NO FOOLIN’ IS THERE A VACCINE FOR TREATING EACH OTHER WITH KINDNESS & COMPASSION?
Take the pill – it is easy to swallow when your heart is in the right place. April was a month of no foolin! Our lives and our world as we knew it has made some drastic and life-altering changes. Maybe it was the “tilt” we all needed to get our heads and hearts aligned.
FLASHBACK TO 1953 - WHAT IT TOOK TO END POLIO
Long before Covid-19 and the year 2020 a young doctor, Jonas Salk was 33 years old and he began his medical research in a basement lab at the University of Pittsburgh. He wanted to work on influenza but switched to polio, an area where research funding was more available. Three floors above his lab was a polio ward filled to capacity with adults and children in iron lungs and rocking beds to help them breathe.
The fear and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic may feel new to many of us. But it is strangely familiar to those who lived through the polio epidemic of the last century. The polio virus was an invisible enemy that arrived each summer, striking without warning. No one knew how polio was transmitted or what caused it. Ultimately, poliomyelitis was conquered in 1955 by a vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh. The vaccine was officially launched on March 23, 1953 and April 12, 2005 was noted as the 50th anniversary celebration of the polio vaccine, a documentary “The Shot Felt ‘Round the World.” told the stories of the many people who worked alongside Salk in the lab and participated in vaccine trials.
PULLING TOGETHER AS A NATION TO LEARN FROM THE PAST TO HELP THE FUTURE
Before a vaccine was available, polio caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis a year in the United States. It was the most feared disease of the 20th century. With the success of the polio vaccine, Dr. Jonas Salk, 39, became one of the most celebrated scientists in the world. He refused a patent for his work, saying the vaccine belongs to the people and that to patent it would be like “patenting the Sun.” Leading drug manufacturers made the vaccine available and more than 400 million doses were distributed between 1955 and 1962, reducing the cases of polio by 90% and by the end of the century, the polio scare had become a faint memory. Developing the vaccine was a collective effort, from national leadership by President Franklin Roosevelt (who kept his own paralysis from polio hidden from the public) to those who worked alongside Salk in the lab and volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to be experimentally inoculated.
President Roosevelt organized the nonprofit National Institute of Infant Paralysis, later known as the March of Dimes. This organization (www.marchforbabies.org) still thrives and operates with the mission to find solutions and advocate for policies to prioritize mom and baby health.
Growing up in the 50’s in Baraboo, Wisconsin our little town had many people contracted, lived with and unfortunately died from polio. My parents, Tony & Alberta Canepa has just launched their family dancing school business and as a couple they were joining with others to do what they could to prevent and raise awareness about the virus. Worthy causes such as the March of Dimes, Hospital fundraisers and Easter Seals became lifelong crusades for Canepa School of Dance and our tap-dancing family.
My parents had a philosophy to give back and help others. They brought many area entertainers and talented people to perform together on the famed Al Ringling Theatre stage. Programs and newspaper articles from these events showcased many talented performers from our area.
In 1994, my Chicago-based special events & public relations firm, The Eventors, were hired to promote the grand opening of the Yacktman Children’s Pavilion on the grounds of Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. The 3-story 80,000 square foot facility was designed by the late world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli and houses out-patient pediatric care. Kids’ Corps was launched as an education initiative to teach two hundred 4th through 6th graders about health care, medicine and hospital settings.
The hands-on activities included “You Are What You Eat”, “Sports Safety” and “Tour of the Operating Room”. The Kids’ Corp also painted colorful barricades around the construction site of the hospital as the neighborhood waited for the 1996 dedication of the pavilion.
In 1990 I had the pleasure of meeting noted philanthropists Jack & Dollie Galter. They were friends with George & Celia Cheung who were Chicago Marathon advocates and owners of the famed Junk Restaurant in Chinatown. I remember our first meeting at the Junk and learned that Jack was a big band drummer – I asked him to sing our family theme dance song “Whispering” and I tap danced. He sang along and played the spoons!
After Jack’s death in May of 1993, Dollie and I became friends and she was a fixture at many of my events and family gatherings. Here she joined me at one of the Kids’ Corps events and is discussing things with Dr. Henry Mangurten, Chairman – Department Pediatrics.
Jack and Dollie had a very interesting perspective on life and this was a fact not known to many. Jack was an inventor holding many patents, and he started Spartus clock company, one of the largest clock manufacturers in the country.
From a life as a big band drummer playing with Jazz greats Benny Goodman, Danny Alvin and David Rose Jack and Dollie had many talented friends including composers and songwriters, George and Ira Gershwin. From his life in manufacturing jazz drumming did not make him wealthy so he began developing real estate. Beginning in 1943, Jack and Dollie Galter began making philanthropic donations to various Chicago-area causes that totaled over $100 million. Dollie passed away in April 2001 from heart failure. Jack and Dollie came from humble beginnings and were people with huge hearts – we should all learn from them.