BARSTOW • Blaine Schiele spent the first 101 days of his life at Loma Linda Medical Center, fighting for his life.

Ten years later, Blaine has no developmental or learning disabilities, despite being born after only 24 weeks of pregnancy, said his mother, Alicia.

"We see that he has no development delays, no health issues, and he's doing well in school," said Alicia. "A lot of preemies have learning disabilities."

Preventing premature births and birth defects has become so important to Alicia that she will be heading up the Barstow March of Dimes March for Babies event this Saturday. The March for Babies event raises money for education and public awareness of premature birth and prevention of birth defects, as well as educating health care providers about the dangers of premature birth, said Alicia.

Although Alicia and Blaine have participated in the march for several years, this will be the first year that Alicia is running the event. Her goal for her first year is to have a larger number of young people participate in the event.

"It is (young people's) pregnancies that I want to help," said Alicia.

Blaine at 10 years old is highly motivated to make a difference in people's perceptions about premature birth and has been the ambassador for the march for the past four years, said Alicia, who added that one of Blaine's favorite sayings about the march is, "You're never too young to make a difference."

One of the teams helping the March for Babies this year is the Barstow High School Associated Student Body club, which has earned about $6,000 in donations so far, said Alicia. Newly crowned Teen Miss Barstow and ASB member Juliet Manzanares said each member of ASB has a personal goal to raise $150.

Last year, the Barstow march raised about $13,000 from 102 walkers, which Alicia said was a lower amount than previous years because of the state of the economy. This year, Alicia hopes that there will be about 100 participants that will be able to raise about $15,000.

With both a 2.5 mile and five mile option for the march, Alicia said it is  perfect for families. Even people with young children can normally make the 2.5 mile walk, said Alicia.

Alicia said that birth defects and prematurity are not as rare as most people think and said one in every eight babies is born with a birth defect.

"It increases each year with small families that have children with birth defects or premature babies," said Alicia. "It's a healing walk to try to prevent premature birth."

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March of Dimes March for Babies
• March to benefit premature babies and prevention of birth defects
• 2.5-mile or 5-mile march
• No minimum donation required
• Saturday
• Sign-ups start at 7:00 a.m., march begins at 8:00 a.m.
• Meet at Barstow Junior High School, 1000 Armory Road