EASLEY — South Carolina ranks number three in the United States and the March of Dimes is determined to make a difference along with Mike Batchelor, CEO of Baptist Easley Hospital and chairman of the 2014 March for Babies.
Batchelor, new to the Easley area, said he weighed a mere 3 pounds 4 ounces at birth and spent many years of his youth in extended hospital stays with no understanding as to why. Over the years his parents explained to him his health issues and the efforts of the church where his father was the minister, along with others, to make his healthy development possible.
Now Batchelor is helping give back.
“You have to look at all the kids born in this country each year and the developmental issues they face, not only physically but in school as well,” Batchelor said. “In schools they are delayed and some of these children have deficits to overcome. It takes everyone to make a difference just like all the wonderful people here today.”
The local chapter has set the 2014 goal at $135,000, and based on the energy of those in attendance, the goal could be well within reach. Information was made available to inform teams how to raise money and network, with an emphasis not only on corporate involvement but individuals and families as well.
South Carolina annually ranks near the bottom in premature births with Pickens County having one in every seven children born prematurely. To put that in perspective, the national average is one in nine.
“This is by far the biggest turnout we’ve had, and it’s incredible,” said Erin Reid of March of Dimes. “We have had great participation here in the past and I think this shows it’s going to continue.”
The performances of 2013’s most successful participants were recognized at the event and presentations made to encourage those in attendance to push for others to become involved, but the enthusiasm Batchelor offered to the crowd, and his personal story as well, might help produce the momentum the organization is looking for this year.
“Parents need to be the ones standing out front, especially those who are fortunate to have healthy children,” Batchelor said. “For me, I’m trying to be a model for my kids. They didn’t have the health issues I did and I have stressed that to them, but even more, I’m trying to be an example of giving for them as well.”
For Batchelor, his own success should serve as a reminder of what’s possible.
“I had a low birth weight, was premature, and faced the same things a lot of these children are facing,” Batchelor went on to say. “And I’m here to tell you, if I can do it, become CEO for a great organization like Baptist Easley, they can too.”
The March for Babies 2014 walk is scheduled for April 26 and teams and individuals are welcome to submit their names and goals through the local chapter.
Batchelor wasn’t shy about his commitment to the March for Babies campaign, telling the attendees, “As the new leader at Baptist Easley, I’m in. Totally in.”