Get ready, get set, go! Babies compete in benefit Diaper Derby

Gainesville Sun
By Christopher Baldwin

Held Sunday at Sun Country Sports in Jonesville, the derby benefits the Alachua County Perinatal Mental Health Coalition’s All Bottoms Covered Diaper Bank program.

He came. He crawled. He conquered.

One-year-old Foster, in a series of quick, successive spurts, won back-to-back heats to secure the golden baby bottle trophy during the inaugural Gainesville Diaper Derby.

Held Sunday at Sun Country Sports in Jonesville, the derby benefits the Alachua County Perinatal Mental Health Coalition’s All Bottoms Covered Diaper Bank program.

The event, which saw baby athletes from under a year old to 18 months compete, was organized into multiple, two-minute heats in two classes — crawlers and walkers — with winners moving on to a championship bout.

Parents or caretakers stood at one end of the gymnastics flooring and urged the little ones forward to the other end where another relative or caretaker stood, often holding a favorite toy or item belonging to the child in order to entice the competitor to the goal.

Of course, such things don’t always go according to plan.
“It’s chaotic fun because babies sometimes just sit there or start playing with each other or crawl the wrong direction,” said Caroline Chance Earls, who organized the event along with Tiffany Williams Propes.

And there was plenty of such shenanigans throughout the event as some babies immediately turned to the parent behind them upon hearing the cheers from the other side of the room, while others decided to crawl sideways into other babies’ paths. Still others got distracted by all that was going on around them and simply sat in awe of all the activity.

But not Foster, whose father described his son’s crawling talent as simply, “Aight,” to organizers before the event started.

“I was trying to underplay him,” said Ryan Gilbert, Foster’s dad.

“I wanted him to be the underdog.”
Jhanna Gilbert, Foster’s mom, said she and her husband felt proud of their son as he won his first trophy in his first competition.

“He’s been training for it his whole life,” Ryan Gilbert added jokingly.

Earls said she began organizing the event after seeing videos of a similar event on the internet.

She then told a group of friends about the video and they agreed that it would be a great idea to start a similar event in Gainesville.

At the same time, Earls had been hearing about the coalition’s diaper bank.

“It just seemed like a really wonderful partnership to have this event benefit this organization.”

The Alachua County Perinatal Mental Health Coalition is a nonprofit created in 2015 to raise awareness about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders while expanding resources and providing education and support for those at risk throughout the local community.

Lauren DePaola, executive director of the coalition, said the organization performed a community-wide needs assessment in 2017 that found that one of the biggest needs related to maternal mental health is mothers with low income who are in need of diapers.

“Those who aren’t able to afford diapers have about a three-fold increase in incidents of experiencing postpartum depression and related illnesses,” she said. “They also have higher incidence rates of stigma associated with mental health.”

Those who are struggling to provide the basic needs for their children and who are experiencing depression are less likely to call someone to let them know they need help, DePaola said.
These findings led to the creation of the diaper bank program, which works similar to a food bank, DePaola said.

The coalition receives money and diaper donations, which they then repackage with some pamphlets about mental health resources included. The packages are then delivered to partner agencies, such as Partnership for Strong Families, Healthy Start of North Central Florida, and Catholic Charities of Gainesville.
“We provide them with the diapers because many of the moms are already coming to them as they are providing the direct services,” DePaola said. “So it’s a really neat collaborative effort.”

When Earls and Propes approached the coalition, DePaola jumped at the idea.

“I thought it was such an amazing idea because it’s such a fun opportunity,” she said. “How adorable is it to have a race for babies? We’ve just been super excited that they heard about the diaper bank and thought it would be a great way to serve the community.”

Proceeds made by registering participants and ticket sales will benefit the diaper bank and organizers urged those attending to bring diaper donations as well. About 850 diapers were donated during the event.

Just fewer than 20 families registered to participate, with local businesses sponsoring those babies whose parents couldn’t afford the registration fee, and about 40 event-goers purchased tickets at $5 a head.

Earls said that every $5 ticket provided enough diapers for one baby for one week. She also said that sponsored registration raised enough money to provide diapers to one baby for a year.

“So any more than that is icing on the diaper cake,” she said.

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