BY KEN LITTLE
Raindrops may have been falling Saturday morning, but that didn't dampen the spirits of hundreds of walkers at the Greeneville March for Babies at Laughlin Memorial Hospital.
Proceeds from the event benefit the March of Dimes.
The non-competitive walk attracted several hundred participants. A motorcycle run scheduled in conjunction with the event was postponed because of the weather until Saturday, May 18.
The March of Dimes fundraising goal for the event was $44,000.
As of late Saturday, $44,134 had been raised, with additional proceeds still being tallied, said Lisa Gates, area March of Dimes community director.
Exceeding the goal of $44,000 was "just awesome" said Gwyn Southerland, one of the walk organizers.
'ELLA KATE'S KREW'
Many on hand were part of Ella Kate's Krew, a walking team formed to honor 3-year-old Ella Kate Bailey, who was born prematurely on Jan. 24, 2010.
Ella Kate is the daughter of Chris and Annie Bailey, of the DeBusk community. She's now a healthy pre-schooler thanks to the assistance of the March of Dimes, Annie Bailey said.
Ella Kate and her family were present for the event, in addition to other "preemie" babies and their families. Southerland is her grandmother.
Ella Kate weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces at birth and spent 100 days in the neonatal unit of Holston Valley Medical Center.
The little girl had a big smile on her face Saturday.
"She's our team leader here," Southerland said.
Walkers formed up with other volunteers in the hospital's parking garage before the event.
Southerland said the recently-opened walking trial around Laughlin Memorial Hospital is an ideal location.
"It's just been a joy this year putting the walk together. Moving to Laughlin has been a positive with this beautiful path we have here," she said.
Walkers enjoyed donated food, dancers, music, face-painting for children and other activities before the event.
"We've had a lot of great volunteers in here," Southerland said.
Up to 500 people were expected for the walk, but the weather held the total down. Those who came brought umbrellas and a positive attitude. Thirty-four teams from Greene County participated, Gates said.
'ELI'S MIRACLE MAKERS'
One team, "Eli's Miracle Makers," attracted more than 80 members and raised nearly $6,000, Gates said.
"It's a pretty big deal this family raised so much," she said.
Eli, who will be 9 months old on May 1, rested comfortably in the arms of mom Katie Gilbert, a Greeneville native who lives in Cocke County with her family.
Team members wore lime-green "Eli's Miracle Makers" t-shirts.
"We have 83 registered members, and we have sold over 400 t-shirts as part of our registration," said Gilbert, a hospital employee.
"It has been amazing. I've worked at Laughlin for seven years and decided to have a small team, and all of a sudden we have a huge team," she said.
Eli's Miracle Makers were the "ambassador family" and led off the walk, Gates said.
The donation for the May 18 motorcycle run is $15 per bike and $10 for an additional rider.
The motorcycle run is sponsored by Ella Kate's Krew in honor of Ella Kate Bailey.
For more information on the "Bikers for Babies Bike Ride," contact organizer Tim Ford at (423) 753-5893 or Southerland at (423) 552-8469.
"I'd like to see as many as 100 bikes out there," Ford said.