By Chelsea Mertz, Community Specialist, Rotary Service Connections
Since starting at Rotary in August 2015, I have been fortunate enough to support both the 2015 and 2016 Miles to End Polio teams. While supporting these teams, I’ve come to know many Rotarians and staff who are committed to funding the fight to end polio. I admire their hard work and dedication; they’ve inspired me to do more, to finally put myself forward and join the ranks of Rotary’s volunteer army.
To think that we are only a few short years from eradicating polio once and for all is exciting. It was only 50 years ago that polio was still creating public panics across the U.S. as within days a child could find themselves within an iron lung without hope of a cure. Today, within the U.S., we are fortunate enough to take the polio vaccine for granted. But that’s not the end of the story. Children the world over should be granted that same privilege – to live without fear of polio. For the past several decades, Rotary’s million-strong volunteer army has seen the transmission of polio halted in all but three countries. We still need to commit the funding to make sure every child is vaccinated.
I’ve long been an athlete, training for marathons, coaching, playing softball, and even taking up the occasional new sport like golf. I’m no stranger to training programs, cycling, or fundraising. I suppose that’s why the team selected me as their team captain. I was quick to set up a 12-week cycling training plan and establish dates for our group rides. We, as a team, knew that training for El Tour de Tucson wasn’t going to be easy. But with a plan, training would just be a matter of building day by day. Thus far, training has been both exhausting and revitalizing. Distance cycling takes its toll, both mentally and physically. Yet, knowing that we are doing this as a team gives me energy and strength.
In the same way, eradicating polio has required persistent determination, teamwork, and a plan. But we will get to our goal of a polio-free world. I look forward to sharing my experience in Tucson with the team as well as with the other Rotarians riding to end polio. I’m ready to ride for more.
Chelsea Mertz is team captain and one of several Rotary staff members who will join General Secretary John Hewko and Rotarians from District 5500 and around the world in El Tour de Tucson in Arizona 18 November to raise money for polio eradication. Learn how you can support the team.