This summer the Red Cross Club at the University of South Carolina (USC) is swinging into action to fight measles. From May 30 to June 1, 50 youth fast-pitch softball teams from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia gathered near USC’s campus to compete in the Come Bat for Measles tournament. Attracting a crowd of approximately 1,500 people, the tournament helped raise more than $11,000 for the Measles Initiative.
Kids in the 10-and-under age group compete to support the Measles Initiative. Photo credit: Angela Bingham/American Red Cross
“When volunteers are passionate, any project is possible,” said Angela Bingham, a fourth year student in USC’s pharmacy program and 2007-2008 president of the USC Red Cross Club, who organized the event.
A Red Cross volunteer since her freshman year in high school, Bingham was inspired to take action against measles following her participation in the International Session of the National Youth Institute. With the support of the Independent Softball Association and Lexington County Recreation behind her, she pitched the idea of a benefit tournament to USC Red Cross Club members early in the 2007-2008 school year. Already a popular pastime in South Carolina, a fast-pitch softball tournament seemed like it would be a guaranteed hit in the community.
“Lexington County Recreation was pleased to host Come Bat for Measles,” said Carrie Lyons of Lexington County Recreation. “We were honored to be part of protecting thousands of children from one of the leading causes of vaccine preventable death.”
As the tournament approached, the club added a Fun Night to their plans. The highlight of the evening’s activities was the coach’s Sexy Leg Competition, where players rushed to fill their coach’s bucket with money to win a team bat. The Knock-Out Measles Homerun Derby, Top Gun Pitching Competition, Bull’s Eye Team Water Balloon Throwing Competition and Queen of Speed Team Base-running Competition rounded out the entertainment.
Volunteers for the University of South Carolina Red Cross Club welcome attendees at the softball tournament. Photo credit: Angela Bingham/American Red Cross
Sponsorship by community businesses and the enthusiastic support of family and friends helped to make the tournament a success. Club members also reached out to their employers and friends to increase attendance and awareness.
“We strive to make a positive impact on our youth,” said Ray Morrell of the Independent Softball Association, “and being a part of something that will help vaccinate thousands of kids is overwhelming.”
In addition to the softball tournament, the club’s enthusiasm led to a year of creative fundraisers and awareness activities including trick-or-treating, holiday caroling, and, in partnership with the USC College of Pharmacy, a bake sale for the Measles Initiative.
“We made a powerful statement about the impact that a group of college students can make,” said Bingham. “In addition, club members’ independent efforts played a significant role in bringing the project to fruition.”
The club’s dedicated service earned them recognition as the USC Student Organization of the Year. More importantly, their efforts on behalf of the Measles Initiative will provide vaccines to thousands of children helping to protect them for the future.
The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns worldwide. To date, the Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 500 million children in 50 countries helping reduce measles deaths by more than 68% globally and 91% in Africa (compared to 2000). To learn more or make a donation, visit www.measlesinitiative.org.