The Rotary Club of Oswego celebrates historic progress toward a polio-free world

Preparing to celebrate World Polio Day on Oct. 24, at a recent Oswego Rotary Club meeting at Oswego Country Club, were (from left) David Granoff, club Rotary Foundation chairman; club member Selma Sheridan; Sabine Ingerson, club president; and Ann Seifried, club treasurer. The collection cans on luncheon tables are one of the ways club members have raised over $46,500 to help eradicate polio from the earth.

OSWEGO - Rotary members in Oswego took action on World Polio Day, Oct. 24, to raise awareness, funds, and support to end polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that still threatens children in a few parts of the world. There is no cure for polio but there are vaccines that will prevent infection.

Since the inauguration of the Polio Plus and the Polio Eradication projects to mark the founding of Rotary in 1905, members of the Oswego Rotary Club have contributed thousands of dollars to the Rotary Foundation, many of them earmarked for the fight to end polio. The local club’s effort began in 1987 under the leadership of Rotarian Dr. John Fisher, English professor emeritus of SUNY Oswego. The club’s initial goal was to raise $12,500 but the members contributed nearly $20,000 in the first round. Over the years, funds have come from members’ gifts, fundraising projects, and collection cans on luncheon tables at club meetings, a practice that continues to this day.

When Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries every year. Great progress has been made against the disease since then. Today, polio cases have been reduced by 99.9%, and just two countries continue to report small numbers of cases of wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan, reporting thus far in 2021, 43 and 8 cases respectively.

With polio nearly eradicated, Rotary and its partners must sustain this progress and continue to reach every child with the polio vaccine. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralyzing disease could return to polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk. If all eradication efforts stopped today, within 10 years, polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year. Rotary has committed to raising US $50 million each year to support global polio eradication efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, for a total yearly contribution of $150 million. Each child’s immunization costs about $3.

“Rotary, through its polio eradication efforts, gives me the opportunity to know that my modest financial contributions have kept hundreds — maybe even thousands — of people I will never know in countries I will never see from suffering the devastating crippling and even death from polio,” according to a long-time Oswego Rotarian.

Rotary International has contributed more than $2.1 billion to ending polio since 1979, including, according to incomplete local records, $26,570 donated by the Rotary Club of Oswego over just the past 20 years.

Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who unite and take action to create lasting change in communities around the globe. For more than 116 years, Rotary’s people of action have used their passion, energy, and intelligence to improve lives through service. From promoting literacy and peace to providing clean water and improving health care, Rotary members are always working for a better world. Visit endpolio.org to learn more about Rotary and the fight to eradicate polio.

The Oswego Rotary Club, founded 94 years ago in 1927, in addition to the polio collection cans on luncheon tables, awards scholarships, delivers meals on wheels, assists with food and milk distributions, stands with Salvation Army Christmas kettles, collects winter garments for free, local distribution by the Salvation Army, contributed to the Oswego Bookmobile and Imagination Library, assists with the Independence Day parade, participates in the hospital bazaar, and will distribute Halloween candy at Oswego Speedway later this month.

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