Babies born even just a few weeks early are extremely vulnerable to serious, often life-threatening health issues. Many don't make it. Ever year, more than half a million babies in the United States are born too early. The March of Dimes, a charitable nonprofit organization with chapters throughout the United States, works to save these babies and to prevent premature births.

Rising to the Battle

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The March of Dimes was founded in 1938 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States. He led the country from a wheelchair polio had put him in. The polio epidemic during its height in 1952 in the United States killed 3,145 and left 21,269 with paralysis. The original name of the March of Dimes was the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, and its original purpose was to fight and cure polio. In 1955, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio using money donated to his research by the March of Dimes. By 1962 the number of U.S. polio cases had dropped from 45,000 to 910,

Marching in Time

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According to the the March of Dimes, its current name originated from comedian Eddie Cantor who coined the phrase using a pun of the then-popular "March of Time" newsreel. He used the rationale that anyone could spare a dime. The first March of Dimes fundraising campaign raised over 2.8 million dimes that were sent directly to the White House.

Continuing to Save Lives

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After polio was all but eradicated from the Western Hemisphere in the late 19th century, the March of Dimes mission focused on birth defects, and then it evolved to its current status of preventing premature births and helping sick infants. Its slogan is "working together for stronger, healthier babies." The organization raises money for research and education to improve the health of babies.