#GlobalGoals: Using What We Have

It’s ridiculous. For our family of five, there are five functional mobile phones in the household (even for the 86 year old with short-term memory issues who has an extremely limited social calendar). In addition to the five functional phones, an inventory of our home would probably unearth another five abandoned phones, set aside in favor of newer technology, more memory, and the ability for Youtube videos of cute kittens to load EVEN FASTER.

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Philippa Kibugu-Decuir of Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa Inc. would be happy with one smartphone per village in Rwanda, East Africa, never mind five per household.

That one smartphone per village would make a difference in a place characterized by lack of knowledge and help-seeking behaviors, as well as fear and poverty. These factors result in many African women presenting their breast cancer at late stages when it is difficult or impossible to treat.

With a smartphone and an educational app, trained volunteer ambassadors can spread information about early detection among villagers. This makes it likely that women will catch signs of breast cancer much earlier than had previously been the case.

The app is currently in English, but Kinyarwanda and Swahili versions are being developed.

In the photos below, Valerie, in the village of Gisozi, Gasabo District, Rwanda, receives a smartphone which she will use to educate women.

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Photo Credit: BCIEA

Philippa says:

We believe we can use what we have to get where we want to be.

Our world needs people like Philippa to achieve Goal 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal-3

One of the subgoals is: Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks. Philippa is directly impacting this goal, through improving early warning and risk reduction for women in Rwanda as it pertains to breast cancer.

In addition to this goal, the The UN has identified 16 other Sustainable Development Goals which will set the world’s agenda for the next 15 years. The 17 goals will be officially adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, September 25-27 in New York City.

Philippa inspires me to think harder about what I have, to be more creative in how I use it, and to have a more ambitious goal for the change I want to make in the health of the world around me.

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Although I chose to focus this post on the BCIEA project, I want to give a shout-out to some other organizations and individuals who are “using what they have to get where they want to be”:

  • An organization near and dear to me, Shot at Life, which helps ensure children around the world have access to life-saving immunizations. Learn more by clicking here.
  • The Kupona Foundation, which works closely to provide maternal healthcare, disability services, and sustainable health care in Tanzania. Learn more by clicking here.
  • I am also inspired by Jennifer Kate Lovallo. When her travel plans landed her in Budapest at precisely the same time that Syrian refugees were streaming through on their way to (primarily) Germany, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and disoriented, she arranged an impromptu effort to provide a relief station so the refugees could meet their basic survival needs. That particular situation may be over before the summit even convenes on September 25, but seeing her ability and willingness to initiate such an action on zero notice and to mobilize inspired me. Read more about her efforts here.

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To become more involved in the Global Goals, here are some resources:

Website:     Global Goals

Facebook:  The Global Goals

Twitter:       @UN and @TheGlobalGoals

Instagram:  The Global Goals

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UPDATE: Brenda of 1010 Park Place shared a great profile of Philippa here in October 2016.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

When Problems Seem Insurmountable: #Blogust 2015

I am not sure exactly why my husband and I ended up at the movie Philadelphia in early 1994. As a couple, we have not historically been big on going to movies together. I think it was a night out with a group of friends. Wayne loves Bruce Springsteen (who sang the movie’s theme song) too so maybe that nudged us there.

It was a raw time in our lives, a hauntingly raw time. Wayne’s sister had just died in her sleep at the age of 30, weeks before. I remember sitting by him in the theater wondering what kind of grief reaction the movie’s topic would induce.

Andrew Beckett, the character played by Tom Hanks, was a rising star in a high-profile law firm. As his AIDS diagnosis came to light (as well as his sexual preference), he was released from the firm.

Andrew hired one of the only attorneys who would take his case: Joe Miller, played by Denzel Washington. Joe Miller took on a problem he had no business taking on (from the outer world’s perspective), that of representing Andrew. He didn’t practice the right kind of law. He didn’t drive the right kind of car, live in the right kind of house, or have a diploma from the right kind of school hanging on his wall.

