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Healthy Babies Healthy Futures Chairperson Faye McClure (middle) poses with honorees. Â From left to right, Lisa Leslie, Mhayse G. Samalya, and Shirley and Bernard Kinsey. (Photo by Jason Lewis)
By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
The March of Dimes held the 12th Annual Healthy Babies Healthy Futures black tie banquet this past Friday night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Four hundred guests were treated to a first class event as the March of Dimes raised funds to support African American families.
This fundraiser has been extremely successful over the years for the March of Dimes, helping the organization raise nearly $3 million since its inception.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. Â Across the country the March of Dimes Chapters works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
Almost 56,000 babies are born prematurely every year in California alone. Â The rate of premature births in the African American Community is almost double the rate of prematurely in the Caucasian community.
Farmers Insurance has been a sponsor of Healthy Babies Healthy Futures since its inception and has been the Presenting Sponsor since 2003.
"Thank you March of Dimes on behalf of Mom's and Dad's everywhere for your research and commitment to the health of all babies," said Faye McClure, Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Farmers, and the Dinner Chairperson for the event. Â "Farmers is a huge believer in the mission of the March of Dimes."
This event also took out the time to honor individuals that have been long time supporters of the March of Dimes. Â Mhayse G. Samalya, President of Farmers Business Insurance and Executive Vice President of Farmers Group, Inc; Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, entrepreneurs and philanthropists; and Lisa Leslie, WNBA Legend and Sportscaster.
As a Farmer executive, Samalya has been a dedicated contributor to the March of Dimes.
The Kinseys have raised over $22 million for charitable and educational organizations, including $11 million for their alma mater, Florida A&M University, and they have provided scholarships for over three hundred young people to attend college.
Leslie was awarded the 1st Annual Renaissance Award.
"The word Renaissance signifies renewal, transition and rebirth," said CBS News correspondent and Co-Master of Ceremonies Bill Whitaker. Â "This award recognizes an individual or organization within the African American community that best represents this spirit."
The honorees were very excited to receive their awards, and they had nothing but praise for the event.
Faye McClure and Farmers Insurance have done a wonderful job over the past 12 years, really focusing Los Angeles and the US's attention on premature birth in the African American community," Bernard Kinsey said. Â "Shirley and I are proud to be honorees because anytime that we can lend our name and support to help African American organizations do better we are there for them."
The event had a number of touching moments from various speakers, most notably from Darlene Gartrell-Harrison, who had complications during the birth of her son. Â Her son was born premature, at 29 weeks, and her and her son's lives were in danger.
While Gartrell-Harrison was telling her story to the audience her now 5-1/2 year old son walked out to join her at the podium, which really touched the crowd.
"Some of the treatments that I was given were directly related to research that the March of Dimes funded," Gartrell-Harrison said. Â "I am eternally grateful for that. Â The March of Dimes is in large part the reason why we had a little boy to take home."
Since then Gartrell-Harrison has been an active supporter with the March of Dimes as a way to give back to the organization that helped bring joy to her life.
The March of Dimes works with community-based organizations to provide public health-focused services, distribute maternal and infant health information and support scientific research.
The March of Dimes partners with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, for Project Alpha; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., for a community-based prenatal health promotion program for low-income pregnant women; Healthy Start coalitions; Black Infant Mortality task forces; National Black Nurses Association, and many other organizations.