Every year across the world, maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) takes the lives of nearly 60,000 babies and a significant number of their mothers. Kiwanis joined with UNICEF to eliminate this disease in June 2010, pledging to raise $110 million over five years.
Four years later, Kiwanis and UNICEF, through Project Eliminate, have raised $52 million toward that goal, bringing them close to the halfway mark.
“That’s really important in Kiwanis campaigns like this, because getting to the halfway point then propels for the end,” Campaign Associate Director Lindsay Marciniak said.
Kiwanis members in Queens have done their fair share of fundraising, collecting nearly $35,000.
A large portion of those funds have come from Vivienne Crowe and her friends at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village. Crowe is the vice president of the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), and she and her friends have sold 917 fuzzy koalas, which come hugging a pencil and with a tag that explains Project Eliminate.
Her mother, Geri Crowe, is a member of the Kiwanis Club in Maspeth. Vivienne was looking for a community service project that would support an international cause, and found Project Eliminate through her.
“It’s a good feeling for kids to understand how to be a part of the community,” Geri said.
Vivienne began selling koalas with the other members of NJHS during homeroom. The small toys were a huge hit, particularly among students in the younger grades, and NJHS soon had to restock hundreds more koalas to sell.
Even now, Vivienne said there is a waiting list for the next batch of koalas.
“I have five friends for the past week who have been asking me where the koalas are and when they’re coming in,” Vivienne said.
“These little koala bears shot off,” J.P. DiTroia, divisional coordinator for Project Eliminate, said. “We have fun and we raise money at the same time.”
DiTroia, who joined Project Eliminate because he lost a child himself, said that other schools have followed Our Lady of Hope School’s lead. Our Lady of Mercy School wants 400 koalas and St. Stanislaus Kostka School wants 200.
Kiwanis and UNICEF have together eliminated MNT in 34 countries, leaving only 25 that are still fighting the disease. They have saved 29 million lives.
“Can you imagine if Kiwanis helped eliminate neonatal tetanus from the world?” DiTroia said. “That would be something.”