JANUARY 15, 1960
FRESNO, Calif.—The March of Dimes campaign opened throughout the country on January 5, signalled by the dedication of its first study center of birth defects in the Children's Hospital of Columbus, Ohio.
The National Foundation originally was devoted exclusively to conquering polio. It still has to continue this program, for new cases of crippling polio do occur, especially where people forget that they should get their three shots of Salk vaccine at the proper intervals. And there will be for a long time old cases of polio victims where care will be needed and given through the money raised by the March of Dimes.
The Foundation, however, felt it should now move into new fields as well, and so it decided to try to do something about the fact that one out of every 16 American babies is born with some defect.
Through research it is hoped that causes of malformation will be discovered and ways found to prevent such occurrence. Surgical procedures have been developed for some defects. Operations for defects of the central nervous system will be used and evaluated at Columbus. Operations to close open spines or relieve the pressure of fluid in the brain have been successful in many cases in repairing damage, so that children can lead relatively normal lives.
Probably the most sorrowful words a mother and father can hear are those spoken by a doctor outside a hospital delivery room: "I'm sorry I must tell you....." The parents then must suffer to hear that something is wrong with their baby. Assuaging the pain and bewilderment of such parents, helping them to help their child surely are services of compassion that the March of Dimes can provide.
In addition to this work the Foundation will start new research in arthritis, which is the second greatest crippler of children. Arthritis attacks every age group, and this will be a new effort to help the children who may be prevented from developing normally because of the little understanding we have had in the past—first of the extent to which arthritis was present in childhood and then of the preventatives that could be discovered.
While the March of Dimes campaign is going on this month I hope very much that everyone will realize that enough money must be raised not only that the Foundation may continue its program in communities for the needed aid in polio work, but so that the research in these two new fields which cripple so many children may begin to find significant answers.
Everything that can be done to help a child develop normally, to give him or her a happy and useful life, reduces the burden upon the older generation. So, your generosity today is highly important to the future. I feel sure there will be the same response and enthusiasm during this period that has always brought the March of Dimes to a high point of financial success.