March of Dimes "Walk-a-thon" participants will get a break at the end of their daylong fund- raising trek next month: a free bus ride home.

The Utah Transit Authority's board of directors departed from policy this week to give free service for the March of Dimes' annual event, April 27.The policy, which says it is inappropriate for UTA to contribute to charitable, non-profit and governmental organizations because UTA is primarily funded by taxpayers, also allows the board to make exceptions to the rule.

Before Wednesday's 6-1 decision, the 12-member board was split over giving free service to Walk-a-thon participants. The lone dissenting board member was Dr. Richard Jackson, Utah County.

It's not the first time an exception has been made, but this most recent decision prompted the board to also ask UTA's staff to come up with guidelines on how the board can better handle future requests.

Assistant general manager John Inglish explained that requests for free bus service fall into four different areas: Using existing service without charge; providing a special shuttle or charter; free service for a limited time to help train disabled riders; and joint promotional ventures with a commercial enterprise.

He explained that UTA weighs the cost, public relations benefits and whether the requesting group has other alternatives before deciding whether to make an exception to the policy.

The cost of the March of Dimes use of UTA will be minimal because it will use existing routes and service during a slow period Saturday afternoon.