Although I was still in mourning for Wayne’s sister myself, the stronger pull of the film for me was the way it brought back to life all of the conversations I had as a counselor on the Florida AIDS Hotline when it first began (around 1987). Andrew’s struggle to navigate family and society dynamics unearthed the emotions I had felt when someone I loved told me he was gay.

Andrew’s mantra, through all of the doubt pervading his world, was:

EVERY PROBLEM HAS A SOLUTION

Although I have many favorite quotes (some of them listed here), and I love a well turned, elegant phrase, the truth and simplicity of this quote never fails to inspire me to keep trying, to entertain novel solutions to deeply entrenched problems, and to hope for a bright outcome even in times of darkness.

That is how I feel about being a part of Shot at Life. It would be easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues facing children around the world who are dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. It is hard to figure out how to get a vaccine to a child in some remote part of the world – how to physically get the vaccine to that child, how to get his or her mother to trust that the vaccine is something that will benefit their child, how to coordinate multiple moving parts to create a curative whole which will help as many children as possible make it to their fifth birthdays.

But I do believe “every problem has a solution.” I don’t always know what that solution is or how I personally can apply it, but I do know turning my back on this problem is not a solution. That is why I meet with my legislators and their staffs to encourage United States support of global immunization issues; it is why I learn as much as I can, from people who think differently and more creatively than me. It is why I cling tightly to the idea that one person, one idea, one conversation can make a difference.

Won’t you join me in making a difference today?

When Problems Seem Insurmountable: #Blogust 2015

During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2015—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share inspirational quotes for their children. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or take action using the social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, one vaccine will be donated to a child around the world (up to 50,000).

When Problems Seem Insurmountable: #Blogust 2015

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Pick My Get A Shot Give A Shot Band-Aid!

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Band-Aid Showdown for Get A Shot. Give A Shot. ® It’s a “flash” vote this year because tomorrow’s the day. (Last year’s post is here.)

(I am a champion for Shot @ Life, the United Nations Foundation program that educates, connects, and empowers Americans to help protect children in developing countries from vaccine-preventable diseases*.)

For the second year, Walgreens is sponsoring the Get a Shot. Give a Shot. ® campaign. When you receive a flu shot or any other immunization at Walgreens through the campaign, they will help provide a vaccine against polio or measles to a child in a developing country through Shot@Life.

Although the program has been expanded this year (Walgreens will provide vaccines to children in developing countries for every flu shot or immunization administered here in the US between now and June 30, 2015), the BIG push ends on Monday, October 13.

Around our world, 1 in 5 children do not have access to life-saving vaccines. Shot @ Life is developing and maintaining the momentum to help prevent the deaths that occur every 20 seconds among children under age 5 from vaccine-preventable diseases.

A few features to note about Get A Shot. Give A Shot ® :

  • No appointment is necessary (although you can make an appointment here)
  • Most insurance is accepted**
  • You receive 500 Balance Rewards points for every immunization

I have made my pledge:

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and will be getting my flu shot tomorrow afternoon, on the last day of the fall flu shot campaign. You can make your own pledge by clicking here.

For my flu shot, I need your help selecting a bandaid! Here are the options:

first six bandaids

second six bandaids

third six bandaidsAnd (drum roll please), one that deserves its own mention:

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I know this is a *quick* turnaround, but please let me know your choice before 3 p.m. tomorrow, October 13. (You can comment on the blog itself, on my Facebook page where I post the link to this blog, tweet me, or comment on Instagram.)
(And thank you to Johnson & Johnson Band-Aid for the $3 off coupon they sent for me to use in purchasing the favorite!)
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I’ll be interested in your thoughts about the BandAid choice but most importantly I would LOVE your participation — either through getting your flu shot at Walgreens (and by doing so getting a child vaccinated through Shot @ Life) — or by simply sharing the important message of Shot @ Life: that $20 (what some of us spend per week in coffee) can immunize a child against pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio!

