After spending countless weekends at fast pitch softball games during her youth, Angela Bingham is combating a leading cause of vaccine preventable death, one tournament at a time.
Red Cross youth advocate Angela Bingham and volunteers at the COME BAT for Measles tournament.
Photo Credit: Jill Grospierre
“For the past nine years, I have served as an American Red Cross volunteer,” explains Bingham, who is in her final year of the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of South Carolina. “Many members of the USC Red Cross Club were entering health professions and had a desire to improve public health, so the Measles Initiative resonated with us.”
Measles is one of the leading killers of children in developing countries, in fact, it is estimated that more than 500 people, mostly children, die every day around the world from this disease. In 2001, five organizations – the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and World Health Organization – joined forces to form the Measles Initiative in an effort to reduce the number of deaths from this disease.
As a former fast pitch softball player, Bingham’s mind automatically went to the field and thoughts of a benefit tournament to support the Measles Initiative led to the creation of COME BAT for MEASLES. The event took place last May at the Pine Grove Complex in Lexington, South Carolina.
“I was inspired to move forward with COME BAT for MEASLES as an effective avenue to reach community members given the prominence of youth fast pitch softball in South Carolina and surrounding states,” says Bingham.
This was the second year that COME BAT for MEASLES was organized in South Carolina. The Independent Softball Association and Lexington County Recreation supported the tournament. This year the event had two new partners -the U of SC Measles Initiative Club and the Academy of Student Pharmacists. Bingham founded and served as president of the Measles Initiative Club during the 2008-2009 academic year to focus exclusively on supporting the efforts to reduce global measles deaths. The twenty volunteers raised a total of $10,842.02 to vaccinate children, and thousands of community members were educated on the threat that measles still poses today.
Bingham admits that the state of the economy made it challenging to get sponsorship from local area businesses. “In recognizing this trend, we increased our fundraising efforts. As a result, donations collected before the tournament exceeded the amount raised in 2008.” Bingham explains. The economic situation also affected the number of teams playing in the tournament, so the volunteers came up with ideas to boost educational and fundraising outcomes. A survey distributed at the tournament revealed that 64% of those in attendance did not realize measles was still a threat before the event. After attending the event, 92% of spectators planned to support immunization efforts. “With each dollar raised vaccinating a child, outcomes are measurable and the impact is quickly seen,” says Bingham.
Unlike the 2008 tournament, the 2009 COME BAT for MEASLES was held in one sports complex. As a result, fun games such as Team Mom/Dad Spirit Competition, the egg toss for children and the Sexy Legs Competition for Coaches attracted a larger crowd this year. Previously, participants had to travel to a different complex to be involved with the Fun Game activities. “With everyone working together at one complex, the softball tournament transcended mere game play to become more of an “event,” declares Bingham.
Bingham’s voluntary service and leadership have not gone unnoticed. Her efforts were recognized by the Rosemary Broadway Scholarship, which is awarded to full time students actively involved in community service. In 2009, the Measles Initiative Club received a $250 grant from the Jenzabar Foundation to support the COME BAT for MEASLES Tournament.
“By encouraging the efforts of young people, the impact of service efforts are magnified and lifelong volunteers are cultivated,” she points out. Bingham is being recognized as the Measles Advocate of the Month for the second time for her activities, which she hopes to replicate and expand for 2010.
To learn how you can join the efforts to raise awareness and funds for the Measles Initiative, visit www.measlesinitiative.org.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.