NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of people marched Sunday in support of March of Dimes‘ quest to prevent premature births and help those children who are born prematurely.

The annual March for Babies fundraiser began at 10 a.m. near Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The organization hoped to raise $2.5 million.

For the eighth year, the 3 1/2-mile walk was led by Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

“Having three children of my own, I know the importance of babies getting a healthy start, and that’s what the March of Dimes is trying to do is to end premature births, and we’re getting better,” Manning told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

Eli Manning appears on April 26, 2015, with children who serve as mission ambassadors for the March of Dimes' March for Babies. (credit: Tim Scheld/WCBS 880)

Eli Manning appears on April 26, 2015, with children who serve as mission ambassadors for the March of Dimes’ March for Babies. (credit: Tim Scheld/WCBS 880)

“It is a wonderful, wonderful charity, and it is all about the babies, and it’s obviously easy to raise money for something that’s all about the babies,” Rob Kindler, revenue chairman for the March of Dimes’ New York division, told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.

One in nine babies is born too soon.

As CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported, the event gave families a chance to highlight how important fundraising is.

“March of Dimes gave my daughter an opportunity to survive,” Lauren Klein said.

Klein said the organization paid for equipment to treat her daughter Mila in the neonatal ICU. She was born at 28 weeks, at only 2-lbs , 4-oz.

“She’s great. She’s going to kindergarten next year. She’s healthy, she’s vivacious,” Kelin said.

Paulina Levine and her husband, Josh, walk in memory of their twins who were born prematurely. They have raised more than $350,000 since that tragedy.

Paper flowers are "planted" in honor of babies born prematurely. (credit: Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880)

Paper flowers are “planted” in honor of babies born prematurely. (credit: Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880)

Their team is made up of more than 100 walkers.

“People want to support it,” Paulina told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “It’s a really important organization, and premature birth is the No. 1 killer of infants under 5 years old. … So it’s a crisis, and this is so important.”

For more information on the March for Babies, visit MarchForBabies.org.