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Rotary International reaches $200 million goal in polio eradication

Local Rotarians are celebrating a major milestone in their international organization’s campaign against polio.

In 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation challenged Rotary International to raise $200 million to match its grant for $355 million, Steve Croomes said. Croomes is president nominee for the Madison Rotary Club.

“That goal was reached on Jan. 17, earlier than projected,” Croomes said. “As a result, the Gates Foundation is donating an additional $50 million.”

“While polio has been almost forgotten in the United States, it continued to rage across the world for many years,” Croomes said. Within hours, the disease causes paralysis that is virtually irreversible.

Polio continues to plague Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Afghanistan. “Fortunately, Rotary International is on the very brink of eradicated polio in these places as well,” Croomes said.

In 1979, Rotary undertook the task of ending polio on the globe, immunizing the first child. Each vaccine costs 60 cents.

“In 1985, Rotary International initiated Polio Plus and since has raised over a billion dollars toward the effort. Incidents of polio have decreased 99 percent worldwide,” he said.

Madison Rotary Club has been involved in raising funds. Six years ago, the club initiated “Change for Change,” a competition to collect the most pocket change in a year.

To date, Madison Rotarians have raised $17,815.76 for polio eradication. This total does not include ‘fines’ at meetings for late arrival, not wearing Rotary pins and ringing cell phones.

Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self.” “Each club (has) individuals from diverse professions and serves as an avenue for those individuals to contribute unique skills toward the betterment of the world,” Croomes said.

Rotary Club is non-political and is not affiliated with any particular religious group.

Madison Rotary Club meets on Thursdays at 7 a.m. at Hogan Family YMCA, 130 Park Square Lane. For more information, call 256-564-2075, send email to madisonrotary@gmail.com or visit madisonalrotary.org.

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