In the first half of the 1900s, polio was one of the most dreaded and feared diseases.
No one knew how the polio virus worked and how to stop it. All that most people knew was that a lot of people got polio and were left crippled.
By the mid-1950s, thanks to breakthroughs by Drs. Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk, a vaccine for polio was discovered. The dreaded disease was eradicated.
March of Dimes then took on a new mission: helping prevent birth defects. In the 1970s it began emphasizing the importance of prenatal care and carrying babies to full term.
It is a cause that is dear to the heart of Vickie Hargrove.
Ms. Hargrove was recently named community director for March of Dimes of East Texas. She is responsible for implementing programs in the northeastern part of Texas — an area that stretches from Nacogdoches to Texarkana and includes Tyler and Longview. Ms. Hargrove’s background is in marketing, planning, finance and fundraising and she’s served on boards of numerous nonprofit organizations.
During a recent taping of “In Touch with East Texas,” a radio show I host, Ms. Hargrove acknowledged that part of her challenge is public awareness.
Some assume that because polio is gone, there is no need for March of Dimes. However, she says, with its new focus, the need is greater than ever.
March of Dimes says that the premature birth rate has risen 36 percent in the United States in the last 25 years and that now nearly half a million babies are not being carried to full term each year. Babies born weeks early are at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities.
March of Dimes helps parents of children with complications from premature birth and helps purchase equipment used in neonatal intensive care units.
Volunteers no longer go door to door. In East Texas, fundraisers include March for Babies walks in Longview and Nacogdoches and the Signature Chefs event in Tyler.
To learn more about March of Dimes or to help the cause, contact Ms. Hargrove at 3800 Paluxy Drive, Suite 115, Tyler, or call 903-707-3584.