To the Editor:

On the occasion of World Polio Day (October 24), the Bethel Rotary Club would like to thank all the wonderful donors who have made it possible for the club to increase its support to eradicate polio worldwide. This year, due to the hard work of my fellow Rotarians at the annual yard sale, and thanks to the support of our truly marvelous community, the Bethel Rotary Club was able to send a donation of over $1000 to Rotary’s PolioPlus campaign.

Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for more than 35 years, and we’ve made incredible progress in the fight to rid the world of it forever. As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we’ve helped to reduced polio cases by more than 99.9 percent. Sadly, given the flooding in Pakistan and political instability worldwide, new cases are emerging even in the United States where the first case of polio in over 10 years was reported in New York in September.

If all eradication efforts stopped today, within 10 years, polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year. Not many Americans have had personal experience with the disease thanks to the successful vaccination campaigns that were held in the U.S. beginning in 1960. However, at the beginning of the century thousands of Americans died from polio and thousands more were paralyzed.

My deceased mother often told the story of carrying her little brother down the stairs in the 1930s when he couldn’t stand up, laughing at the comedy of his wobbly legs until they realized that he was infected by polio. Luckily, my uncle recovered and my mother remained uninfected, but worldwide, most children are not so fortunate.

Polio is a disease that is completely preventable and should have been completely eradicated by now. In 1985, Rotary initiated the PolioPlus program, which is the largest private fundraising initiative in the world created to support a public health goal. By 1988, Rotary had begun working with the World Health Organization, raising millions of dollars to begin the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to vaccinate children in over 125 countries where polio was still raging.


In 1995, over 165 million children were vaccinated in China and in India in 1 week. These numbers are staggering but they also demonstrate the results that can be achieved when partners work together to support collective action. Sadly, although polio was reported eradicated from North America in 1994, the disease can quickly reemerge if vaccinations are not maintained. No child in the United States or the world should die or become paralyzed for life from a preventable disease.

Rotary is proud to a leading partner in the continued fight to end polio worldwide, and we are lucky to have the support of the Bethel community in this effort.

Jean Benedict

Bethel Rotary Club

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