The massive turnout from Rotary members eclipsed Oprah Winfrey’s world-record climb in 2011 when she marched up the bridge alongside 315 of her most ardent fans. But for Rotary, the record paled in comparison to the experience, and the opportunity to take a step closer to ending polio forever. The event raised AU$110,000.
“It made me even prouder to be a Rotarian,” says John Avakian from Healdsburg, California. “It was an incredible experience of tremendous camaraderie.”
Rotary members cheered for each of the 26 groups as they made their way through the lobby to the entrance of the bridge climb. Cloud cover hid the sun for most of the morning, but light briefly broke through as the climbers unfurled their flags, which had been tucked into their sleeves during the ascent. Helicopters circled overhead from a variety of local Sydney news stations. Climbers cheered, danced, and even broke into a “Wave” from 400 feet above ground.
“I think that’s exactly what Rotary needs,” says Nate Harimoto of Thousand Oaks, California, “a show of force from all around the world.”
Rotary members raised enough money to protect 240,000 kids from polio. There were 340 climbers in all, and 278 flags flown.
“When the helicopters were going around, you just felt like one great big nation,” says Graeme Davies, governor of District 9685 in Australia.