High School Heroes: A 'Purple Pinkie' fight against polio

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KAMAS -- There were plenty of painted purple pinkies at South Summit High School Wednesday, and it all started with the wish and hard work of 17-year-old Shannon Argyle.

"It's definitely taken over a lot of things I've been doing," Shannon says. "I mean, I go home and me and my mom talk about Purple Pinkie, we talk about everything we have to do to plan for it; and it's good to know we're making a difference."

Shannon Argyle
Shannon Argyle

Shannon's difference is helping eradicate polio around the world. She and her team of Interact Club volunteers held a fundraiser: one dollar equals one painted pinkie.

"The kids donate, and we paint their pinkie purple -- because in India, after the kids are vaccinated, they paint their fingers purple to tell that they've been vaccinated, so they know who's had the vaccination and who hasn't," Shannon explains.

She helped charter the school's Interact Club with the goal of doing more community service and trying to make the world a better place. At a summer camp with the Rotary Club of Utah, she said she was shocked to hear polio still exists.

"They started, in 1985, eradicating; and when they started there were 125 countries that had polio and there were over 350,000 cases," Shannon says. "In 2008, there were less than 2,000 cases reported of polio, so they've really gone in and knocked it out."

Shannon wants the disease knocked out permanently. So, in a school assembly this week, she educated her peers on the current dangers of polio.

There are only four countries who haven't been vaccinated yet: India, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

"She's a student, and there are so many other fun things that they could do, but yet she wanted to do something that makes a difference in the world, and that's the kind of child that she is. She's always been that way," says Natalie Argyle, Shannon's mother.

Shannon also pitches for the varsity softball team, is an honor roll student, and currently takes college courses through South Summit, hoping to graduate with her associate's degree. But her big goal right now: getting every little pinkie painted purple.

"We'll paint your pinkie purple to show that you saved a child's life, and you can help save the world," she tells fellow classmates.

Shannon's team has collected nearly $400, with a local business matching those funds.

With another chance to donate Saturday at a Kamas grocery story, Shannon hopes to help at least 2,000 children in her fight to eliminate polio forever. CLICK HERE for more information.

E-mail: kaiken@ksl.com

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