By Kristin Brown
I am really excited to be returning to Tucson, Arizona, USA, this week for my second Miles to End Polio event and to join forces with the Rotarians cycling so that others may walk.
It has been an eventful year in the fight to End Polio Now. Nigeria achieved a milestone in July when it passed an entire year without a new case of polio caused by the wild poliovirus. And cases in the two remaining endemic countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are at an all-time low. But now more than ever, we need to keep the pressure on. One of my biggest concerns is that people will become complacent and fail to recognize the threat that remains if we don’t completely eradicate this disease.
I do two major fundraising rides a year: I kick off the outdoor riding season training for the Illinois Tour de Farms, a two-day ride of 150 to 175 miles in June to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis. I continue to train from June into November to prepare for Miles to End Polio in late November. Though very different, both rides are amazing events and are supported by armies of volunteers who are grateful to riders for their participation and commitment to these important causes.
I’ve been “biking MS” for eight years now, and at first, I had a hard time asking people for money for the cause. I did my first appeal to a small group of close friends and family, figuring that if I didn’t raise the $300 minimum required to participate, I’d just pay it myself. That first year I was stunned to learn how many people I know have a close friend or family member suffering from MS, and I raised three times what I needed. After that, I expanded my outreach and I’ve been a “gold spokes” top fundraiser every year.
Everyone seems to know someone who suffers from MS. In contrast, in the United States – outside of Rotary – very few people younger than 50 know anything about polio. Of course, it’s very good news that we haven’t seen polio in North America for decades and that we are This Close to eradicating it. But that also means that fundraising takes a little more work and education.
It’s fairly common for someone to respond, “Polio? Is that still a problem?” It is – and until the last country on earth is certified polio-free, Rotary will be leading the charge to End Polio Now. And I will do what I can to help, cycling 104 hilly miles on 21 November, so that others can walk.
Kristin Brown is manager of Rotary Service Connections and a third-generation Rotarian who had her first exposure to PolioPlus in 1987, when she had a summer temp job at Rotary International during grad school. She is one of several Rotary staff members who will join General Secretary John Hewko in biking El Tour de Tucson in Arizona to raise money for polio eradication. Read posts from other team members and learn how you can support the team.
Rotary districts could earn an appearance on stage at the 2016 Rotary International Convention in Seoul by contributing District Designated Funds to support the Miles to End Polio team. Find out more.