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Oct. 17, 2021 | Sunday
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Participate for Polio part of worldwide Rotary campaign
Some of last year’s riders in the 2020 Participate for Polio event, looking happy to be finished. From left: Wasantha Gamage, John Boot, Ken Schander, Cosmo Condina and Bill French. This year’s ride/walk/roll takes place October 2 from the Lions Club Park in St. Davids. (Tim Taylor)

If Bill French has his way, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club, with help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will contribute a total of $60,000 to help finally eradicate polio around the world.

As chair of the NOTL club’s Participate For Polio Walk/Ride/Roll fundraising committee, French’s goal for this year’s event on Saturday, Oct. 2, is $20,000. The Gates foundation will match two-for-one all proceeds from Rotary efforts around the world.

According to French, that’s a tall order. The pandemic limits participation to 100 riders/walkers/rollers. “But we still have lots of room before we reach 100,” he said.

“This effort is very satisfying. It will only be the second disease we’ve ever eradicated in history. We’ve helped reduce the number of worldwide polio cases by 99.9 per cent. But the last .1 per cent will cost as much, and be more challenging, than the first 99.9 per cent.”

French said the vaccination work is harder than it was 30 years ago. “Most of the remaining hotspots are in conflict zones. So, we have to employ locals to administer the shots.”

On Oct. 2, participants in the walk/ride/roll can chose to bike 13- or 30-kilometre routes or walk five kilometres. Everyone starts and finishes at the Lion’s Park in St. Davids. Kick off time is 10 a.m. and the St. David’s Lions Club will hold a fundraising barbecue for all participants. All COVID protocols will be in place. Vaccines are required.

Register for Participate for Polio at https://raise.rotary.org/Frank-Adamson/challenge1

French retired to Niagara-on-the-Lake eights years ago, following a senior marketing career with a number of large Canadian organizations. He and his wife, Sharon, moved from Milton, Ont. He’s been a Rotarian for 15 years and was president of the NOTL club in 2016.

He is proud of how much Rotary has done worldwide to combat this disease. “End Polio Now is Rotary International’s largest and longest-running initiative. Over the last 30-plus years, we’ve contributed more than $2.1 billion to protect nearly three billion children.”

Participate for Polio is a local initiative in support of World Polio Day on Oct. 24. This year the club is adding an educational component to its observance of the international day. On Oct. 19, world-renowned polio specialist Dr. Richard Bruno will speak virtually to the local club, comparing two of the world’s most virulent viruses — polio and COVID. The presentation will be posted on the club’s website following the event.

“We still have quite a huge challenge ahead of us to get that last .1 per cent and eradicate it. If you don’t wipe it out totally, it can return. There’s still a big hill to climb.”

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