Growing with each step

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Canaan man is hiking across Maine to raise money for the March of Dimes.

AUBURN – “I do it all just for them,” said Dick Thorndike of Canaan, pointing to several youngsters who played nearby as the 74-year-old March of Dimes volunteer talked about his 200-mile trek across Central Maine.

Thorndike is nearing the half-way mark on his series of daily hikes which began more than a week ago.

His aim is to raise $10,000 for the fight against premature births, and he talked about that goal late Friday afternoon at a gathering outside the Auburn Kmart department store.

“I told my wife and the March of Dimes people what I wanted to do, and they told me I was crazy,” Thorndike said. “I said, No, I want to walk across Central Maine. I figured about 10 miles a day over 20 days would do it. I’ve raised $7,500 already.”

Wearing a brilliant yellow-green shirt that proclaimed, “Going the extra mile,” Thorndike told the audience, “Just 25 years ago, these kids wouldn’t have made it.”

Thorndike has been a March of Dimes volunteer for many year.

He said he will be retiring soon from his usual high level of activity on behalf of the charity, and he wants to make one more significant contribution to the cause.

In addition to raising funds, Thorndike’s walk is raising awareness of the problem of premature babies, now being born at the rate of one out of every eight babies.

Lewiston Mayor Lionel Guay said, “It’s dedication such as yours that makes these organizations survive.”

Mark Patterson of New Gloucester and his 5-year-old daughter Kaitlyn were among several March of Dimes ambassador families at the event.

“Kaitlyn was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy and as a quadraplegic,” he said.

“If you look at her now, you’d never know it,” Patterson said as he raced to keep up with the youngster and her wheeled walker on the K-Mart walkway.

Linda Federico of Lewiston also was there with her 6-year-old daughter Deni, who was born three-and-a-half months early and weighed just 15 ounces. A twin brother did not survive.

Deni, who is 2006 March of Dimes State Ambassador, beamed as Thornton joked with her and cameras flashed.

Federico said Deni is now in the first grade and is enthusiastic about practicing gymnastics.

Thorndike said he walks about 10 miles a day, usually between 9 a.m. and noon. His walk began in Skowhegan and today he crosses the Androscoggin and heads toward Augusta.

His march ends in Madison on April 22 where a barbecue celebration is planned.

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