For more information:

Shot @ Life website: www.shotatlife.org

Shot @ Life Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shotatlifecampaign

Shot @ Life Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShotAtLife

Shot @ Life YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/shotatlifecampaign

Shot @ Life Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/shotatlife/

Shot @ Life Donation Page:  Click here.

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LET ME KNOW YOUR FAVORITE BANDAID. THE ONE WITH THE MOST FANS WINS! AND IF YOU PLEDGE TO GET YOUR FLU SHOT, TAG ME ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA SHARE, AND USE #GETASHOT, I GUARANTEE I WILL WEAR YOURS EVEN IF I HAVE TO WEAR 20! 

Epilogue: The “Veteran” themed bandaids one overwhelmingly! Support Our Troops, Y’all! (And thank you to pharmacist Tammy and store manager Vernon for their help.)

SAL 2014

*Some verbiage taken from Shot @ Life materials.

** in full disclosure I need to let you Capital Health Plan/Tallahassee state employee folks know it is not covered under the state employee contract. I paid the $31.99 cost.

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Getting (and Giving) Pneumonia Like A Champ

cropped pneumonia

Immediately upon approaching the registration table at the Shot at Life Champions’ Summit last Monday, I got pneumonia. Having pneumonia throughout the end of the summit on Wednesday afternoon didn’t slow me down, though. In fact, I was a party to the spread of pneumonia,  polio, measles, and diarrhea all over Capitol Hill before I left.

Perhaps I should explain. My “pneumonia” (above) is actually about 3 inches high. So were the other plush diseases we passed out on Wednesday. Each of them represents vaccine-preventable diseases that causes the death of one child every 20 seconds.

I have been involved in Shot at Life for a little over a year. As I told the congressional staff with whom I met on Wednesday, the first and foremost reason to become involved in this particular cause is that I am a mom. I am a mom who does not want any mom, anywhere in the world, to know the pain of losing a child. Secondly, over the course of a career in a State Child Health Insurance program, I have seen the indisputable cost effectiveness of prevention over treatment. Although my experience is domestic, the same concept extends worldwide.

I had the opportunity earlier this week to participate in the Shot at Life Champions Summit in Washington, DC. I stand humbled and incredulous at the depth of intellect, commitment, and originality of the 130 Champions who were present. We learned facts about global immunization efforts, strategies for succeeding as teams, and ways to approach our elected officials to advocate for sustained funding and support for critical global health and global vaccine programs.

Rather than regurgitating 2 1/2 days worth of material for you in one blog post, I’ll share this infographic for the time being:

Vaccines and Economics

A few closing thoughts for this post (although there will be more to come on this topic!):

Teamwork Is Good

I woke up in a panic Wednesday morning, blanking on the fourth of the four “vaccine preventable diseases.” I thought, “gosh if I can’t even remember the fourth disease, how on earth will I make a finely articulated and researched point to Senator Rubio’s aide in three hours.” With the exception of the visit to Senator Rubio’s office, I had other Champions with me. If something slipped my mind, Nicolette or Sili could chime in. It’s not necessary to carry all the weight solo. (And when I was solo at Senator Rubio’s office, there was a Shot at Life staff member with me who could have helped if I had gotten stuck and it turns out the staffer went to Ethiopia last year on an awareness trip so she was exceptionally well prepared to discuss global health issues!).

Different Audiences Need Different Messages

I suppose this is obvious. It’s true in every area of my life. But this training helped me be more acutely aware of the different angles from which an elected official sees an issue. Anyone who knows me even casually knows I am a causes/save the world kind of girl. But it takes more than that to convince someone who may need a more nuanced presentation than “it’s the right thing to do!” I focused on the cost effectiveness of global vaccination programs, because I know our elected officials face a constituency who wants every penny accounted for. I learned, for example, that the United States recoups our total expenditure on smallpox eradication every 23 days, because we no longer have to vaccinate against the disease.

