Thirty years ago, today, Rotary started something big, really big.  Thirty years ago Rotary began a war on Infantile Paralysis (POLIO).  At the time I was almost fifty years old, had been a Rotarian less than five years with perfect attendance, and thought Rotary was a great civic club.  It was great to be a Rotarian.  To my surprise I learned that it was more than just a great civic club.  It was an army, and it was declaring war on POLIO, and, whats more, I had been drafted. 
 
The incoming governor of District 5830 was Al Glaess, from the Sulphur Springs Rotary Club; a doctor who was himself a victim, and survivor of the dreaded Polio virus.  The incoming president of Rotary International was M.A.T. Caparas, from the Philippines. What they both knew and what I was about to learn was
 
that there is lot more to Rotary than I had realized at the time. Thirty years ago I barely knew what the Rotary Foundation was, much less what it did, how it was funded, or why everybody was making so much fuss about eradicating POLIO.  After all, POLIO had already been defeated in America years ago.
 
I soon found out that the disease was far from defeated; it was growing by leaps and bounds. In 1986 the onset of paralysis was confirmed in more than 35,000 new cases of POLIO by the World Health Organization.  That is almost a hundred human lives stricken every day of the year; the equivalent of two greyhound busses, fully loaded, crashing and killing a third of their passengers and crippling the rest of the passengers for life. Imagine how the newspapers and TV-News shows would handle a story like that, day after day? 
 
But, most of the victims that year were scattered and isolated; living in dirty and dangerous places; living helpless, hopeless lives of poverty and ignorance; so their personal tragedies never even made the news, much less the front page or "Breaking News" status. Only a few cases touched the families of anyone important enough to warrant the attention of the press, but eventually a few of them touched a Rotarian’s family or friend, and eventually a Rotary club.  That was the case in the Philippines in 1985 where a Rotary Foundation 3H grant funded the first mass immunization of babies and young children.  The project was so successful that the 1986-87 president of Rotary International M.A.T. Caparas chose as his theme “Rotary Brings Hope”, and Rotary International committed to make that theme a reality approving a plan to raise one hundred and twenty million dollars in three years.
Three years later, at the Rotary Convention in Philadelphia, I was there, in the crowd, when the last country's (USA) pledge was added to the list; bringing the total pledged to $240,000,000.  Rotary had reached and exceeded its goal to fund an army of one point two million Rotarians committed to rid POLIO from the world forever.  The auditorium exploded with a standing ovation that resounded around the world.  I found out that day what Rotary was all about and why the battle against POLIO must be fought and won.
Today as I updated the district 5830 website POLIO story, I realized that in the last two months; over 12,000 children had boarded the POLIO bus and all but one arrived safely at home.  Tomorrow begins a new Rotary year in the battle to eradicate POLIO.  I am still here thirty years later about to celebrate my 80th birthday, and planning to stick around to be at the 2017 Rotary Convention in Atlanta next June to join 45,000 Rotarians from around the world celebrate the victory over POLIO forever.
 
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