Volunteers gathered at the annual March for Babies walk at Grand Park on Saturday, where families work to raise awareness and support for mothers and newborns facing challenges after birth.
The event helps moms like Jessica Wade.
"I am a mission-impacted mommy," she told NBC4. "My son was born premature."
Wade's son was born eight years ago, and weighed just two pounds. It's an experience she never could have imagined.
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"This is not what anyone envisions," Wade said. "You’re grieving your birthing experience and what you thought it’d be like. You’re grieving not bringing your baby home from the hospital, you know, and going through those trying times."
"He was in the NICU for 143 days. It was definitely life changing."
That's why she's made it her mission to join March of Dimes, and support other families in similar situations.
NBC4 and Telemundo 52 are media sponsors for the event for the eighth year in 2022.
"Pre-term birth is one of the leading causes of infant death in the U.S.," said Mashariki Kudumu, maternal and infant health director for the March of Dimes in Los Angeles. "One in ten babies is born pre-term.”
The group is working to prevent maternal health risks and deaths, and to end the pay equity gap.
"We know Black women have higher pre-term birth rates," Kudumu said. "We know our women of color are really impacted by this."
The organization hosts walks all over the country to raise awareness, including the one in Downtown Los Angeles in Grand Park.
Many of the children running around the event survived months in the NICU themselves, and their parents told NBC4 they have the "March for Babies" organization to thank for their support.
"I had an incubator to help me breathe, because my lungs weren’t grown yet and I’m very glad to be here," said Wilder Rowan.
"We can’t imagine life without him and every day is a blessing," his mom, Azizah Rowen, said. They're now an ambassador family for March for Babies.
Other families are remembering, and honoring, their little ones. Veronica Sandoval is one of them, there to remember her great-niece who died after her premature birth.
"It was really hard in the beginning," she said. "I mean it has been hard, but I think, for my nephew to see the support and the joy, to know that we have an angel up there who is looking out for us... It’s something we’ll never forget, and every year we will be here."