Saturday, September 13, 2014

Miles (or kilometers) to End Polio

In 1987, I was a graduate student home for the summer in Evanston, Illinois after spending a year at the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome, Italy. Rotary International was moving into a new building in downtown Evanston and ramping up efforts to eradicate Polio. I didn't know much about Polio then, but Rotary needed temporary staff and I needed a summer job. I never would have guessed that more than 20 years later I'd come back to Rotary as a manager in RI Programs, I'd have followed my father and grandfather and become a Rotarian, and finally, that I'd be captain of the 2014 RI Staff "Miles to End Polio" team, training for El Tour de Tucson.

It's been just over a month since the team was selected and we've been putting in the miles, individually and collectively, to prepare for the November event. As captain, I've organized a group ride every weekend for the past five weeks, riding between 40 and 60 miles (60-100 km). Last weekend we rode north and west to join members of the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer and Hawthorn Woods at the 17th annual Long Grove Heritage 5k Run and Walk where they raised over US$100,000 for several charities, including PolioPlus. Next Sunday, 21 September, we will don our "End Polio Now" shirts again to raise awareness of the issue as we participate in the North Shore Century, riding from Evanston to Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Not every team member will ride the full 100-plus miles, but each of us is challenging him or herself to do more than we've ever done before. I know I can ride 100 miles, but my challenge will be to do it in Tucson's hills. While pushing yourself to ride 100 miles is both physically and mentally challenging, it's nothing compared to the challenges faced by those afflicted with polio. We've come a long way since 1987 but we haven't reached the finish line. Polio is still endemic in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan and we can't rest until we have completely eradicated it. That's why I'm proud to be leading the Rotary Staff Miles to End Polio Team, raising funds and awareness. It's time to sprint to the finish.

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