Is partnering with the March of Dimes

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

ORANGE GROVE - ValueBank Texas has been at the forefront in the Coastal Bend area when it comes to raising money for the smallest among us, the children of premature birth.

Deborah Holt, the Community Director of the Corpus Christi Division of the March of Dimes, was on hand last Friday to kick off the Blue Jeans for Babies Campaign, occurring at 10 different ValueBank Texas branches during the month of November.

The statistics are on the rise in the United States, Holt said.

Every year, more than half a million babies are born prematurely. In more than half those cases, Holt said, doctors don't know why they came early.

"With the Blue Jeans for Babies Campaign, the goal is to raise money for March of Dimes, so we can fund neonatal research and advocacy. March of Dimes is focused on preventing prematurity and infant death," Holt said.

The Orange Grove ValueBank Texas Branch is one of the top sellers in the Blue Jeans for Babies Campaign.

During the month of November, the branches will sell paper pockets for $1 and T-shirts for $12, all the proceeds of which go to the March of Dimes and fighting prematurity.

Holt encourages individuals and businesses to purchase pockets, write their names on them and proudly display their support of the fight against prematuraty.

Rita Patrick, the head marketing director for ValueBank Texas and the mother of two premature children, said the competition among the 10 branches will likely be tight during the month.

Last year, it was the Orange Grove branch and the Rockport branch battling for most donations raised. Rockport was able to squeeze past Orange Grove by just a fraction, Patrick said.

In one week, all branches together have raised more than $4,000. Last year, the 10 branches raised $15,000, which was triple the amount over the year before.

The bank itself gives $5,000, while the rest is raised though the efforts of employees and customers.

Patrick's youngest son was five weeks premature, but was O.K. and allowed to leave the hospital.

Her older son Steven, was a more severe case of prematurity. Steven came 10 weeks early, weighing only three pounds at birth. He spent two months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before being allowed to come home.

Patrick said the money they raise for the March of Dimes goes towards funding important research. Without that research, Patrick believes her son would not be here today.

Steven is a freshman now at Texas Tech.

"He's fine now, he's a swimmer and an athlete," Patrick said.

"It's incredible, to see someone who weighs three pounds, who could fit in my hand, now 5'11" and a straight A student; it says a lot. He's come a long way."