LONG ISLAND, NY – Supporters attended the National Meningitis Association GIVE KIDS A SHOT! Gala at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan on April 27, 2015. I had the opportunity to interview Chair Gary Springer from Springer Associates PR. Mr. Springer’s son was stricken with meningococcal disease at the age of fourteen. Luckily he did survive but all his limbs were amputated. His public relation firm Springer Associates PR has and continues to manage a wide and diverse clientele ranging from theatre and film to personalities and events.
Under John Springer, SPRINGER ASSOCIATES represented many theatre, film and television personalities including Al Pacino, Mia Farrow, Ed Harris, Myrna Loy, Shelley Winters, Sally Kirkland, Dustin Hoffman, Lauren Bacall, Jamie Sheridan, Maureen Stapleton, Harry Belafonte, Carrie Fisher, Robert Merrill, Janet Leigh, Maureen O’Sullivan, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Henry Fonda, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich, Robert Preston, Bette Davis, Warren Beatty, Julie Christy, Joan Crawford and many, many others. I was fortunate to talk to Gary and to learn more about meningococcal disease. Below is our interview:
Welcome back darlings, I am Cognac Wellerlane and we are here at the Pierre Hotel for the National Meningitis Gala, “Give the Kids a Shot,” and I am here with Chair Gary Springer. He has many stories that he can tell us right now, right here at this gala. Tell my audience how many galas have we gone through so for now?
Gary: This is our seventh and we just have been growing every year. I mean its just a wonderful organization, This is an annual linch-pin that propels us for the following year. It’s always been successful. It’s always been successful. It’s always been fun and its always been poignant.
Tell my audience for those that are unaware what is this event really all about.
Gary: Well Meningitis is a heinous disease. It attacks the bloodstream and chokes the organs while at the same time the bacteria is choking the organs, its dying and it’s causing the blood vessels to clot inside out. Many people who get this are dead within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. My son got it when he was fourteen years old when he was at camp.
Gary: He happens to be one of the lucky ones because he survived but he also had amputations of all four limbs.
Oh my God, I know I interviewed your son a couple of years ago and he is such a brave soul.
Gary: You know it’s also attitude. You have to believe life is good and that you are going to go on. There are also so many who don’t. There was a young girl seventeen years old last week that got it in Virginia, beautiful, blond, vivacious, she was dead within twenty-four hours.
Oh my God!
Gary: The disease can hit anyone but what we try to do at NMA is try to educate doctors, parents, schools, camps that there is a vaccine that potentially can prevent this. I am not going to say it is going to definitely prevent it but it very well potentially can prevent this and now there is a new vaccine.
Tell my audience about that.
Gary: Well, you know if you recall last year at Princeton University there were I think ten people that came down with Meningitis but it was the B strain which didn’t have a vaccine legalized in the U.S. Now there is a legalized B vaccine. There are five strains of Meningitis and we cover four of them now I believe.
So it is so important to get that vaccination!
Gary: It’s very important and its very important to get it when you are young because this is a disease that happens when you’re with people at camps, at boarding schools because people come from….
Gary: Yeah, but people come from different areas and they all have different bacterias. I mean you and I are friends we have the same bacteria but she and I don’t and you know you can get it drinking a glass of water by sharing a water bottle which is how we think my son got it.
And students do that all the time.
Gary: All the time, they share cigarettes, drinks…
What about makeup? Can they get from makeup? I know girls like to share mascara, eye shadow…
Gary: I don’t know about that. I honestly don’t know but yeah if they share lipstick for instance.
Oh my God!
Gary: And they are putting on their lips and they are sharing with somebody else, because a large percentage of the other population has this bacteria in their sinus cavities which is kind of your posterior for bacteria. When it becomes active that particular persons body starts fighting it off but there are a lot of other people who don’t have this bacteria and if they get that before their bodies starts fighting it off which is what happened to my son they are going to come down with this disease. It’s awful.
Well that is why I am here to bring awareness. To let people know out there that there is other options that they need to know about. Vaccination and other literature that they need to know.
Gary: Let me also say that there is a big hoopla about vaccination. This vaccination is synthetic. It isn’t like your getting a little bit of dead tissue or a live tissue of a particular disease which people get very crazy about. There are minimal side effects. I am not sure if there are any because of the vaccination is synthetic but the preventive possibilities are so important because how would you like to look at your fourteen year old son with no arms or legs.
It must break you heart everyday! Does it break your heart?
Gary: My son is alive; there are so many other sons and daughters that aren’t!
Will there be any celebrities and notable individuals coming to give their support tonight?
Gary: Richard Thomas will be here tonight. He has been our MC in past years. Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. is one of our honorary chair people. There are a lot of good people that support and come every year. I spoke to Liv Ullmann, Norwegian actress. She is also one of our honorary chair people and she couldn’t come; she is in Florida but she called me this morning to wish us well and that she is thinking of us tonight.
Tell my audience where we can go to find out information, what is the website?
Gary: The best site is NMAUS.org National Meningitis Association U.S. and they can give you information about the vaccine, all the various vaccines, the laws in each state because there are different laws when you must get vaccinated.
I also spoke to Co-chair Sara Herbert Galloway who expressed, “This will be my seventh year co-chairing with Gary Springer and Gary is a dear friend and I learned about this organization from Gary and Errol Rappaport. Once I met Gary’s wife Nancy who has sadly passed away now and I met Nick I just wanted to be involved. I took this under my wing and my heart because the people I have met at this organization have so much courage, so much strength.”
NMA began in 2002 as a handful of parents whose families experienced the devastating impact of meningococcal disease. It was only after their experiences that they learned the disease is vaccine-preventable. Over the years, this small group grew into a national organization that advocates for meningococcal disease awareness and prevention. When NMA was founded, there was little public knowledge about meningococcal disease. Also, at that time, vaccination was not recommended, and an organized support structure for affected families did not exist.
Much has changed since NMA was founded:
Vaccination is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all preteens and teens as well as those of other ages with risk factors for the disease. Many states now require vaccination for adolescents; others require that families and college students be educated about prevention. Vaccination rates have climbed steadily in recent years while disease incidence has declined. Research and development are in progress to improve prevention options. NMA is proud to have played a role in increasing meningococcal disease awareness and vaccination rates.
The National Meningitis Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. To learn more information please visit http://www.nmaus.org