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Makayla Post, 9, sat next to a Dora the Explorer play set, pretending to chomp on the plastic cheeseburger her little brother held to her mouth.
Theron Street, 2, smiled at his big sister for every bite, shaking a miniature spatula in his other hand.
“Bubby,” as Makayla calls the tot, would smile an even broader smile if he understood what his sister is up to.
Inspired by Theron, who was born seven weeks early and weighed in at just 3 pounds, 10 ounces, Makayla is on a mission to raise money for March of Dimes in her brother’s honor for the third year.
March of Dimes works to prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. Its annual campaign culminates with a community walk. In Hardin County, the annual walk is April 27 at Elizabethtown High School.
The 2013 campaign kickoff is at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Historic State Theater in downtown Elizabethtown. There, participants will hear about the local impact of March of Dimes and hear from a family that has experienced three premature births and will serve as the 2013 Ambassador Family.
Materials for team captains and tips for successful fundraising, such as leveraging online methods, will be available, too, said Alana Sharp, community director with March of Dimes.
“It’s about taking their teams to the next level,” Sharp said.
For Theron, March of Dimes provided expensive RSV vaccines made especially for premature babies, said Betty Post, his and Makayla’s grandmother. Since his small start, he’s caught up with his peers, she said.
Theron spent his first three weeks at University Hospital in Louisville. During her visits, Makayla noticed the March of Dimes logos throughout the nursery area.
“We were at the hospital and she said, ‘Mamaw, there’s March of Dimes. Can I walk for my brother?’ And I said yes,” Post said.
The extended family had walked in connection with Hardin Memorial Hospital for years and then formed a family team in memory of a relative’s stillborn son, so Makayla was familiar with the fundraiser and March of Dimes’ purpose, Post said.
“I want to help the babies,” Makayla said. “It’s for babies to be born healthy.”
She goes beyond collecting pledges and marching to earn them. With her family’s help, she’s worked with area businesses to place donation jars, sold hot dogs in parking lots and sang karaoke for tips in restaurants.
She’s learned of people’s kindness. A man in a restaurant where Makayla was singing once told fellow diners, “This girl’s doing a good job. Everybody, give her $20.” A lot of the patrons followed that man’s lead.
She’s learned not to let unkind people discourage her, too, she said. An Elizabethtown business owner told her she could leave a jar on his counter if he was the first to donate, and he pushed some dollar bills into the container. When Makayla retrieved it, that money was gone and only a few coins were inside.
Makayla raised $1,900 in 2001 and $2,332 in 2012, and she earned plaques recognizing her as the top youth walker at the Hardin County event. In 2011, the T-shirt she designed — featuring photos of Theron and his tiny newborn footprints — earned a prize, too. Last year, she was the 69th highest fundraising youth in the United States and earned a President’s Award, a lapel pin from the March of Dimes president.
She treasures those awards, she said, carefully storing them in the original packaging.
But those are not her only awards. Makayla also enjoys participating in beauty pageants and has dedicated a section of her bedroom to displaying her trophies, tiaras and ribbons. This year, she and her family are partnering with Star One Pageants to host a fundraising beauty pageant for Team Theron. The pageant is March 10 at Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown. For information, email leslie@staronepageants.
Throughout Hardin County, campaign organizers aim to raise $130,000 this year. the area raised about $100,000 last year, Sharp said.
It’s a lofty goal, she noted, but as the organization celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, it’s the right time to ask those involved to give their best.
Sarah Berkshire can be reached at (270) 505-1745 or email@example.com.
Hardin County March of Dimes
Kickoff event: 2 p.m. Sunday at Historic State Theater in Elizabethtown
Community walk: April 27 at Elizabethtown High School
Hardin County fundraising goal: $130,000