They came for so many different reasons.
To support a young niece with a rare metabolic disorder. To walk with a college roommate who was thrust into the terrifying world of newborn prematurity. To give back to the hospital that so expertly repaired the hole discovered in a 4-year-old's heart.
But no matter what drew them to the "Go the Distance" walk and family fun day fundraiser on Sunday, one common theme emerged:
"I am so glad to be here as a visitor," said Kim Andrews, a Poughkeepsie mother who gave birth to her baby girl at 25 weeks. Lili Grace weighed just 1.5 pounds.
Now, some 14 pounds and nearly 12 months later, Kim, her mother Tammy Boettcher and friend Colleen Denema expressed a sense of gratefulness that Lili's care allowed her to thrive despite the odds.
"If wasn't for them," Andrews said, "we wouldn't be here."
Like so many other families, they had special t-shirts made just for the walk.
Boettcher showed off her "Team Lil" t-shirt, adorned with a photo of her granddaughter as a tiny newborn and noted on Lili's own t-shirt was the outline of her foot at birth, actual size.
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Thousands of walkers attended the popular event, which is the largest fundraiser of the year for the 118-bed hospital. Maria Fareri draws patients from throughout Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties, as well as Fairfield County in Connecticut. Last year they saw as many as 4,000 walkers.
This, the 8th annual effort, was expected to raise between $250,000 and $300,000.
Kristin Schneider of Carmel was thrilled to do whatever she could to help.
Her 2-year-old daughter, Karlie, was born with PKU—phenylketonuria—a disorder marked by the inability to break down the amino acid phenylalanine. It requires intensive monitoring and a very specific diet to prevent serious complications that can include seizures and brain damage.
"It means so much," to be able to raise money for the hospital and support families that may need it as they did, Schneider said. "It's such a rare disease. The ultimate thing for us is to find a cure."