Rotary urges community to support global effort to end polio

October 22, 2015

RotaryHART – Following a major global health milestone last month, Hart Rotary urges Oceana County residents to join them in the global fight to eradicate polio by making donations in recognition of World Polio Day Saturday, Oct. 24.

“Hart Rotarians have always been active in Oceana County. We raise money for our youth scholarship fund, and we sponsor a ‘Feeding America’ food truck twice a year…but we really wanted to bring attention to the work we do through Rotary International,” said Hart Rotary President Ingrid Pearson. “Rotary International is the unsung hero of the effort to end polio on a global scale, and we are proud to be a part of this organization.”

The Rotary International awareness campaign use the catchphrase, “We Are THIS CLOSE To Ending Polio.” Celebrities such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, golfer Jack Nicklaus, and violinist Itzhak Perlman have posed with hand raised, showing just a tiny space between thumb and index finger to indicate just “how close” we are to eradicating polio from the planet.

“We borrowed that idea, and put a local face on it,” Pearson explained. “Bill Hegg took pictures of Hart Rotarians in the same iconic pose, and Mary Lulich’s team at Pixel Graphix Studio re-created the campaign with this local perspective. Look around and you’ll see the campaign on Facebook, and on donation box inserts and posters in Hart area businesses.”  

“It has been a great conversation starter,” said Rotarian Bev Wood. “If you want to know what Rotarians do…THIS is what we do. We help end disease worldwide.”

This local awareness campaign comes at an important time in the fight to eradicate polio, which would be only the second human disease to be eradicated, after smallpox.

In September, the World Health Organization declared Africa’s last polio-endemic country, Nigeria, polio-free, leaving only two countries which have never stopped the virus: Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1988, when Rotary and its partners committed to eradicating the disease, polio paralyzed more than 350,000 children per year in 125 countries – or, more than 1,000 per day. Since that time, the number of polio cases has been reduced by 99.9 percent, with 51 cases in two countries to date in 2015.

Rotary and UNICEF will host an event Friday, Oct. 23, in New York City which will stream live online, providing an update on the world’s progress against polio, with notable speakers including journalists, health experts, celebrities, polio survivors and more. 

Rotary has contributed more than $1.4 billion to end polio, including dues money contributed to Rotary International by the Rotary Club of Hart. Funds contributed to Rotary are tripled thanks to a 2:1 match by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rotary is joined in the fight to end polio by its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership that also includes the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. Visit rotary.org and endpolio.org for more about Rotary and its efforts to eradicate polio.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a member of Hart Rotary, contact Pearson at  231-301-8449.  

“It’s one of the most rewarding organizations I’ve even been involved with,” said past President Mary Sue Mahan. “Our motto is ‘Service Above Self,’ and Hart Rotarians strive to live by those words year round.”

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