CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- Polio may have been eradicated here in the United States, but it is still a threat to some in the 21st century, as students at Walter Panas High School learned this week with the help of the Cortlandt Rotary Club.
Student volunteers set up a table Tuesday in the school cafeteria to raise funds for vaccines. On hand was plenty of purple nail polish, which serves as a tool for health groups in the few places the virus can still be found: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
"When they (volunteers) go to those small villages, day after day, they need to know who's been vaccinated and who isn't," school media librarian and library teen advisory board adviser Gina Lozito said. "So what they do is put purple ink that lasts several days on their pinky so they know."
Any student who made a donation could have his or her nail painted, but those who didn't want their pinky painted were given a sticker to wear instead. Even a few cents were welcome, she said.
"One vaccine is 60 cents, so anything can help," Lozito said.
She also put together information about polio that students have been hearing about in class. Funding for the polio education effort came from discussions with Cortlandt Rotary Director Sharon Irving. Lozito worked with her student board President Rachel Danko and other volunteers for several weeks to put together the efforts.
"Sharon donated the nail polish from her personal collection," Lozito said. "They gave us the stickers, the pamphlets, the posters and I used information from the Rotary website."
Rotary has been involved with funding polio vaccinations since 1985, according to Irving.
"When they started, there were 350,000 cases a year worldwide, and it has been under 200 for the past two years," Irving said.
Irving said she hoped other high schools would reach out to her to hold similar fundraisers, and she was also looking to start a Rotary Interact Club in Cortlandt for high school students. Anyone looking to get involved in those efforts can contact Rotary Director Sharon Irving at 914-293-0710.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.