They are trying to change the world.
The Rotary Club of Richmond Hill, along with the Georgia Game Changers, are hosting a 5K race and evening of fun on Saturday, Oct. 4 – all with the purpose of raising money to completely eradicate polio from all countries.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which Rotary International is a part of, is determined to rid the world of polio. In 2007, the Gates Foundation gave the Rotary Foundation a $100 million challenge grant for polio eradication. In 2009, that challenge increased to $335 million.
“Rotary agreed to raise $200 million in matching funds by June of 2012, but Rotarians, in fact, raised $228.7 million toward the challenge,” Rotary Club of Richmond Hill President Lesley Francis said. “By combining the strength of Rotary’s network with other partners, we will not just end a disease, but change the face of public health forever.”
The 5K, called “Pacing for Polio,” will begin at 6 p.m., with late registration taking place between 4-5:30 p.m. The race will begin at the pavilion in J.F. Gregory Park. During the race, child care will be provided for a $5 family fee.
“There is strength in numbers,” Rich DeLong, president elect for the local Rotary club, said. “The more folks that turn out for this event, the more awareness and dollars we raise for this cause. Many people in the U.S. don’t realize that polio is still a problem in third-world countries.”
After the race, the community is invited to join the free after party at the Station Exchange where guests can enjoy refreshments, live music by local country/Southern rock band Exit 76 and a variety of local vendors.
“Our Pacing for Polio evening is very important because the eradication of polio from the planet is very close, and every cent raised to fight polio will be matched by the Gates Foundation,” Francis said. “We want everyone in our community to join in – whether to race or just to enjoy the evening and discover that the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill is so much more than a lunch club.”
According to Francis, polio is still endemic in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The disease cripples children, leaving families devastated. Recently, polio was eradicated in India with the help of Rotary International, which runs a vaccination program for children in these countries.
When Rotary International first began this work in 1985, there were 350,000 cases of polio worldwide. Now, that figure is less than 500, according to Francis.
However experts say that if the disease is not eliminated from all countries where it is endemic, it will “rebound with a vengeance.”
“There is a $1.5 billion funding gap, which Rotary is working with others to close, because if polio is not eradicated, immunization levels in polio-affected countries will decrease,” Francis explained. “If polio is allowed to rebound, it will slowly and surely extend to other countries. [If the disease rebounds,] it is predicted that within a decade, more than 200,000 children worldwide could be paralyzed every year.”
After Pacing for Polio, awards will be given to different age groups for both male and female runners.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to share information on Rotary and what we are all about, as well as the camaraderie shared amongst runners and attendees,” DeLong said. “This will be a very enjoyable community event.”
Registration cost is $25 until Oct. 3, which includes a T-shirt and goody bag. On race day, the registration fee will be $30.
Active duty military will receive a $5 discount, and students can receive a $15 discount. According to DeLong, who is also co-chair of fundraising for Rotary, all of the proceeds will go toward the eradication of polio.
To register, sponsor the event or for more information, visit www.savannahraces.com or www.rotaryclubofrichmondhillga.com.