Local Rotary supports efforts to end polio
August 28, 2008 · Updated 9:39 AM
When the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $200 million program to help eradicate polio worldwide, local Rotary International members had reasons to take notice.
Rotary clubs in Marysville and Arlington long have been involved with the international groups well-known efforts to wipe out the crippling disease, donating thousands of dollars to the cause.
Weve had a huge drive over the years, said Kerry Munich of the Arlington Rotary. I think its exciting that the donation has been made, but also that its coming from a local source.
Munich figures the Arlington group has given some $30,000 directly to the effort to eliminate polio. Theyve also given another $60,000 to various rotary campaigns, some of which went into the polio efforts.
In Marysville, donation figures werent readily available.
There have been campaigns and donations made at many different times over the years, said past Marysville Rotary president Jody Widmann.
Widmann said Rotary International began its fight against polio in 1985. Initial efforts were concentrated on the western hemisphere, while later programs pushed the work worldwide.
Its something we can do, Widmann said. We can see the end of polio forever.
According to Widmann, there are only about four countries where the disease still occurs largely unchecked.
Thats a pretty good accomplishment in just over 20 years, Widmann added.
The Gates Foundation announced a $100 million grant to Rotary International Nov. 26. Rotarians everywhere will be called on to match that dollar figure over the next three years.
According to a press release, Rotary International plans to spend the initial $100 million within one year in direct support of immunization activities carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership of the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF.
Overall, Rotary International has contributed $633 million to ending polio. The Gates donation is the single largest grant received by the group in its 102-year history.
The extraordinary dedication of Rotary members has played a critical role in bringing polio to the brink of eradication, Bill Gates said in a press release. Eradicating polio will be one of the most significant public health accomplishments in history and we are committed to helping reach that goal.