Rotary Reaching New Heights To End Polio

“Oh we’re jumping out of airplane today,” said Al Bonney.

Most people have a reason to skydive.

Maybe it’s their birthday, or it’s on their bucket list.

Twelve Northern Michigan rotary clubs organized 22 people to jump out of a plane today for a reason beyond themselves.

“It’s a really fulfilling thing to know you’re doing something that really will make a difference just like that, because that money will go right into the activity to eradicate polio,” he said.

It’s incurable, but preventable with a vaccination.

“Polio predominately affects children under five, so it attacks the most vulnerable in already vulnerable communities,” said Nick.

“Why don’t we just eradicate this darn disease and be done with it because these kids should never have to live through that,” said Al.

Kids don’t have to live through it anymore since it’s been eradicated in the U.S., but the disease is still active in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Good luck, guys, love you, have fun,” friends said as their loved ones walked toward the plane.

Then time for take off to take down polio.

“This is a big deal this ending polio is a big deal,” Al said.

“Alright, Lauren, how’s it going?” Ryan, the instructor, asked.

“It took me a little while to realize ‘oh this is Northern Michigan, I’ve only ever seen it on a map,” said Nick Beadleston, with the Traverse City Rotary.

Once you reach 11,000 feet in the air – it’s go time.

They hope people jump on board by raising awareness and raising money by doing unique things like jumping out of a plane “It’s unique, I could be walking around in the playground in the park as another similar fundraiser and it’s not exciting,” described Al. “It’s an adrenaline rush, you’re scared to death.”

“It all happens so fast, you get to the ground then you have time to think about it, but it’s absolutely a rush it’s very, very intense,” said Nick.

About 1,000 people were diagnosed with polio each day back in 1985 – translating to about 350,000 cases per year.

“This year, year to date, there have been nine, so we are moving toward zero,” he said.

Zero is the magic number.

Rotary has some pretty impressive other numbers to get to zero cases of polio. They’ve contributed $1.7 billion to immunize 2.5 billion children in 122 countries.

“This whole business of eradicating polio in the world costs a lot of money, it’ll take us $1.5 billion to actually get to zero and stay there for three years,” said Al.

While you’re falling from the sky and you have this beautiful view of Northern Michigan in front of you, it’s important to remember this reason this all happens.

“This is a terrible, terrible disease,” he said.

“Ending polio has been core to Rotary’s mission almost since its inception and we’re so so close to eradicating polio on a global scale,” said Nick.

“There’s 16 million children walking today because we’ve been eradicating polio for the last 30 years, I think that’s a big deal and that’s why I do it,” said Al.

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