Former March of Dimes poster child comes back to Memphis for organization's 75th anniversary
Diagnosed with polio when she was 4 months old, Mary Kosloski-Garrett became a symbol of success.
A Collierville native, she’s lived a life that some could only dream of.
In 1955, she became the national poster child for the March of Dimes and was around stars who wanted to help find a cure for the crippling, potentially fatal disease.
“I met President Eisenhower, Helen Hayes, Grace Kelly, John Wayne and Walt Disney,” said Kosloski-Garrett, now 64. “I was real fortunate at that time.”
While traveling to the White House was a highlight for Kosloski-Garrett, her voice rose when she began to talk about her trip to Graceland.
“I remember my mother telling me I would get to see all his teddy bears,” she said about Elvis Presley. “I went in the room and sure enough, all the bears were there. I waited for a while then he came in, we took pictures and he gave me a kiss on the cheek. He was so handsome. He made the trip very special for me.”
March of Dimes, which was started by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938 to fight polio, is celebrating its 75th anniversary Saturday with its annual “March for Babies” walk in Shelby Farms Park at 8 a.m. Kosloski-Garrett traveled from her home in Little River, S.C., to Memphis for the occasion.
Phil Toothman, Tennessee director of marketing for March of Dimes, said after a vaccine was created in 1952 to curb polio, they had to find another focus — preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality.
“Mary is an important part of our history,” Toothman said. “It show us how far we’ve come. It’s because of that vaccine that she’s here with us today.”
Kosloski-Garrett, who gets around in an electric wheelchair, said Roosevelt and the large number of children afflicted by the disease garnered attention, but the work being done now may be more important.
“I think everyone knows someone who’s been affected in some way by premature birth or birth defects,” she said. “With the community pulling together for March of Dimes there may not be a complete cure, but I know it’s going to get better and better because they’ve already shown success in so many areas.”
source: The Commercial Appeal