By Lynn R. Mitchell
Photo by Bob Stuart, News-Virginian. Used with permission.
Augusta County’s supervisors showed a sense of humor at Wednesday night’s board meeting when the school superintendent walked to the podium to address them. On cue, all seven supervisors plus county administrator Pat Coffield pulled out tubes of Chapstick and applied it to their lips, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
Bob Stuart, political reporter with the News-Virginian, snapped a picture with his camera and posted it to the newspaper’s Facebook page, noting, “Members of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors put on Chapstick as Augusta County Schools superintendent Eric Bond comes to the podium. It was a joke in reference to the school district’s restrictions against students not being able to use Chapstick during the school day, unless applied by the school nurse.”
It’s been over a week since 10-year-old Grace Karaffa aka Chapstick Girl took her request to the Augusta County School Board asking that they reverse a ban forbidding students from having Chapstick lip balm at school (see Augusta County ‘Chapstick Girl’ has gone viral, AP, Fox News calling – Updated: School board responds).
The past week has been a whirlwind of media exposure, interviews, and lots of Chapstick … from friends, colleagues, neighbors, family … Chapstick on the car, the desk, chairs … everyone has had fun with it.
The story has gone global with its publication in the London Daily Mail, and national with Fox News, Fox & Friends, ABC, NBC, CBS, and the Today Show calling to talk with Grace. In addition, it’s been published by the Associated Press and newspapers across the nation. Along the way, most have taken it in stride.
This has been a Virginia story from the beginning. Chapstick was first developed and manufactured in the early 1880s by a Lynchburg physician and pharmacologist, Dr. C. D. Fleet. It resembled a wickless candle wrapped in tin foil and was sold locally. The rights to the lip balm were sold in 1912 to John Morton, another Lynchburg resident, who along with his wife further developed the process, melting the pink Chapstick mixture on the kitchen stove and pouring it into brass tubes. It was cooled on racks on the front porch, then cut into sticks and placed in containers.
In 1963, Morton Manufacturing Corporation sold Chapstick to RVA’s A. H. Robbins Company who modernized the manufacturing and took marketing worldwide. Along the way they improved and extended the flavors and varieties. Now owned by Phizer, the company has offered tours of their research and development facility in Richmond where Chapstick is made and where the people work who are behind the decision of which new flavors to add.
Through it all, Grace has learned the process of approaching a government body to ask for changes and, while no one expected the story to mushroom as it did, it has shown our government officials to have a sense of humor while taking it in stride, and an elementary school student who is now ready to go back to being a little girl … with probably enough Chapstick on hand to last into her teens.