Diseases Don’t Carry Passports

Our world is big and vast physically. We have institutional structures set up to regulate who goes where. Germs really don’t care about those institutional structures. That’s why the fact that there is still polio in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan means that we are all still at risk.

I learned more, of course: that my visit to my Representative’s office will be just a drop in the bucket unless I follow it up with a letter delivered to his district office (preferably); that there is a national security tie-in for immunizations (because extremists can take advantage of weak government health systems by providing health services themselves to establish their credibility); that most discussions of the need for global vaccine programs will take a detour through the current domestic trends which find families refusing to vaccinate their children because of misinformation they have received.

I learned that there is a place for me in the creation of a healthier world by encouraging immunization of children in developing countries.

I learned that when you hand a little plush polio, diarrhea, measles, or pneumonia to a legislative staffer that everyone may giggle but no one will walk away uninformed.

A few pictures of my time at the champions summit:

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Dennis Ogbe is a Paralympian, Polio Survivor, and UNICEF Polio Advocate

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We were told we’d be more effective if we “sounded like a team.” That team thing came together pretty seamlessly; these fellow Florida moms (Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio) rock!

I find it impossible to be cynical at times like this.

I find it impossible to be cynical at times like this.

 BUT it is important to remember the goal, protecting someone like this:

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

Do you have an interest in getting involved? There are many ways to be a part of Shot at Life:

Website:     www.shotatlife.org

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/shotatlifecampaign

Twitter:       @shotatlife

Fund polio vaccines by running, walking, cycling using the Charity Miles App: www.charitymiles.org.

Become a champion by applying at:  http://shotatlife.org/about-us/champions/.

Yes, we all chuckled a bit as we bid goodbye to the aides at the offices of Senator Rubio, Senator Nelson, Representative Southerland, and Representative Grayson (Sili/Nicolette) and “gave” them polio (in the form of a 3 inch piece of fluff). But the lack of access to life saving vaccines and immunizations against some of the most deadline diseases that children throughout our world face is no laughing matter.

Instead of “giving” them polio, measles, pneumonia, or diarrhea, let’s give them a Shot At Life.

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

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Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Happy 1st Birthday, Shot@Life!

In my Wordless Wednesday post yesterday, I asked who this woman is:

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and I promised “the icing on the cake” today of revealing her identity as well as the 1st birthday that is being celebrated.

This woman is Polly Palumbo. I am excited to have had an opportunity to learn about her past year as a Champion for Shot@Life, a United Nations Foundation movement to protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are most needed. Shot@Life is celebrating its first birthday this week, along with World Immunization Week.

Here’s our conversation:

PK: There are so many different campaigns about causes that help children. What was it about Shot@Life that captured your attention?

PP: As a mom it’s hard to learn kids are still dying from illnesses we can largely prevent. I also know parenting is challenging. Every day there are decisions, choices to make from the simple to difficult. Although the latest study or expert might claim to know what’s best for your child, it’s not always clear. Sometimes there are no clear answers.  As a former researcher and psychologist who now writes about parenting and children’s health I often hear people say there’s nothing we know for sure about kids or they don’t know who or what to believe. I get it. One expert says make sure your kid drinks 3 glasses of a milk a day, the other one says kids drink too much milk. It’s true we hear more advice than ever, more conflicting advice than ever and I agree, it can be confusing. It’s easy to believe the experts don’t know anything.

But there’s one thing we know for sure – giving children in the developing world access to vaccines is the best way, in fact the most cost-effective way to ensure their future health. Plain and simple. Children are still dying from vaccine-preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea and more parents should hear this. Most of us here in the United States have the luxury of not having to worry about our kids dying from measles or pneumonia but that is not the case in some parts of the world. Yes parenting is a challenge anywhere but there are risks and then there are risks. It’s easy to lose perspective. It’s easy to forget that we do know how to prevent disease and literally save a child’s life. I find that refreshing both as a mother sometimes worrying about things I needn’t worry about and as a professional debunking research and telling parents what we don’t know for sure or what they can ignore.

