While Canada was certified “polio free” in 1994, Parksville Qualicum Beach Rotary Club members are trying to create that reality for impoverished countries around the globe.
Polio crippled tens of thousands of Canadians until the Salk vaccine was introduced in 1955. The disease peaked in 1953 with nearly 9,000 cases and 500 deaths. Many young people now might not even know of the disease.
“Most people in Canada have no clue (about polio), but if you talk to anyone with grey hair like me, they will remember,” said Susan Mielke, a member of the Rotary Club of Qualicum Beach. “I can remember getting the shots. I can remember children who were wheelchair bound.”
Mielke and fellow Rotarian Audrey Bartell travelled to Ethiopia in 2013.
“We went door-to-door and gave polio drops,” said Mielke.
That trip was just one of many for Rotarians locally and worldwide. Through fundraising events like the upcoming Spring Ball
(March 19), Rotary has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the fight against polio.
The total contributions from the four local Rotary clubs is just under $50,000 over the last five years, most of which has been matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the federal government.
Worldwide, Rotary has spent more than
$1 billion and given countless hours of volunteer service to rid the world of polio.
Mielke said it’s important to continue the program.
“Polio is one of those things that will be with us time past and time forward,” she said. “We still have to keep the battle up.”
You can learn more about the Rotary Club’s efforts to eradicate polio at www.rotary.org. The Spring Ball is scheduled for March 19 at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre. Tickets ($80 each or $750 for a table of 10) are available in Qualicum Beach at The Shoe Inn, Captivating Details, Fresh ‘n Fabulous Flowers and The Collective Artists’ Studio and Gallery Place or in Parksville at Close to You.
For more information about the Spring Ball, call 250-752-0270.