Keller, a member of the March of Dimes' Board of Directors, was recently appointed as one of 20 students to sit on the National Youth Council, a group comprised of the top youth fundraisers for the March of Dimes in the country. His application was drawn from a pool of 500 competing applicants, and his accomplishments led to a feature in the April 2008 issue of Ohio Magazine.
Keller's grandmother may have been his inspiration to join the cause, but the campaign affects Keller even more personally. He was born with spina bifida, a birth defect affecting the spine that can now be detected and treated in babies before birth. However, its cause is still unknown.
From humble beginnings, Keller's campus March of Dimes organization has hit the ground running by raising money through donation boxes in Wittenberg's Benham-Pence Student Center and residence halls on campus and businesses within the community. The organization's most ambitious project to date, Mile of Dimes, is a two-year commitment Keller is determined to fulfill. The aim is to collect dimes which will add up to a distance of a mile, or approximately $9,000.
"It's a great movement, something that directly affects us," Keller said. "The threat of prematurity and birth defects affects us as college students because many of us will begin raising families after college. It is the next stage in our lives.
The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign raises money for research, awareness and public education on premature births and birth defects of babies. The organization has hosted an annual walk titled Walk America for years, but the March of Dimes re-launched the fundraising effort under a new and more direct title, March for Babies, on May 10, 2008.
Whatever the name, Keller is no stranger to the march. He first participated when he was just nine months old with his grandmother.
"My grandmother would push me in a little red wagon," Keller said. "Back then, I was only interested in the brightly colored T-shirts people would wear to the march."
The little red wagon is gone, but Keller still makes the annual march with his grandmother and hasn't missed a single event to date. Their two-person team expanded to 15 people in 2008, including Keller's parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, from both high school and Wittenberg. As a team, they raised $4,500.
Keller hopes to expand his efforts at Wittenberg and in the surrounding Springfield community to raise awareness and educate people about the dangers of premature births and how to take care of babies who are born prematurely or with birth defects. He has several activities and events planned for the campus organization, culminating in a March of Dimes Extravaganza that he hopes will include a visit by the campaign's national president.
Keller described the event as "a campus-wide day of education that will unit Wittenberg students and people in the community toward the common goal of giving every baby a healthy start," potentially including a video diary of people who have been directly affected by the campaign's cause.
Written By: Christi Lue '09
Photos By: Robert Gantt
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