The 11-year-olds, Ileyna and Flori, caught whooping cough in July while away at summer camp. They came home with very bad coughs, which at first were thought to be bronchitis but were later determined to be pertussis after an astute health professional decided to run one more test.
"It was a fluke that we found out what it was," said the twins' mother, Julie Witenstein.
"When I had to share the news with all the parents of the children the girls were exposed to, I realized that few of them knew about the pertussis booster vaccine."
The girls had had all their childhood vaccines but had just turned 11 and had not yet had the booster. While they were convalescing at home, a notice arrived from the middle school the girls would attend in August, explaining that the Tdap booster was required before enrolling.
The notice would arrive too late for the twins, but while indoors they kept themselves busy with a crafts kit a friend had given them. They started to decorate bottle caps with glitter, beads, buttons and glue.
The decorated bottle caps first started out as refrigerator magnets. But as the girls continued working on the caps, their creativity took hold and they put pins or tacks on the backs, or hooks to make necklaces or holiday ornaments. They made hundreds of decorated bottle caps and eventually started a business.
And that's how Whoopies was born, explained Witenstein.
Ileyna and Flori have been selling Whoopies at their parents' gymnastics studio and at a neighborhood art fair. With each sale they share their story about whooping cough, hand out a reminder on the importance of preteen vaccination, and give a portion of the proceeds to the Arizona Partnership for Immunization, a public health organization in the state that soon hopes to have a Web site to take orders for Whoopies.
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