Dublin Rotarians were among Rotarians from throughout Central Texas who raised more than $65,000 Thursday night in Abilene to help support Rotary International’s worldwide war on polio.
The event, hosted by the Abilene area Rotary clubs, was the “End Polio” dinner at Hunter Welcome Center on the campus of Abilene Christian University. Guest speaker was Dr. Robert Scott, chair of the International PolioPlus Committee. Dr. Scott is a native of Edinburgh, Scotland and current resident of Ontario, Canada.
The PolioPlus campaign was waged by Rotary International in 1985 and, since that time, more than two billion children around the world have received oral polio vaccine. Today, the world is 99 percent polio-free although pockets of the illness still exist in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria. In addition to some financial assistance through the World Health Organization and the United Nations, Rotary and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have provided the bulk of the funds to sustain the eradication program.
When Rotary started the PolioPlus program, more than 350,000 children worldwide were infected each year by the crippling and sometimes fatal disease. By 2008, fewer than 2,000 children were infected and the numbers have dropped each year.
Bill Gates recently commented, “The world would not be where it is without Rotary, and it won’t get where it needs to go without Rotary.”
Dublin Rotary president Pat Leatherwood commented that the banquet was inspiring and motivational, reminding small rural clubs how important they can be to a worldwide health initiative. “Much of the actual immunization work, as well as the fund-raising, is done around the world by Rotarians and it is painful to realize that in some countries, those willing volunteers have been killed as they worked. As Americans, we take so much for granted.”
Participating in the Thursday night banquet were Leatherwood and his wife, Lisa; incoming Rotary president Lee Leatherwood and Morgan Krimsky, Dr. Brandi Burgan Harris and husband Eric, Joe Horn and Karen Wright.