Outside art funding OK Thank you for calling attention to the need for arts education in the schools in the January 2005 issue of Chicago Parent. I wanted to respond to comments made by Susan Linn in the article "Gotta Have Art," warning against the use of corporate money in the schools. The Joel Hall Dance Center has been bringing arts education to Chicago Public Schools for more than 10 years, largely through the support of donations from corporations and foundations. In my experience, there are many corporations throughout the Chicago area that willingly provide funding to support community outreach arts programs with no expectation of any commercial gain. Most of the schools we work with don’t even realize who is picking up the tab for our programs, thus offering no opportunity to "sell the hearts and minds of children."

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the many private foundations that allow us to bring the arts to the schools for little or no cost to the school. These non-profit organizations, including the Polk Bros. Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Alphawood Foundation, John R. Houlsby Foundation, Woods Fund of Chicago, John R. Halligan Foundation, Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, Wrightwood Neighbors Association and many others, are committed to partnering with arts organizations to provide access to the arts to underserved children. Their support allows us to bring dance, music and arts integration to more than 3,000 Chicago Public School students and their teachers each year.

BONNIE KRASNY Director of Development Joel Hall Dance Center

Let legislators do their job Thank you for your recent article "Phasing Out the Debate" in February’s Health Roundup. The issue of mercury and its neurotoxic effects requires the urgent attention of anyone concerned about public health. Dr. Ed Pont was right about one thing: the Mercury Free Vaccine Act will apparently not have any effect on children’s health. The Illinois Department of Public Health has decided to override the intent of the Mercury Free Vaccine Act, signed into law by Gov. Blagojevich in August, by filing broad exemptions for all vaccines, including influenza, that still contain thimerosal, a vaccine preservative containing 49.6 percent mercury. The exemption is for this flu season and the next, even though plenty of trace or mercury-free alternatives could be secured if ordered ahead.

Discounting the position of the legislators and the governor, state public health officials have apparently taken it upon themselves to second-guess our elected officials and their assessment of the science underlying the dangers of mercury and its threat to public health. Indeed, the blanket exemption is a slap in the face to all our legislators who worked tirelessly to help protect the public from various types of mercury exposure.

In saying "there is no link between thimerosal and autism," Pont reveals his complete lack of understanding of the compelling evidence demonstrating the extreme neurotoxicity of mercury in all its forms. For example, the National Institutes of Health states, in reference to the ongoing studies of thimerosal and methyl mercury exposure in infant monkeys: "Mercury, in the form of methyl mercury (oral digestion) and thimerosal (intramuscular injection with vaccines) were both readily absorbed and distributed into the blood and brain," and "The absolute amount of inorganic mercury was higher in thimerosal exposed animals compared with methyl mercury."

Likewise, Dr. Mady Hornig at Columbia University has found that when she and her colleagues administered thimerosal to mice (timed to mimic the childhood immunization schedule), those mice with a genetic susceptibility (like many children) demonstrated signs of neurodevelopmental damage. Even the Material Safety Data Sheet provided by Eli Lilly and Co., the company that manufactures thimerosal, states that it "is toxic, alters genetic material" and that "exposure to mercury in utero and in children may cause mild to severe mental retardation and mild to severe motor coordination impairment."

In short, the Illinois Department of Public Health and pediatricians who continue to administer mercury-containing vaccines, must strive to stay current with all the science as it unfolds. Leave the law-making to the legislators.

CHRISTINA BLAKEY Illinois Biomedical Kids Oak Park

Get real, Dr. Pont As a parent of a child diagnosed with a seizure disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, which is on the autism spectrum, I am very angry and frustrated with the medical community and American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Ed Pont. How can he make a statement that there is no connection between thimerasol and autism without researching into the matter properly?

I ask Dr. Pont, why there is such an epidemic of children in our country alone, with autism? Currently one in 166 children is diagnosed with autism in the United States. A decade ago, it was one in 10,000.

I have proof that my child has been affected by all immunization shots as well as the environment. My son was born absolutely normal. At 2, he started having seizures. He then started going down hill, losing all of his language skills and motor skills. He stopped eating after doctors prescribed drugs to control his seizures and drugs to control Attention Deficit Hyeractivity Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This made him one very sick little boy, and his doctors failed to run tests to see what was causing his illness.

After six years of living hell, I finally found a doctor that was smart enough to run tests for heavy metal poisoning. The test came back positive, as well as whole immune dysfuntion, impaired detoxification, neurotransmitters, vitamins and mineral deficiencies, food sensitivities and dysbiosis of the gut. We now are also in financial difficulties due to high medical bills we have had to pay for out of pocket.

I was also very sad to read that Liz Birt had passed away. I send my condolences to her family. She was a great inspiration to the autism community.


Editor’s note: This Bambi II review was sent out as part of our weekly E-News Update. To sign up for the e-mail newsletter, which is sent each Thursday and includes reviews and hints about great things to do with your kids on the weekend, go to www.chicagoparent.com and look for the sign up on our home page.

Bambi II review is wrong I do NOT agree with the review you wrote for Bambi II.

My almost 4-year-old daughter has almsot worn out the DVD already. She loves it.

WENDY MATTISON Prospect Heights

Bambi II a remake waste

BAMBI II, Disney DVD & Video. $19.99, disneyvideos.disney.go.com.

Disney’s newest straight-to-video offering is really just more of the same.

A sweet motherless fawn (Bambi) is left to fend for himself because his father, the Prince, is ill-equipped to parent. For the first half of the movie, Bambi is ignored, chastised and forbidden to talk about his memories of his mother. By the time the Prince realizes the errors of his ways, my 3-year-old had already abandoned the movie and moved on to other things.

My 5-year-old stuck it out and did enjoy some funny scenes with Thumper and Flower, who once again show that "bestest friends" can overcome obstacles. These scenes of friendship, storytelling and growing up in the forest are the movie’s best. Of course, in the end, Bambi uses the lessons learned from his father and his friends to triumph.

That’s a fine lesson for my son. Unfortunately, he also took away a message of having to work hard and not show fear in order to "make Daddy proud."

While cute forest animals won’t appeal to kids much over the age of 7, (especially boys), parents of sensitive preschoolers should be aware of the movie’s hunting scenes where deer are chased by ferocious snarling dogs. No blood, but frightening just the same.

Alena Murgia

Kids Eat Chicago

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