To raise awareness and critically-needed funds to fight polio, one dozen members from the Reading Rotary Club and Rotary-sponsored RMHS Interact Club joined over 250 volunteers and Rotarians who plunged into the icy waters off of Gloucester as part of the Rotary District 7930’s 7th Annual Polar Plunge on February 4th. The effort benefited The Rotary Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership that also includes the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This year’s effort raised over $55,000 thus far and will again be matched 2:1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. At just 60 cents per vaccine, the effort will pay for over a quarter of a million polio vaccines for children worldwide. This year’s event added to the over $510k raised by local Rotary clubs since the Polar Plunge began seven years ago. “The pain of dunking is worth it because this is such a vitally important cause worldwide,” said Plunger and Reading Rotary President KC Latham.

The Polar Plunge comes at an important time in the fight to eradicate polio, which would be only the second human disease to be eradicated. Case numbers of the disease have never been lower, and only three countries (Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan) have never stopped transmission of the wild poliovirus. However, a funding gap means immunization campaigns are being cut in high-risk countries, leaving children more vulnerable to polio. If polio isn’t stopped now, the disease could stage a comeback, affecting an estimated 200,000 children every year.
 
Rotary, a humanitarian service organization with nearly 34,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas, made polio eradication its top priority in 1985. Rotary has since contributed US$1.2 billion, and its members have logged countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries. Overall, remarkable progress has been achieved in the fight against polio. Since 1988, the number of polio cases has been reduced by 99.9%. The Americas were declared free from polio in 1994, the Western Pacific region in 2000, and Europe in 2002. A highly infectious disease, polio still strikes children mainly under the age of five in parts of Africa and South Asia. Polio can cause paralysis and sometimes death. One Rotarian noted, “We’re going to fight this crippling disease until the end because Rotary keeps promises.” 
 
 
Sponsors