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Those interested in supporting a healthy start for babies or who would like to learn more about breast-feeding are welcome to participate in two free Catholic Charities Breastfeeding Walk and Healthy Baby Festivals in the coming weeks. The first takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Hyde Park splash pad, Pine and Hyde Park avenues, Niagara Falls; the second at the same time Aug. 8 in Delaware Park, at the Colvin Avenue/Amherst Street entrance.

The Catholic Charities Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, which serves Erie and Niagara counties, is hosting the event to raise awareness of the benefits and significance of breast-feeding. The walk, in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1-7, is also designed to create community support to friends, family and others who are or may be considering breast-feeding, or who have breast-fed.

The walks will start at 11:15 a.m.; the festival also includes educational displays and a resource fair, as well as entertainment, prizes and giveaways. Families are encouraged to pack a picnic lunch. No registration is required, and questions can be directed to 332-3304, Ext. 207.

The theme for 2014 World Breastfeeding Week is “A Winning Goal – for Life!,” which stresses the importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breast-feeding. Breast milk is beneficial to infants because it has ingredients that ensure a healthy immune system and digestive tract, and proper brain and eye development.

“Attendees of our walk and festival will have the opportunity to learn about ways to stay healthy through pregnancy, how to decrease the chance of preterm birth, and the importance of breast-feeding for the long-term health of both the baby and mother,” said Katie Constantino, Catholic Charities WIC breast-feeding coordinator. “This also serves as a fun outdoor activity that offers the chance for families to have an enjoyable morning out!”

Thursday’s event is funded through a community award from the March of Dimes, a grant from the Many Faces of Mercy Circle and contributions from Catholic Charities of Buffalo. For more information, visit ccwny.org.