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Column: Local club contributes to fight against polio

Today, Thursday, Oct. 24, is World Polio Day.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that most people, under the age of 30, have no clue what polio is.  In fact, that age could probably be bumped up a little bit higher. You don’t see people around much anymore who had contracted this devastating disease, and thankfully most of us in the United States will never have to worry about getting it.

But that’s not true in other parts of the world, and what happens in other parts of the world can and does affect us right here at home.

I am currently 47; growing up in my small hometown in the ‘70s, there was a man named Harold that I knew who had contracted polio when he was younger. From my perspective (the ripe age of right around 10), Harold was already old (he was probably in his 40s), married, with children. And Harold walked differently. He had two metal canes and obviously had a hard time getting around. That’s what happened to you when you got polio.

Little did I know that polio was truly an epidemic at one time in this nation’s history, and for much of human history it caused paralysis and death. At its peak in the 1940s and ‘50s, polio paralyzed or killed more than half a million people worldwide every year.

Fast forward to the year 2013, and I can say with confidence that polio will be eradicated from the planet in my lifetime. What an amazing statement to be able to make! How do I dare make such a statement?

The Perham Rotary Club, along with Rotary clubs around the world, has made it a priority to end polio. Fundraisers around the globe are being held as I type, and through the “End Polio Now:  Make History Today” campaign, monies raised will go even further. 

This new campaign, recently launched by Rotary and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ensures that every new dollar that Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched 2-to-1 through the year 2018 (up to $35 million per year).

“World Polio Day provides an important and timely opportunity for us to let the world know that every dollar contributed to Rotary for polio eradication will work three times as hard,” said Dr. Robert S. Scott, M.D., chair of Rotary’s PolioPlus program. “Rotary invites everyone – private citizens, businesses, non-profits – to join us in this historic effort. Only one other human disease –smallpox – has ever been beaten. Now is our best chance ever to make polio the second.”

It’s an exciting thing to be a part of something that can change the world and the Perham Rotary Club is doing just that. With our new fundraising efforts that will be implemented this year, we hope that with your help, we can make this change right along with you.

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