PK: One thing I have always struggled with as a parent is how to help my children understand that issues in places that are far away affect children who are the same age and gender as they are – that these kids aren’t just a picture in a magazine or an abstract problem (sort of the “eat your dinner, kids in China are starving thing). What is a way that I as a parent can help my children (13 and 16) have a basic understanding of the issues Shot@Life addresses?

PP: Kids get Shot@Life and want to help. I don’t think it’s hard for them to understand, even young children. After I spent a couple days at the Shot@Life Summit in D.C. last year I came home and told my children about it and explained what was so important to take me away from them.  They had a lot of questions. Kids want to know, they want to put it all into context. We talked about how kids were still dying from diseases we could prevent, ones we could prevent for very little money. My kindergartener at the time looked up and asked “how much money?”  When I said a few dollars he asked why if he had that much money in his piggy bank, the kids were still dying. He just couldn’t understand why the grown ups were not saving more kids. I told him I didn’t understand. That’s when I knew I would do more to help. It’s my kids, really, they make me want to help and they were eager to get involved.

Older children obviously have different questions and concerns. My oldest, a sixth-grader, had questions about the diseases themselves. She wanted to know about measles and polio in particular, where people were still contracting these diseases and also the history of these diseases here in the United States. We looked at several sites online together.

PK: Once my kids understand these issues, how can they get involved?

PP: My kids threw a simple fundraiser at their school (where they have a dress code). They sponsored a dress-down day where kids donate a dollar. They gave a brief presentation about Shot@Life. My daughters had fun making Shot@Life bracelets and cupcakes. We’re planning on making some t-shirts too. My oldest and I do Charity Miles for Shot@Life.

Kids can also write letters to their Senators and members of Congress on behalf of Shot@Life. An advocate in California, Tracy Clark, her teenaged daughter basically got her involved through Model UN at school. Other kids have participated in Valentine-making parties, birthday parties, free-throw fundraisers, walkathons, and helping out at booths at street fairs. The events have been so creative. My kids are already planning lemonade stands for the summer. They’ll help me throw some parties and a tag sale.

PK: How do you keep Shot@Life “front and center” among the various causes you espouse?

PP: Good question. We all have so many opportunities to help so I find it helpful to be clear why I advocate. There are causes or organizations that help a lot of people but in a small way. Then there are causes that can significantly improve the lives of a smaller group of children, maybe even kids who live around the corner. Then there’s Shot@Life that significantly changes, even saves the lives of a lot of children. So it gets my attention over and over! From writing about it on my blog, participating in Twitter parties, speaking about the cause at others organizations, making green friendship bracelets with my kid to finding myself in the same room (a large one!) at a “high-level” polio summit with world leaders at the United Nations, Shot@Life provides plenty of opportunities to get involved.

How do I keep it front and center? It’s not difficult with the momentum surrounding Shot@Life. From Blogust, the Champion Summit and the Global Mom Relay to this Birthday Bash, there’s always something brewing at Shot@Life. As one of the first advocates I now mentor other champions of the campaign. I find these women and men volunteering their time, efforts and dedication to helping kids so inspiring. It’s a pleasure to get to meet with people from other organizations and speak about Shot@Life.  Each time I go out on behalf of Shot@Life I am reminded each time that people identify with the cause, with the need to improve the health of children everywhere, be it in their families, neighbors or across the world. People want to help, they understand the pain of having a sick child. Their kids have had pneumonia or diarrhea. They didn’t have to worry if their children would survive these illnesses. Some remember measles and polio first-hand. And it’s easy to get involved. Sign up for emails, follow Shot@Life on Twitter, fill out an advocacy card, write a Senator, like us on Facebook, buy a t-shirt, go to a fundraiser, become a champion. Or download Charity Miles, a great way to get involved on a regular basis. I’ve enjoyed watching how Shot@Life figures into other advocates’ lives from photographers championing through their artwork, writers in their articles, health professionals in their offices or practices and teachers in their classrooms. We lend our unique gifts and insights to helping kids.

