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World Polio Day Recognizes Efforts to "End Polio Now!"

Local Rotary clubs to throw leaders from a plane

On Monday, October 24—known to Rotarians everywhere as World Polio Day—St. George Rotary Club hopes to make a big splash by tossing club President Dale Desmond, as well as Utah Rotary District Governor Jose Velasco and Sunrise Club President Dave Nelson out of an airplane. 

“Parachuting for Polio” is an amusingly exciting way of raising funds and drawing attention to a crippling and sometimes fatal disease, which many believe was eradicated more than 30 years ago!

In fact, the war on polio is still being waged through the Rotary International “PolioPlus” campaign, with several influential partners, including the World Health Organization, U. S. Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and other worldwide health organizations.  

Members of nearly 35,000 Rotary clubs have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more upwards of 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from this dreaded disease. Rotary International advocacy efforts have also played a role in decisions by governments to contribute another $10 billion to this effort.

In 2021, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote a check to Rotary International the third time in a decade—for $1 million—to help Rotary and its partners cross the finish line on their 37-year effort to eradicate wild polio, finally and forever. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation matched that donation and every other dollar donated, 2-to-1, bringing the total to $3 million.

So, where has all this money and focus on advocacy, volunteer recruitment and awareness-building for nearly four decades gotten us?

In the mid-1950’s, more than 350,000 individuals, mostly children ages newborn to five, were diagnosed with polio every year. In 1988, the Rotary International Polio Plus Program became the world’s first initiative to tackle global polio eradication by vaccinating children on a massive scale. After nearly four decades, cases of the wild polio virus have been reduced by 99.9%, and this disease is soon to become the second human disease to be eradicated after smallpox was officially conquered in 1980. 

Year-to-date in 2022, there have been only 19 reported cases of wild polio worldwide: one in Afghanistan, four in Mozambique and 14 in Pakistan. 

While this data is impressive, environmental samples of a polio virus have recently been found in wastewater in the Middle East, in London—called a “national incident”—and three counties in New York state, thus the erroneous belief polio was completely eradicated in 1979. COVID constraints and misinformation about vaccines have left children more vulnerable to polio, even in developed countries. 

Poliomyelitis is a crippling and potentially fatal disease that invades the nervous system and, in approximately 1 in every 200 cases, causes total and completely irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours. There is no cure, but it can be prevented.

Rotarians and their partners around the globe know this fight “isn’t over ‘til it’s over” and invite all in the community to look to the sky October 24 and contribute to END POLIO NOW with every dollar matched 2-to-1 by the Gates Foundation, which has now given more than $585 million to this effort.

Bill Gates notes, “If we withdraw the incredible focus on polio, it will come back. We’re all responsible for creating a polio-free world!”

For more about Rotary’s polio eradication efforts, see or To get involved with any of the five Rotary clubs in Washington County, call 435.414.8356. 

  • Polio inoculation day in India; photo by Dr. Scott Leckman
  • Famous polio survivors include  Jack Nicklaus; photo by Torrey Wiley
  • Dr. Scott Leckman, Rotary District 5420 PolioPlus chairman, organizes trips for Utah Rotarians to India
  • Rotary helps eradicate polio worldwide
  • "End Polio Now"
  • End polio in India