Members of Decatur High School's Lifesavers Junior Red Cross Club in Berlin, Maryland, have taken holiday giving to a new level. The gifts they give may save children's lives.
Decatur Lifesaver club members (l to r) Kristen Miller; Club Co-Coordinator Sarah Miller; Alison Sappington and Club Advisor Ryan Cowder adorning the Tree of 1,000 Lights—1,000 lives
Photo Credit: Patti Miller
Last year Club members discovered the Measles Initiative on YouTube, and were astounded to learn that children in impoverished countries die of measles, an easily preventable disease. The idea that a vaccine that costs a dollar can save a child's life led the Club to adopt the project immediately.
The 40 Red Cross youth volunteers decided to collect money during the holidays, with each light on a tree symbolizing a life that might be saved through the measles immunization project. After getting a tree and 1000 lights donated by the local Walmart, members began selling lights with the goal of raising $1,000 - one dollar for each light on the tree.
Club member's enthusiasm captured the heart of Stephen Decatur High School Principal, Lou Taylor, who invited the club to place the tree in the foyer, at the entrance of the school. Principal Taylor asked that the tree be decked out in school colors, and be placed next to the office so it could be seen by everyone entering the school.
The local community also showed great support. Two anonymous donors immediately pledged to match donations that the club members raised. Local papers covered the Decatur Lifesavers progress.
Last holiday season, the mission was accomplished, with perhaps a thousand lives changed forever. This year, the Decatur Lifesavers look forward to trimming the tree again, to give another 1,000 children the shot they need at life.
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.