PK: As a Champion, what has been a highlight of the past year in terms of making a difference through Shot@Life?

PP: One of my most memorable experiences and probably most rewarding came in a room of women mostly in their seventies and eighties. I’d been invited to speak but after a few minutes of technical difficulties I couldn’t show a slideshow so decided to ask about their experiences with polio and other illnesses. I asked if anyone in the room or a close family member had had polio. Some hands went up. Then I asked if they’d had friends with polio.  More hands. Then I asked about measles, pneumonia and you can guess that most hands were in the air. They remembered these diseases all too well. They were eager to tell their stories. Also they just wanted to say thank you to me even though I’d basically just showed up, talked some then listened. They wanted to help too. So although I haven’t traveled to Nigeria or India on behalf of Shot@Life or met any families directly helped by the campaign, I think these women reminded me how terribly devastating these illnesses can be and not just for the victim but their family and friends even decades, a near lifetime later. They still remembered the pain.

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Don’t you agree this interview is the “icing on the cake” that I promised last night?

 Thank you, Polly!

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(I am linking this post up to Mama Kat. One of the prompts this week was “describe a time when you wish you had spoken up.” I think issues like immunization beg for us to speak up, and I thank Polly for helping me broaden the ways in which I can do so as well as my children.)

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Four More #VDay10K Days To Boost Shot @ Life

camouflage bandage

My son got a routine childhood immunization recently. It took a fraction of a minute. The cost was negligible. The biggest decision was which bandaid to get (camo got the nod).

For 1.5 million children every year, inability to receive vaccinations against preventable diseases results in death. That’s one child every 20 seconds. One child whose death could have been prevented by something we know how to do.

When I participated in Rotary International’s End Polio Now “World’s Biggest Commercial” (the “this close” campaign to demonstrate how very close we are to eradicating polio), little did I know that my favorite app, Charity Miles, would soon be partnering with Shot @ Life to encourage people to walk, run, and cycle in order to raise awareness and funds to give even more children worldwide access to vaccines for conditions such as pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, and polio.

rotated this close

Rotary International “End Polio Now ” We Are “This Close”

The #VDay10K, a partnership between the United Nations Foundation and Charity Miles, encourages walkers, runners, and cyclists to use the free Charity Miles app to attempt to raise $10,000 for the UN Foundation Charities of Shot @ Life, Girl Up, and Nothing But Nets by 2/28/13.

February 28 is just four days away.

You know how a lot of childhood immunizations require “boosters”? Let’s look at it this way. Many Charity Miles supporters have taken the first “shot” at raising the bulk of this $10,000. Now we can all band together for the “booster” that seals the deal. A booster would ensure a child is truly inoculated against a threatening disease. A walk/run/cycle booster would be good for you, me and these children.

Charity Miles founder Gene Gurkoff said it well when this campaign kicked off:
“We don’t want people to open their wallets, just tie up their sneakers.”

Four more days! Let’s:

Walk four miles, enough to donate a polio vaccine through Shot @ Life.

Protect a child from malaria by cycling miles toward nets through Nothing But Nets.

Run a mile, five, or 10 and provide a week of education for a girl with every single mile through Girl Up.

My kids are fortunate. Getting immunizations is a routine for them, a bit of a nuisance but something that becomes an afterthought when the camo bandaid is tossed in the trash can.

Let’s go an extra mile for kids who are not so fortunate.

Four More Days.

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 *Information about childhood immunization came from the Shot@Life website.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.