JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Thousands of people in Jacksonville and across the country hit the pavement Saturday morning to raise awareness for strong, healthy babies. 

The March for Babies is in its 45th year. The foundation raises money and awareness aimed at preventing birth defects and premature birth.

An estimated 5,000 walkers and runners took part in the 2.5-mile trek through downtown.

Channel 4's Mary Baer served as emcee at the event, where walkers reportedly raised more than $650,000.

The money supports prenatal wellness programs, research and family care.

Linda Miller, part of this year's Ambassador family, said her granddaughter was born weighing just 3 pounds. 

"Without March of Dimes, I don't know what we would have done. It was such a trying time. All of the research that March of Dimes has done to help premature babies helped Kaleigh come home 30 days early," Miller said. 

Walkers and runners had a new route this year that started and finished in the Pepsi Cabana Villages at EverBank Field.