Painting pinkies for polio awareness

Published 11:47 am Sunday, October 26, 2014

Over the course of two days, students at China Grove Elementary School raised nearly $400 for polio vaccines for children on the other side of the world.

When the Rotary hosts vaccination clinics, each child’s pinky finger is painted to track who’s been vaccinated, and then they’re given a cookie. The painted pinky prevents double vaccinations.

While the China Grove students didn’t receive a vaccination, they did get a cookie and had their pinkies painted for a $1 donation.

“They’ve been very excited,” said Jim Morton, a member of the China Grove Rotary Club.

The students patiently waited in lines in the school’s courtyard, taking turns allowing Rotary Club members to rub gentian violet, an antiseptic, on their pinky fingers with a cotton swab. Gentian violet stains the skin a vibrant purple color, and was donated by Dr. John Kaiser from the China Grove Drug Company.

Then, the children grabbed a cookie to snack on while their pinky finger dried.

Throughout the week, China Grove Elementary teachers have been talking to their students about polio.

Kaylie Dew, a third grader, explained that they were getting their pinkies painted “to stop polio.”

Her classmate, Ivey Wilson, explained that polio is “this bad virus.”

Polio is a contagious virus that can cause paralysis, difficulty breathing and death. Although the disease has been eradicated in the United States since 1979, it is still a threat in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Most children at China Grove Elementary had never heard of polio before. The disease, which ran rampant in the United States in the 1940s and ’50s, has been out of play in America since long before any of the children, and even many of their parents, were born.

Morton remembers a summer when he was a child and the polio outbreak was so bad, they “just couldn’t be in contact with other children.”

China Grove Rotary Club held the event as a part of World Polio Day, when Rotary Clubs around the world do special projects to further polio awareness and support.