Partnership leads to incredible project

Published 11:44 am Tuesday, January 15, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Thankfully, polio is not a disease we hear about every day anymore. For those who grew up in the early to mid-20th century, polio was a fairly common and frightening reality.

We’ve all seen movies such as “Forrest Gump” depicting young children with polio wearing elaborate and heavy leg braces, and we all know how dangerous the disease was and still is.

Thankfully, through the work of groups such as Rotary International, Easter Seals and countless volunteers, our part of the world is now deemed polio-free. But other, less developed parts of the world are still battling the dangerous and sometimes deadly disease, which primarily affects children younger than 5.

Sometimes, if something is not in front of us every day, we tend to forget about it altogether. That’s why I was so happy to hear about a project students at Thompson Middle School recently completed through a partnership with the Alabaster-Pelham Rotary Club, of which I am a member.

Rotary Club Sergeant at Arms Dick Ritz approached the school a few months ago to ask the principal if he was interested in partnering with Rotary to help spread the word about the disease. That meeting connected the Rotary Club with TMS art teacher Claire Caldwell, who enlisted some of her most talented students to create drawings chronicling the history of the disease and how it still affects some parts of the world.

When the project was completed, the students’ drawings were nothing short of incredible. I actually thought the drawings had been created by artists much older than seventh- and eighth-graders when I got my first glimpse of them at the Rotary Club’s Southern Christmas Bazaar at the Pelham Civic Complex in late November.

Like most who saw the project, I learned much about the disease and its history while reading the captions below each picture

I applaud Ritz, Caldwell and the students who took the time to showcase their talents while helping to spread the word about a terrible disease still affecting children across the world.

Neal Wagner is the city editor for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 17 or by email at