When Amelia Snellenberger was born she luckily avoided the complications that come with a premature birth.
"However when she came out she was really, really sick," explains her dad, Sam.
Fortunately for the Kent family she was born at Akron Children's Hospital, where she benefitted from the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital's Akron campus.
Today, Amelia is a happy and healthy first-grader at Franklin Elementary School thanks in large part to the care she received as a newborn.
"They just did a phenomenal job for us," Sam said. “She is a normal kid. She’s 6 years old and doing great."
In an effort to say thanks, the Snellenbergers in 2007 started Walk4Babies, an annual fundraiser held at the Akron Zoo to support the NICU at Akron Children's.
This year marked the sixth year, and more than 1,500 people on 143 teams showed up on Sept. 23 at the zoo to support Walk4Babies.
Snellenberger said they've raised $142,000 so far towards a goal of $1 million.
"Since we are all volunteers, and not a big corporation masquerading as a non-profit, 100 percent of that money goes to the NICU right here in Akron," he said. "Originally our goal was to raise $1 million over five years, and we didn’t hit the five-year goal so we kept going. And honestly, I don’t think we’ll be able to stop once we hit the goal because it’s a very rewarding thing."
The hospital uses the money raised by Walk4Babies for a variety of needs.
Sara Lundenberger, the special events coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital, said the hospital recently used money from the Walk4Babies fund to buy 30 Kangaroo Chairs. The chairs are used as part a method called Kangaroo Care, which promotes skin-to-skin contact between mothers and premature babies.
"It can be used for equipment, staffing, nursing classes, anything like that," Lundenberger said. "Events like this not only raise much needed funds for the hospital, but they also raise awareness for what the hospital is and our mission."
The walk is non-competitive and is essentially a stroll through the zoo that accomodates people of all abilities. After one hour, the walkers gather in the zoo gardens to listen to speakers, who this year included a neonatalogist, a family whose child spent time in the NICU and Akron Children's CEO William Considine.
Snellenberger said some families have started to plan reunions and other get-togethers around the annual walk. Individual teams, who Snellenberger said were highly organized this year, each wear matching T-shirts to support their group.
"We would encourage everybody to come to it," he said. "People can learn more or sign up for the walk at the website."