Students help eradicate polio | SteamboatToday.com

Students help eradicate polio

Steamboat Springs schools take part in Rotary-sponsored event

Jack Weinstein

Steamboat Springs High School sophomore Eian Stamp gets his pinkie painted purple by Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs member Sandy Evans Hall on Wednesday as part of Rotary's End Polio Now fundraiser. Students at schools throughout Routt County were asked to donate $1 to support the cause.

— Purple pinkie fingers were a common sight Wednesday afternoon in the halls of Steamboat Springs High School.

High school students joined those at each Steamboat Springs School District school as well as North Routt Community Charter School and Lowell Whiteman Primary School students for “End Polio Now,” an event sponsored by the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs. Rotary International is making a final push toward eradicating polio from the world, and the local Rotary Club brought the effort to area schools Wednesday, Rotarian Sandy Evans Hall said.

For “End Polio Now” day, a Rotarian at each school solicited $1 donations from students, who in turn had their pinkies painted purple.

“In Africa, when people are given the vaccine for polio, their pinkies are painted purple, so it’s representative of that,” said high school junior Chris Barounos, an officer with the school’s Rotary Interact Club.

Evans Hall said in developing countries, the purpose of painting pinkies is to avoid inoculating people twice.

Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system, according to http://www.polio

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eradication.org. Initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs, but the disease also can cause paralysis.

Barounos said Interact is a junior Rotary group at the high school. With its strong ties to the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs, Barounos said the school group is quick to help out with projects and initiatives.

“Rotary has done an awesome job eradicating polio around the world,” said junior Kayleigh Esswein, also a member of the Interact Club. “They’ve made such a big difference, and being involved with eradicating polio is something you can be proud of.”

Rotary International launched its PolioPlus program in 1985.

Since then, Rotarians across the world have given more than $800 million to help eradicate polio, including providing vaccines to 2 billion children in more than 200 countries.

This year’s effort coincides with more than $355 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which have been donated in the past 18 months to continue Rotary’s efforts to rid the world of polio.

Other organizations participating in the polio eradication effort include the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.

Evans Hall said regional Rotary clubs designated Wednesday as “End Polio Now” day and held events in their communities to raise money.

“It’s a major initiative this year with the Gates Foundation to really make a final stab to end this,” she said.

Several students dropped dollar bills and loose change into a jar during lunch at the high school. They had their pinkies painted purple by Evans Hall and Interact Club members while hearing about where their money would go.

Junior Keegan Burger was one of those students.

“I don’t know anybody personally who has polio, but I’ve heard stories,” he said. “It’s something that needs help, and it’s a good cause.”

Sophomore Eian Stamp was one of the first to donate and have his pinkie painted.

Stamp, who donated $2, said he was urged to do so by a friend.

“Making donations is cool as long as it’s going toward a good cause,” he said. “Plus, it’s always cool to have a purple pinkie,” he said.