Rochester Rotary Announces Polio Awareness Walk on Oct. 24

Michigan roots of polio eradication run deep in Rochester and Ann Arbor

Rochester Rotary, a member club of Rotary International, a worldwide organization of business, professional and community leaders that provides humanitarian service and encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, will host a community gathering and polio awareness walk to reflect on the Rochester community’s historical role in helping to eradicate polio world-wide when the Rotary International polio flame comes to Rochester on World Polio Day Oct. 24.

The past 18 months have been the high watermark of Rotary International’s longstanding Polio Plus initiative to eradicate poliomyelitis (polio), a paralyzing and potentially fatal disease that still threatens children in some parts of the world. The polio virus invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. It can strike at any age but mainly affects children under five. Polio is incurable, but completely vaccine-preventable.  With Rotary taking the lead through fundraising and direct global outreach, 99 percent of the world population is now polio free.

“October is polio awareness month. Rotarians around the globe and right here in Rochester are making incredible progress toward eliminating polio,” Alan McLellan, Rochester Rotary president said. “As part of the 1.2 million member organization of Rotary International, Rochester Rotarians take special pride in this achievement, especially given Rochester’s historical contribution to curing polio through its initial manufacture by what was then Parke Davis in the 1950s.”

In a partnership between the Rochester Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, celebration of World Polio day and the Michigan roots toward its eradication will begin on Friday Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. on the steps of the University of Michigan’s Rackham Building, where the effectiveness of Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine was revealed to the world in April 1955. Following a commemorative march through the streets of Ann Arbor celebrating World Polio Day, the polio flame will be transported to Rochester by Rhonda Panczyk, Rochester Rotary’s polio chairperson.

On Saturday, October 24, the Rochester Rotary will display the flame at a community event in Rotary Park near the Rochester Library beginning at 11 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., Rochester Rotarians and community members will walk with the flame to Par Pharmaceutical’s sterile manufacturing facility on Parkdale in Rochester where the vaccine was originally manufactured by Parke-Davis, one of only five pharmaceutical companies in the nation selected to do so at the time. The walk to Par is approximately one mile and the company will host a tour and commemorative event for participants. Par Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Endo International, is excited to recognize the Rotary Club’s significant achievements and honor the historic involvement of Parke-Davis on the Rochester facility grounds.

According to Panczyk, who is also immediate past president of Rochester Rotary and now Assistant District Governor for Rotary district 6380, which includes Rochester and Ann Arbor and 50 other Rotary clubs, the success of the PolioPlus Initiative represents the power of Rotary to impact change.

“Through the PolioPlus Initiative, Rotarians in Michigan and across the globe reflect the measurable positive change that can be made in public health and other arenas when the power of community service and community partnerships are harnessed toward a noble cause,” Panczyk said.

Questions about World Polio Day activities can be directed to Rhonda Panczyk at

Polio facts and eradication initiatives:

In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus program, the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication through the mass vaccination of children. Rotary has contributed more than $1.3 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. In addition, Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by donor governments to contribute more than $9 billion to the effort.

Global Polio Eradication Initiative:
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, formed in 1988, is a public-private partnership that includes Rotary, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and governments of the world. Rotary’s focus is advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and awareness-building.

Polio Today:
Today, there are only two countries that have never stopped transmission of the wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Less than 370 polio cases were confirmed worldwide in 2014, which is a reduction of more than 99 percent since the 1980s, when the world saw about 1,000 cases per day.

The polio cases represented by the remaining one percent are the most difficult to prevent, due to factors including geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict and cultural barriers. Until polio is eradicated, all countries remain at risk of outbreaks.

‘This Close” Campaign:
Rotary has a growing roster of public figures and celebrities participating in its “This Close” public awareness campaign, including Bill Gates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, actress Archie Panjabi, action star Jackie Chan, golf legend Jack Nicklaus and South Korean pop-star Psy. These ambassadors help educate the public about polio through public service announcements, social media and public appearances.  

About Rochester Rotary
Celebrating 61 years as a club in 2015, Rochester Rotary is one of 34,000 member clubs of Rotary International, which has more than 1.2 million members and raises and disburses funds for charitable, educational and scientific purposes. Monies are raised through social events and service projects organized by the club, ‘fines’ collected at Rochester Rotary meetings and gifts offered to the club through members and supporters.

The club welcomes new members who live or work in Rochester, Rochester Hills, or Oakland Township. For membership information, contact Jeff Whitbey at Rochester Rotary meets each Tuesday at noon at the River Crest Banquet Hall on Avon Road and Livernois in Rochester Hills. Like us on Facebook and learn more at

About Rotary International
Rotary’s main objective is service — in the community, in the workplace, and around the globe. The 1.2 million Rotarians who hail from Rotary clubs in nearly every country in the world share a dedication to the ideal of Service Above Self. Rotary clubs are open to people of all cultures and ethnicities and are not affiliated with any political or religious organizations. Learn more at

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