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October 22, 2009 - Rotary Poised to Knock Out Polio

What: Colorado Rotary Clubs' Annual State of the State Address by Governor Bill Ritter

Where: Hyatt Regency Hotel, DTC

When: Friday, October 22, 2009

Time: 10:45 a.m.-2:15 p.m.

Ticket Prices: $40

Host(s): Rotary District 5450

Introductions: Mike Oldham

Invocation: Darlee Whiting, Gail Lehrmann, Suzanne Hammer

Welcome: Mike Klingbiel

Speaker: Gov. Bill Ritter, Dr. Walt Orenstein - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Catering: Hyatt Regency

Music: Sterling Strings Quartet

Attendance: 500

Attire: Business Casual

Event Coordinator: Steve Werner, Suzanne Hammer

Board of Directors: President: Bonnie Thomas; President Elect: Richard Heppe; Treasurer: Maryjane Casey; Secretary: Edward Meyer; Immediate Past President: Doyle Tinkey; Club Administration: Courtney Cowgill; Community Service: Bill Shaw; Vocational Services: Susan Elliott; International Service: Jan Lovelady; Fundraising: John Wetherington; Membership: Michael Ford; Fellowship: Hanspeter Spuhler; Rotary Foundation: Karen Briggs; Newsletter: Christa Reich-Morris; Programs: Debra Fine; Public Relations: Scott Smith; Webmaster: Brian Anderson; Family of Rotary: Carole Baumbusch

Steering Committee: District Governor Mike Oldham, Dist Gov-Elect Karen Sekich, Dist Gov-Nominee Jim Halderman, Treasurer Dick Castleman, Dist. Secretary Sue Fox, PDG Steve Cantrell, Dave Beall and Frank Sargent

Blacktie Photos by: M. Darcy

 Grant Wilkins, Dr. Orenstein, Gov. Bill Ritter, and Steve Werner
Grant Wilkins, Dr. Orenstein, Gov. Bill Ritter, and Steve Werner

Rotary Poised to Knock Out Polio

Story by M. Darcy

The world is poised to see a dreaded disease wiped out for good – polio.   We’ve had the vaccine for decades; it’s been a matter of will and coordination to see it eradicated.  That’s where a certain organization has been instrumental in getting the reported cases currently down to less than 1%.  In 1985 Rotary launched PolioPlus, a humanitarian project dedicated to immunize every child on the planet against polio so that the virus could be stopped from ever crippling or killing another person. 

Rotary has two gifts – club members’ ability to mobilize communities to get the job done and their personal connections that make solid partnerships possible.  PolioPlus partnered with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention early on, knocking polio numbers down from 350,000 in 1988 to 1,651 in 2008.  That’s amazing news, but as long as the world has even one case of polio, the disease can still spread.  Now is the critical time to keep momentum.  Now it’s up to financial and societal commitment to cast the final blow.   

On Thursday, October 22 at Rotary 5450 Governor’s State of the State Luncheon, Dr. Walter Orenstein gave an impressive update on the fight.  He stressed that “polio is down for the count, but not out.  We can’t let up now.”  Dr. Orenstein is the Deputy Director for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  They have recently tag-teamed with Rotary and awarded a knock-out $350 million grant towards their ambitious work.  In response, Rotary has raised $96 million of a $200 million challenge they aim to meet by 2012 so that the world can be polio free. 

Dr. Orenstein quoted Bill Gates in a prior speech to Rotary:  The extraordinary dedication of Rotary members has played a critical role in bringing polio to the brink of eradication…. Either we eradicate polio, or we return to the days of tens of thousands of cases per year. That is no alternative at all.  We don’t let children die because it is fatiguing to save them.  Our commitment as a foundation is to work with partners until no children die from polio. 

Only 4 countries remain endemic – Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.  Rotary has contributed more than $700 million to vaccines, monitoring, operation and labs.  Their political advocacy, volunteers in war-torn countries and commitment make their partnerships so valuable.  “Rotary gets program people able to interact with government leaders,” Dr. Orenstein noted.  The vaccinations have had the added benefit of preventing a million deaths simply because vitamin A is routinely administered at the same time.  

Gov. Bill Ritter, who has seen the faces of polio victims as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia, also commended Rotary for their success.  He went on to give an overview of his goals for energy security, sustainable economic development, better education and healthcare in Colorado.  “Government can’t do everything,” he added; “we must strengthen our ties to business organizations.” 

Rotary has a world-reputation for getting the job done.  If you’d like to learn more about the group or become a member, go to or drop in on one of their meetings.  District 5420’s phone is (303) 477-0654.  

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