CLARION — The March of Dimes, originally founded in 1938 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat polio, has staged its annual springtime March for Babies the past 50 years to procure funds that go toward preventing premature births, birth defects, and infant mortality.
Clarion’s Stephen Gendler has participated in the march for the last 25, raising approximately $25,000 for a cause meaningful to him.
“When I was born (1943) I had a prenatal injury and the March of Dimes was publicizing a new method of treatment called the Sister Kenny Method. Sister (Elizabeth) Kenny was not a nun, she was a nurse in Australia and she came up with a method of compresses instead of braces,” Gendler said.
Kenny’s method, used in the treatment of poliomyelitis, involved applying hot compresses to affected limbs, after which the extremity was manipulated using passive movements to facilitate restoration of function. Though controversial when first developed, Kenny’s principles became the foundation of rehabilitation practices used in modern physical therapy.
“Because my mother used the method publicized by the March of Dimes I can use my arm, not perfectly but I can use it a little bit. I feel the March of Dimes was responsible for my mother being able to do what she did to make me have a useful arm instead of a brace the rest of my life,” Gendler explained.
The 2020 event, which was rebranded March For Babies Step Up! and culminated April 15, was completely virtual in consideration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s precautions against staging large events. As such, participants had been “marching” since April 2, counting steps and miles in areas safe to them and submitting information via an app.
Gendler, who walks as member of the local Kiwanis team, has been participating virtually for the past several years. “They used to walk in Clarion for 20 years, maybe more. Then they moved it to Clearfield. I didn’t want to drive to Clearfield, it’s too far, so I found out I could do a virtual walk and still raise money,” he said. “And this year because of the virus they’re doing it (a virtual walk) for everybody because it isn’t safe to have the walk.”
Throughout its existence the March of Dimes’ has directed funds to meet society’s changing needs. As such, a portion of those monies raised this year are earmarked for mothers and babies impacted by the coronavirus.
Gendler looks forward to making his annual $1,000 contribution, generated in part through personally matching donations by colleagues at Clarion University, where he has taught mathematics for 51 years.
“I think it’s a positive charity. They do what they’re trying to do.”