By Norah Webster, Rotary staff
I love riding my bike. I don’t own a car, so I ride for transportation. I also ride for exercise, to explore, and to spend time with friends. My bike has allowed me to see parts of Chicago and surrounding communities that people never see from the highway.
As long as I’ve been riding, I’ve been raising funds, too — from pedaling around my hometown of Galena, Illinois, for children’s cancer research when I was 9, to raising $2,500 by riding from Minneapolis to Chicago in the Heartland AIDS Ride. This year, I look forward to cycling for a new cause.
For 11 years, it’s been part of my job to support Rotary’s polio eradication efforts by supporting members at the Rotary International Convention and other events. I’ve been paid to be part of that enormous team — which also includes the World Health Organization, CDC, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and our 1.3 million members.
Being on the Miles to End Polio team with colleagues and Rotary volunteers riding in El Tour de Tucson on 21 November gives me a chance to take the battle away from my desk. We’re tasked with raising over $3 million. Matched 2-to-1 by the Gates Foundation, that’s more than $9 million to spend on getting us much closer to ending this disease forever.
In the time that I’ve worked at Rotary, the number of polio-endemic countries has been cut in half. I’ll admit that I’ve been discouraged at times. We’ve been This Close for so long, I’ve sometimes wondered if we’d ever get there.
But then India was declared polio-free after three years without a new case, and I knew it was within reach. Now it’s been over a year since the last case in Nigeria, and I can actually believe that polio might be eradicated in the near future.
I can’t even imagine how exciting that day will be, and I’m glad that I’m going to be here for it.
Norah Webster is a Global Events learning specialist for Rotary International, focusing on the Rotary Convention. She is leading a team of Rotary staff members who will join General Secretary John Hewko in biking El Tour de Tucson in Arizona to raise money for polio eradication. Check back for posts from other team members leading up to the 21 November event and learn how you can support the team.
Want to join the effort? Take part in the Indoor Ride to End Polio by riding a stationary bike at your local gym or at home anytime from 14 to 21 November. Register today or make a contribution to help Rotary create a polio-free world.