The March of Dimes imbornto campaign is intended to engage with parents around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day since our quest for “stronger, healthier babies” truly begins with the most important people in babies’ lives – parents! Through our history, our support of parents has been an understated but crucial aspect of addressing the medical and public health problems that have been the focus of our mission. Only a parent can measure most profoundly the personal effects of illness and disability on a child. Our emphasis today on healthy pregnancy and healthy babies implicitly involves parents in our most important objectives. After all, this concern is at the basis of providing “News Moms Need.”
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are special occasions to honor one’s parents. In the 1950s the March of Dimes recognized Mother’s Day by selecting an annual “Polio Mother of the Year.” But the hoopla surrounding such publicity skirts the momentous fact that the conquest of polio was achieved by millions of women (and men) who joined “Mothers March,” the most successful fund-raiser of those years. “Mothers March on Polio” soon became “Mothers March on Birth Defects,” and the volunteer moms and dads behind these efforts were as much responsible for improving children’s health as the creators of vaccines and the leaders in perinatal breakthroughs. This is but one reason why we laud the contributions of mothers and fathers today.
From Virginia Apgar’s 1972 book of advice to new parents, Is My Baby All Right?, to our decades-long involvement in supporting families undergoing the traumatic experience of a NICU hospitalization, the March of Dimes has appreciated the role of parents in children’s health. Our current push for creating transdisciplinary centers for research on premature birth runs parallel to our propensity for collaboration and team-building, and the role of parents in these endeavors is just as fundamental to the overarching social goals of improving children’s health.
In 1955, the National Father’s Day Committee selected March of Dimes President Basil O’Connor as “Father of the Year.” In the wake of the success of the polio vaccine created with March of Dimes funds by Dr. Jonas Salk, his selection may seem to us all-too-obvious in retrospect. His daughters, Sheelagh O’Connor and Bettyann Culver, attended a recognition luncheon, and the requisite photographs were taken. Among the many letters of congratulations that O’Connor received, one close business contact wrote, “You are a good father, and you are an exceptionally good citizen and good friend.” It is in this spirit of warm appreciation that the March of Dimes pays tribute to mothers and fathers. Hats off to all moms and dads!