Local Rotary clubs donate nearly $3 million to help eradicate polio around the worldPublished Nov 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm (Updated Nov 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm)
Past Rotary International President Charles Keller, Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko, Canonsburg-Houston Rotary member Dr. Stephanie Urchick and Rotary International President Ron Burton attended the Rotary International Million Dollar Dinner, which benefitted Rotary’s program aimed at eradicating polio from the world.
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The Western Pennsylvania’s Million Dollar Dinner held Nov. 12 at the Hilton Garden Inn at Southpointe by three Rotary districts encompassing 58 local clubs, was a misnomer.
The event should have been called the nearly $3 million dinner, as a $2,866,350 and counting ceremonial check was presented by local Rotarian Dr. Stephanie Urchick, who is a Rotary Foundation Trustee, and Dennis Crawford, the endowment and major gift advisor. Receiving the check was Ron D. Burton, the current Rotary International President.
The money will go to the Rotary’s ongoing program to eradicate polio throughout the world.
Urchick, a member of the Canonsburg-Houston Rotary Club, is a volunteer who administers vaccine in India and Nigeria. Currently, there are only three countries where the polio virus remains – Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Nigeria. One of the reasons the virus remains is because of snipers who target those who administer the vaccine. Additionally, there has been a new outbreak in the Horn of Africa when an infected airplane passenger transmitted the virus, eventually infecting 200.
However, Rotary’s program is winning the battled, albeit slower than Rotary members would like. The initial goal to rid the world of polio was 2005. Now, the projected date is 2018.
In 2012, there were only 250 cases of the crippling and sometimes fatal disease worldwide. That represents a 99 percent reduction since the 1980s, when about 1,000 cases a day were reported.
While Rotary clubs around the world raise money to fund immunizations, every dollar raised, including the nearly $3 million locally, is matched 2-to-1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, meaning the local contribution will become $9 million, said featured speaker at the dinner, John Hewko, Rotary International General Secretary.
“We will win this battle,” Hewko told the audience of about 250, including Washington attorney Charles Keller, who once served as Rotary International President.
Rotary estimates $5.5 billion will be needed to “get the job done by 2018,” Hewko said.
By eliminating polio worldwide, Hewko said, 200,000 children will be saved from the disease and that health care costs will be reduced by $40-$50 billion, with the savings going toward research for other diseases.
“Rotary deserves a Nobel Prize when (it) eradicates polio,” Hewko said.
Current Rotary International President for 2013-14, Burton, congratulated members in the three Western Pennsylvania districts for the fundraising efforts. He cited the growing problem of declining membership in Rotary, not only in the United States, but in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and in African countries.
Burton said trying to attract new members is “not a problem, it’s an opportunity” for current members to meet prospective members.
“Members are not about recruiting and retention,” Burton stressed. “We need to attract new members and engage them.”
The event was not only about a check presentation. It was a tribute to the late Lou Piconi, who was a past Rotary Foundation Trustee and a former Rotary International Vice President. Piconi, 70, died Dec. 13.
One of the donors to help eradicate polio was the Rotary Club of Bethel-St. Clair with a $10,000 contribution. Also contributing were Rotary District 7330, which includes several local clubs with a $5,000 donation, and numerous contributions of $1,000 each from the Rotary Club of Washington, the Rotary Club of McMurray and St. Clair Hospital. Donations of $500 were received from the Rotary Club of Carnegie-Collier, and the Rotary Club of Dormont, Mt. Lebanon and Castle Shannon, among others.