Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Personal Memories Sustain Charity Walks

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Personal Memories Sustain Charity Walks

Article excerpt

When the tiny footprints popped up on her computer screen, Sabrina Abramson took the March of Dimes logo as a sign and gathered a team for the annual fundraising walk to honor her daughter, who had died a few months earlier after living just 17 days.

Five years later, the Woodcliff Lake woman, her husband, two young daughters and scores of friends and family were the top fundraisers Sunday at the five-mile March for Babies walk in Mahwah, which drew about 800 people and raised more than $140,000.

"Those little footprints were Ella sending me a message," Abramson recalled. "This is a huge part of my healing process."

The walk on Sunday marked the March of Dimes' 75th anniversary.

For Barry Zeller, who lost a kidney at age 3, serving as chairman of the annual Northern New Jersey Kidney Walk at Bergen Community College is a nod to all those with kidney disease who haven't fared as well as he has.

"Luckily 47 years later, I have lived a healthy life," the Englewood man said as he launched the latest walk, which raised about $150,000 Sunday in Paramus. "If you look left, right in front of you or behind you, someone is affected -- a friend, parent, cousin, loved one or you personally."

The fundraising efforts rely on teams -- friends and co-workers encourage others to collect pledges and walk -- and many are drawn to the personal plight of a loved one. The walks are manageable for young and old, typically a 5K, and feature powerful testimonials from survivors, emotional tributes to those who lost their struggle. They end in a festive environment with food, giveaways and DJs blasting top hits.

In Mahwah, the March of Dimes event was one of 900 nationwide, involving more than 7 million participants. The money supports programs to help moms have healthy pregnancies and funds research to determine the cause of premature birth.

Christina DeMatteo of Wyckoff was the first one in, just after 10 a.m., pushed to the front of the pack by her 10-year-old son, Devon, who rode a scooter and didn't break a sweat.

"We're always so busy; this is a great way to give a little back," said DeMatteo, who was part of the KPMG team, representing the audit, tax and advisory firm. …

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