kmart, and other top sponsors Farmers Insurance Group, Macy's, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur, Famous Footwear, Actavis, Mission Pharmacal, and United Airlines.

March for Babies takes place in more than 750 communities all across the United States. To join a March for Babies event near you, visit marchforbabies.org

In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life.  Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive.  Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects.  About 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, and all have benefitted the March of Dimes life saving research and education.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

SOURCE March of Dimes

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