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why i traveled 3000 miles to advocate for children who aren’t mine

Shot at Life

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Ramson

Every 20 seconds, a child around the world dies from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine. Annually, that number equals almost half the children entering kindergarten in the United States alone this year.

As a mother, I find that devastating.

As a human being, I find it inexcusable.

So, last week, I left my own family and work responsibilities to travel across the country to join 100 other Shot@Life Champions, meet with my elected officials on Capitol Hill and advocate for global immunization. It was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve ever had.

Shot@Life is a grassroots campaign developed by the United Nations Foundation to educate Americans about the importance of global vaccines as one of the most cost-effective methods of saving children’s lives in developing countries. It’s what Real Simple editor and Shot@Life partner Kristin van Ogtrop calls “stupid easy.”

It costs just $20 to vaccinate a child against four of the most deadly and disabling diseases: measles, pneumonia, diarrhea and polio. Yet, with the U.S. budget in crisis, funds for foreign aid are on the chopping board.

Before you say, “those diseases aren’t our problem and we don’t have money to spend on other countries when our own economy is suffering,” here are some facts that resonated with me:

* All of these diseases are just a plane ride away. The world has gotten very small, and if someone with one of those diseases brings it here, it can easily become our problem again.

* Thanks to major vaccination efforts, the number of cases of polio – a disease that once claimed the lives of millions of people and left almost 1000 children paralyzed every day – has dropped by 99 percent around the world. Global health experts once warned that India would be the hardest place to end polio, but the country has been polio-free for two years now. With only three countries left, we can actually eradicate polio in our lifetime. What a huge victory that would be! And it’s within our reach.

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Ramson

* By focusing on ending these diseases now, we will ultimately save over $7 billion in treatment costs – costs we can take out of the budget forever. We will reap another $144 billion in economic yield and, most importantly, save the lives of more than 6 million children.

* Polls show that Americans assume 20 to 50 percent of the U.S. budget goes toward foreign affairs, and believe the number should be closer to five percent. The truth is less than one percent goes toward foreign aid, with only a small portion of that earmarked for global health. Five percent would be a welcome and much-needed 500 percent increase!

Many politicians are already on board. Our California contingent – the largest group at the Shot@Life Champion Summit, and one that included doctors, students, parents and bloggers, both male and female, from teens to boomers – received a warm welcome from representatives of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Henry Waxman and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, all of whom pledged their continued support of this bipartisan, humanitarian issue.

For me, personally, one of the highlights of the trip was listening to a group of women who had traveled to Uganda with Shot@Life and who had seen firsthand the impact it was making. I was particularly moved by the stories and pictures of mothers who had walked miles and waited hours just to get their children vaccinated, and who proudly showed off the immunization cards which they considered their most valuable treasures.

It is in solidarity with these mothers that I will write, advocate and fundraise. Until every one of them is able to experience the relief of having their babies vaccinated, I will put in the time and distance in their honor to give their children – like mine – a shot at life.

Here are three “stupid easy” ways to make a difference:

* Sign up as a Shot@Life supporter here. When it asks how you heard about Shot@Life, click “other” and when it says “specify,” type in my name. The more supporters the organization has, the more influence it will be able to have on legislation.

* Make a donation. $20 is all it takes to immunize one child against the four diseases mentioned above — for life. Do it in honor of your own children.

* Consider becoming a Shot@Life champion. It’s already been one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.


  1. What a wonderful organization and how easy to support it. Thanks for sharing your experience, Lois.

  2. A very deserving cause. I hope your readers will be generous in their support and go over the modest goal you set. Thank you Lois for raising our awareness of this organization.

  3. Linda D'Ae-Smith says:

    “Stupid easy” – I like that! Great info and cause.

  4. Susan Ladd says:

    Great Cause !!! Thanks for this awesome sweep and I hope to win 🙂

  5. sheryl baron says:

    Lois, you are the best teacher! I learn so much from reading your posts on EVERYTHING! By the way, I saw you in the sea of beautiful green on the steps of what I’m guessing is Capitol Hill. Thanks for all the good work you do! :0)

  6. thanks for sharing and keep up the good work

  7. The fact that a child dies every 20 seconds from a preventable disease is staggering. Making people more aware of this is just a good cause!

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