Local Red Cross chapter helps fight measles

The local American Red Cross chapter sought to help in the fight against measles with its second annual Measles Initiative Banquet on Thursday.

Art Myers, WCTV’s Good Morning Show and Eyewitness News at Noon anchor, emceed the banquet, which was created to raise awareness and money for children in third-world countries who don’t have the resources to get vaccinations.

Myers said he finds himself reading a lot of stories for the show, questioning whether he really has to tell certain stories. “It’s so negative,” he thinks to himself, that he’d prefer to just sugarcoat it.

“But this is one of those positive events we like to talk about,” Myers said of the banquet. “We are helping kids around the world get vaccinated.”

The Measles Initiative launched in 2001 when the American Red Cross and United Nations organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fundand World Health Organizationpartnered to fight against the measles.

Since the initiative began, the American Red Cross has been able to help more than 700,000 children in underdeveloped nations get vaccinated from measles and rubella.

Due to these efforts, global morality has been reduced to 71 percent. But, according to research from WHO, even with the strides made, approximately 300 children still die per day from measles-related complications.

Because it only costs $1 to vaccinate one child, not only is organizing fundraising events important to the initiative, but also educating the community regarding the importance of vaccinations.

Robbie Conrad, international services intern for the American Red Cross, said he thinks Americans take measles for granted.

“When I first got involved in the program, I thought it wasn’t something that would appeal to Americans,” Conrad said. “But about two weeks ago, a man in San Francisco got on a subway and infected a lot of people, and those people were not unvaccinated, so we shouldn’t take it for granted.”

The banquet included a silent auction with a range of items from an autographed football from head coach Jimbo Fisher and the National Championship Florida State University football team to a manicure and pedicure from Twinkle Toes Nail Salon.

There also was a bachelor auction of local professionals, consisting of men from law enforcement, the Tallahassee Fire Department and business owners.

The night ended when Ann Hudgins, an American Red Cross board member, left the crowd with a personal goal for each person in attendance.

“We have done a lot of work since 2001 – getting vaccines to over 80 nations,” Hudgins said. “But the work isn’t done. Don’t just make a donation tonight and walk away feeling accomplished.

“We need repetition. If we can pledge to do that, we can reach our goal to eradicate this virus by 2020.”