Every Tuesday, Rotarians from Durant pass a large can which they stuff with dollar bills and loose change.
The money in the can adds up quick, and at the end of each month Rotarian Pam Mitchell-Robinson is able to send a check to Rotary International for their polio eradication and vaccination fund.
It is all part of a worldwide passion by more than 30,000 Rotary clubs who have been working to eliminate the paralysis-inducing disease for decades.
Today, there are only a handful of countries where polio still has a presence. While places like Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan may sound far-flung, but this means the disease is just one plane ride away from getting back onto U.S. soil - or anywhere else in the world which has been certified polio-free.
And that is why groups like the Rotary Club of Durant continue their effort to fight the disease. Pocket change - and much larger donations like the $200 million recently given by Bill & Melinda Gates of Microsoft fame - all help to provide immunizations around the world.
Durant Rotarians were recently re-energized when Gary Beadles of Norman spoke to the group at their weekly meetings (held at noon at KC’s Roadhouse Cafe and open to the public, with an $8 lunch).
Beadles, a member of the Norman Crosstimbers Rotary Club, is also chairman of the Polio Eradication Campaign for Rotary District 5770, which includes Durant.
“In 1979, the U.S. was certified polio-free,” he said, adding that the entire western hemisphere was polio-free by 1994. “We’ve kind of forgotten about that. But before then, polio ran rampant throughout the world.”
He said Rotarians have given more than $1 billion to the polio eradication effort over the years, helping to cut into the numbers of sufferers. But more needs to be done to push the effort over the top.
“I have looked forward to when we can celebrate the day when the last polio case has occurred. We’re not there yet,” Beadles said. “We forget how polio eradication has changed the world. We have to go the rest of the distance. Until then, I want to give, I want to help. I want to be a part of it. There’s so much more to do.”
For more information about Rotary Club’s polio eradication efforts, visit www.rotary.org/endpolio.