The British Polio Fellowship has taken the extraordinary step of presenting the national charity’s most prestigious honour, the Barbara Wood Citizenship Award to Mrs Dawn Clements from Birmingham, in recognition of the role she played in encouraging Polio vaccination in 50s Britain.
The Award was created in honour of Barbara Wood, who joined The British Polio Fellowship in the 1960s and dedicated her life to serving her community. This is the first time the award has been given to a non-member of the charity and will be presented to Dawn at Birmingham City Football Club by The British Polio Fellowship’s national Chair of Trustees, Pam Jones, on Wednesday 25 June at 2:00pm.
Ted Hill, MBE, CEO of The British Polio Fellowship said “It was felt that Dawn’s role in promoting the Polio vaccination programme in the 50s has gone largely unrecognised, so in the charity’s 75th anniversary year, I would like to offer my congratulations to Dawn on receiving this richly deserved recognition.”
Following the death of Dawn’s husband from Polio, (the legendary England and Birmingham City Footballer, Jeff Hall), Dawn made records and television appearances in the UK to encourage people to be vaccinated; like Elvis Presley did in the US. Take up of the Polio vaccine in 1950s Britain had been slow up to this point, but the moving story of this young woman widowed as a result of Polio galvanised the nation to seek immunisation.
Dawn has never been recognised for what she did and The British Polio Fellowship, together with Dawn’s family, Birmingham City FC and local media are all campaigning for formal recognition for Dawn, while the support of local constituency MP for West Worcestershire Harriet Baldwin has also been sought. The British Polio Fellowship felt they could lead this campaign by example by changing their rules to present Dawn with the Barbara Wood Citizenship Award, despite her not having Polio or being a member of the charity.
“It is very nice to receive this award and I would like to thank The British Polio Fellowship for presenting it to me,” said Dawn Clements on receiving the award from Pam Jones. “I’m glad what I did back then had such a big impact and it’s nice to know my story is still helping charity and people still living with the late effects of Polio.”
“Many of our members recognise Dawn and her story from the 50s and it is my pleasure to be able to present Dawn with our biggest honour,” said British Polio’s national Chairman of Trustees, Pam Jones. “While Polio vaccination came too late for our members, no one wanted the next generation to go through what we did and thanks to Dawn, they got themselves vaccinated and Polio was eradicated in the UK.”
While Dawn’s efforts spared millions of people from Polio, they also spared those vaccinated from the prospect of facing the late effects of Polio and Post Polio Syndrome (PPS), which still affects over 120,000 people in the UK and remains a ticking time bomb for those people in the developing world with Polio, who will have to face PPS in later life.
“In an age where we honour pop stars and athletes for their achievements, it must be possible to recognise someone who helped save a generation from the most terrifying illness the world has ever known,” added Ted. “By breaking with tradition to present Dawn with the Barbara Wood Award, I hope we can open the floodgates to greater recognition at national level for Dawn and for PPS, which still casts a long shadow of 120,000 people over the UK to this day.”
“I am hopeful that with the support of Birmingham people we can securing more recognition for Dawn and this Award from The British Polio Fellowship is fantastic, “said Dawn’s husband Allen Clements. “We have been overwhelmed by local support and after 50 years, it would make Dawn’s day to know what she did during the worst time of her young life still matters. We know it matters to fans of Birmingham City and The British Polio Fellowship and we hope it means the same to others out there too.”
The British Polio Fellowship is a charity dedicated to helping, supporting and empowering those in the UK living with the late effects of Polio and PPS. For more details or information on The British Polio Fellowship, call us on 0800 043 1935, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.britishpolio.org.uk