Fredonia Rotaract Club gives boost to PolioPlus Challenge

WESTFIELD — What do college students, ugly sweaters, a gala event and international service have in common? They describe the Fredonia Rotaract Club and how its members raised $1,600 in support of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville’s PolioPlus Challenge, which is a campaign to raise $10,000 by the spring of 2018. All of the funds will be used for Rotary International’s polio eradication efforts.

Rotaractors include college students and young professionals between the ages of 18 and 30 who are interested in being part of a dynamic group involved with service, leadership and professional opportunities. Affiliated with Rotary Clubs and Rotary International, Rotaract has 9,522 clubs around the globe and 291,006 members. The Fredonia Rotaract Club was originally sponsored as a charter club in 2012 by the Rotary Clubs of Fredonia and Westfield-Mayville.

Rich Ryan, former Fredonia Rotaract Club Co-Advisor and Fredonia Rotarian said, “In the 2016-2017 club year, the Fredonia Rotaract Club decided to align its fundraising initiatives with the RI initiative of PolioPlus. While we live in an era where these college students have never had to experience the terrible affliction of polio, the Rotaractors were able to look at the greater world outside of their perspective to realize that this disease must be wiped from our planet forever!”

Ryan continued, “During this past club year, Fredonia Rotaract Club President Kara Hall diligently worked to align the group’s projects with RI’s initiatives in an effort to move closer to a global Rotary family. This was a major step, since in previous years the Rotaractors’ fundraising efforts benefitted other well-deserving, but better-known programs. However, these initiatives lacked the connection to RI.”

To raise funds for RI’s PolioPlus Fund and the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville’s PolioPlus Challenge, the Fredonia Rotaract Club held an “Ugly Sweater for the Better” Holiday Happy Hour, complete with an ugly holiday sweater contest, and the “Courage-in-Motion” Fundraising Gala.

At the gala event, special guest Karen Oakes, The Rotary Foundation Director for Rotary District 7090 during the 2016-2017 club year, presented an interesting and informative program about the status of polio in the world and RI’s eradication efforts. Oakes, a member of the Rotary Club of Delhi, Ontario, is currently the RI Zone 24E Foundation Coordinator.

Through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is a public-private partnership that includes Rotary, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF, the incidence of polio has been sharply reduced by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year in 1985 to just 37 cases in 2016. In 2017 only six new cases of polio have occurred in the world, which are in the three countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Leading the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville’s PolioPlus Challenge is Jim Wakeman, who is also this club’s Foundation Chair. All funds raised during this challenge will be matched 1:1 by an anonymous local foundation. Then the funds will again be matched 2:1 thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Wakeman stated, “The Fredonia Rotaract Club’s generous donation of $1,600 to our club’s PolioPlus Challenge will become $9,600 through the matches. With a dose of polio vaccine costing about 60 cents, this means that approximately 16,000 children can be vaccinated against polio!”

What a truly wonderful example of humanitarian benevolence and compassion the Fredonia Rotaract Club has shown!” exclaimed Wakeman. The Rotary Club extends is gratitude to the Fredonia Rotaractors and its co-advisors for their huge support in raising funds for the fight against polio.

The Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville’s next polio fundraising event will be the “PolioPlus Challenge” Miniature Golf Tournament on Sat. Aug. 19, starting at 9 a.m., at Webb’s Miniature Golf in Mayville. Teams of four participants each, as well as 18 “hole sponsors” and one event sponsor are currently being sought. For details, contact Jim Wakeman, or 814-450-1866.