Making grandpa proud and riding to end polio

Tom Woods is training for the El Tour de Tucson.

Tom Woods is training for the El Tour de Tucson.

By Tom Woods, Rotary staff

Prior to joining the staff at Rotary Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, my only exposure to Rotary was through my grandfather, Richard Stannard, who was a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Oak Park-River Forest, where I grew up.

Grandpa never really mentioned much about his membership with Rotary, but when I told him that I had been hired to work with the Secretariat in Evanston, he became really excited and invited me to come to his club’s lunch meeting. I had never seen him so proud when he announced to the club that I would be working for Rotary, and it became clear to me in that moment how much the organization meant to him.

I later found out that during his year as president, grandpa was instrumental in organizing one of the club’s first Youth Exchanges in many years, and the club became a host for a student from Argentina thanks to his efforts. This was especially exciting for me as I eventually took a position working with the Rotary Youth Exchange program, and found out firsthand how Rotarians have made a huge difference in the lives of the over 8,000 students that travel abroad on the program each year. It is a shining example of Rotarians’ commitment to both youth development and global understanding.

I am now joining five fellow Rotary staff members and Rotary General Secretary John Hewko to raise funds for polio eradication in November by riding in the El Tour de Tucson. I have had to go through a number of hurdles to get myself into a position to start training for the tour, one of the top cycling events in the U.S.

In early August, I had gone on a long bike ride through Northern Wisconsin, in which I put in over 120 miles in just two days, and this was all on hilly terrain with a mountain bike! Suffice it to say, my knees were pretty burned out by the end. Once I found out that I was going to join the Rotary team, I realized that I needed to get better equipment, but also let my body recover and then slowly ease back into training so that I did not risk reinjuring myself.

I’m excited to be part of the Rotary team fundraising for polio eradication. You can support my ride on Rotary Ideas.

Tom Woods is a specialist in monitoring, auditing, and district support for the stewardship section of The Rotary Foundation. He is one of six Rotary staff members who will join Rotary General Secretary John Hewko in biking El Tour de Tucson in Arizona in November to raise money for polio eradication. Read posts from other team members, and learn how you can support the team.

4 thoughts on “Making grandpa proud and riding to end polio

  1. Linda, thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story. You are an inspiration for all of those who have survived polio and those that continue to work towards its eradication. Through Rotary’s continued support of this initiative we will hopefully live in a world where no child will have to know the ravages of polio.


  2. Pingback: Making grandpa proud and riding to end polio | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

  3. When I visit Rotary Club around the area I have often met Exchange students at the local meetings. Always exciting to see them here and learning about Rotary and what is does. I also want to thank you for riding to end polio now. I am a polio survivor and I appreciate all that the organization has done to eradicate polio world wide. After I published my book “All The Steps I have taken I began to meet may other survivors. Great to hear from them from all over the United States and Canada and hear how they are doing with their mobility. It is challenging for all of us but we all have one maid goal. To keep on going as long as we can. When I stop I sometimes have a hard time getting going again. My husband has a had time with that as he tells me to sit down. I don’t just sit very well. I like to keep moving or I’ll rust. Keep up the great work


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