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The Egyptian Pyramid of Khafre, Buenos Aires’ Obelisk, Chicago’s Wrigley Building, and Evanston’s One Rotary Center all united last week to provide a dramatic backdrop for an equally dramatic message: End Polio Now.
Those three words – representing Rotary’s pledge to rid the world of this crippling childhood disease – were projected onto each structure during the week surrounding Feb. 23, the humanitarian service organization’s 105th anniversary. In Evanston, One Rotary Center’s west windows were lighted with the simple message: End Polio.
Founded in Chicago in 1905 and based in Evanston since 1954, Rotary International’s World Headquarters is located at One Rotary Center, 1560 Sherman Ave. While two Rotary clubs are located in Evanston and 135 clubs in Greater Chicago, Rotary has more than 33,000 clubs in 200 countries and geographic regions. The Rotary Club of Evanston, founded in 1920, and the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse, founded in 1985, provide grants and hands-on volunteer assistance to organizations and individuals that help make Evanston a stronger, more vibrant community.
“By lighting these historic landmarks with Rotary’s pledge to end polio, Rotary is saying to the world that we will fight this disease to the end,” says Glenn E. Estess Sr., chair of The Rotary Foundation, which oversees Rotary’s polio eradication program. “People around the world will see these words and join Rotary and its partners in the historic effort to eradicate polio from the face of the earth.”
Other sites scheduled for illumination the week of Feb. 23 were the Taipei Arena, Taiwan; the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain; the Old Port Captain’s Office on the Victoria and Albert Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa, with world-famous Table Mountain as the backdrop; the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Lake Marathon Dam overlooking the historic Marathon Memorial Battlefield in Greece; and the Royal Palace of Caserta in Italy.
Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority for more than two decades. The international humanitarian service organization is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.
Rotary recently pledged to raise US$200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All of the resulting $555 million will be spent in support of eradication activities. Great progress has been made, and the incidence of polio infection has plunged from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 2,000 in 2009. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths.
Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $900 million and countless volunteer hours to the effort and are now working aggressively to raise the $200 million needed to match the Gates Foundation grants. The money is needed to help close a funding gap that could undermine two decades of progress. To learn more about polio eradication, including how to participate in this historic effort, visit www.rotary.org/endpolio today.
For video and still photos go to www.thenewsmarket.com/rotaryinternational.