Polio Outbreak Remembered
President Rosemary in her at times very personal address to the Club, Monday 19 February, noted that it has been her privilege to be involved with and to be amongst so many polio survivors from Belfast, Dublin and Cork in the last few months since the anniversary of the 1957 outbreak of Polio in Belfast in November 2017 and that the courage these men and women have shown has been outstanding. She reflected on her personal memories of the outbreak of Poliomyelitis and the suffering, pain and uncertainty of the future of affected families.
She highlighted the roles Rotary and the Club have played supporting and raising funds; in particular when in 1933 the Club became involved with Polio sufferers and started a camp in Millisle, where 70 boys could camp out under the stars, which was enjoyed by the children who were in various ways disabled. She pointed out that Eddie McCrory, one of the survivors who took part in the Polio Survivors event last November had reminisced with her about the camp as he had enjoyed the experience himself and that it had been an incredible experience for boys and Rotarians alike. She noted that Rotary throughout Ireland has over the years raised money through different charitable events from simply planting crocus bulbs and selling jams to larger events and highlighted one of the first events was when the Club just over 30 years ago on the 8th November 1987, exactly 30 years after the first outbreak in Belfast, took its first, and audacious, step on the long journey to help eradicate polio. The then President Bryan Johnston asked the late Frank Carson to organise an evening of entertainment in the Grand Opera House which he did with alacrity. On that night alone over £10,000 was raised towards the eradication of polio and that was only the beginning.
Noting that Rotary International has raised awareness of this traumatic disease and that a great deal of financial support, increased by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been donated to hasten its eradication, she stressed that the Club has been one of the largest contributors throughout the United Kingdom, in some years the largest donor, and in 2016 Rotary Ireland contributed over $63,734.00. She acknowledged that through the generosity of ordinary people many children are disease free to-day and on their behalf thanked each and everyone who has contributed to this very worthy cause.
She concluded we have to fight the scourge of polio wherever it exists for however long it takes and urged members to continue to support this cause so that we can look at pictures of children running free and happily in the streets of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and afar and know that we are making a difference, that we played our part in their happiness and this success of beating the disease of Polio by giving one last push.