By Ralph Zuke, president of the Rotary Club of Fairview Heights, Illinois, USA
I am often asked, “Why Rotary?” The short answer is: Rotary allows me the opportunity to do things I never dreamed I could do.
The Rotary symbol is a cogged wheel. I view every member in Rotary as a cog in that wheel (about 1.2 million). When I first joined Rotary I learned that I, as one person, could move that wheel forward.
My first month as a Rotarian I was bike riding down the Oregon coast and ended up in the beautiful town of Florence. While there, I met a Rotarian named George Lewis (The Waterman). George asked me if my home club was doing any international grants. I was so new I had no idea what our club was doing. So when I got home I learned that not only was our club not involved in an international grant, they had never done one before.
In my first year as a Rotarian, I wrote, raised money, and completed our club’s first grant and about 800 people from the highlands of Guatemala had clean, safe drinking water. In the next couple of years, I went on to put together two more water projects in Libya and India. It’s an amazing feeling to know that as one person in the American Midwest, I could positively affect so many people I most likely will never meet half a world away.
As I’ve become a more seasoned member of Rotary, I have discovered that not only can I move the Rotary wheel forward, the wheel moves me forward as well. I truly think I am a better person now than I was nine years ago. The Four Way Test is not just something I say, it’s something I strive for every day. And of the Rotarians in my club, district, and beyond have become a second family to me.
It is with this in mind that I look so forward to completing the Ralph’s Rickshaw Ride for Polio from St. Louis, Missouri, USA to the Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Canada. This ride will last 22 days with the goal to raise $22,000. Each day is in honor of one of the preventable cases of polio in 2017.
Many people have commented about how long and hard this will be and the hours and miles of training I’m having to put in. But to be honest this has the potential to be one of the most fun and gratifying things I’ve ever done. Every person who will sit in the chair will know that Rotary (with its many partnerships) is on the verge of doing something that many in the beginning thought was undoable – eradicating polio. We are so close. I invite you to be a part of something that is truly monumental.
Join us at Simcoe Park in Toronto (directly across the street from the Metro Toronto Convention Center) at 3 p.m. 22 June during the 2018 Rotary Convention, as Rotary President Ian H.S. Riseley personally welcomes Ralph to the convention. Follow Ralph on Facebook at Ralph’s Rickshaw Ride for Polio