Kristen Bell: We’re So Close to Ending Polio

10/08/2015 at 10:00 AM ET

Kristen Bell polio vaccination
Jon Kopaloff/Filmmagic

When Kristen Bell found out that polio is still an issue for young children around the world, she knew she had to get involved.

“It’s a viral disease and it mostly attacks children under the age of 5 — it robs them of their mobility,” the actress, 35, tells PEOPLE. “I have two children under the age of 5, and I can tell you, their mobility is currently their most prized possession.”

“Their ability to scoot around, run around, jump off of things — I couldn’t imagine if they didn’t have the ability to do that,” she continues. “Thinking about what my kids would be like if they had polio, it’s unacceptable. I don’t want any mother to have to think, ‘What if my kid has polio?’ ”

Bell has joined Rotary’s This Close campaign to educate people and raise funds for the eradication of the disease.

“I think it’s so great that the campaign’s message is optimism,” she says. “In 2015, there were less than 50 cases reported. This is such an accomplishable goal. I’m raising awareness, and being optimistic about polio’s end is my way to stand by the campaign.”

Bell — who is also a spokesperson for This Bar Saves Lives, which donates a packet of food to a child in need for every snack bar sold — hopes her commitment to giving back is something she can instill in her daughters, Lincoln, 2, and Delta, 9 months.

“I always want to expose them to other lifestyles, other demographics, other income levels,” she explains. “I think it’s wildly important for someone’s sense of character to have seen things outside their bubble. I want my girls to know that we are extraordinarily lucky, and we have an obligation and responsibility to help everyone else.”

For more on Bell’s mission to end polio, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

— Gabrielle Olya

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Showing 6 comments

Anonymous on

She is out of her “level of expertise.”

jlo27916 on

What about all the diseases that aren’t even beginning to be understood, nor is there any form of a cure? You know, All Childhood cancers gets 4% federal funding and cancer kills.

Marky on

Federal funds are a drip in the bucket of what supports research and treatment of many childhood diseases and/serious conditions. Most children who get childhood cancers now survive. There are so many private funds (think St. Jude’s, TX Children’s, Boston Children’s, and many more, have private funds that have enabled us to achieve a great deal in treating cancer in children. The gov’t isn’t the only funding source for disease prevention or treatment.

Anonymous on

Thank you! Diseases like childhood cancer may not get much government funding, but they’re certainly not being ignored, either.

And as someone who has known multiple polio survivors- all of whom had severe lasting damage from the disease- I couldn’t agree more with Kristen!

Anonymous on

So glad she is on the mission to end of Polio and raising fund for the eradication of the disease. She is doing a good job.

1kurtsi1 on

As a polio survivor, I feel that polio will only be defeated in 3rd world countries by the 1st world countries’ awareness of polo. Kristen joins a chorus of noble , notable young voices shouting. Brava!