Concert to End Polio a resounding success
Top: Itzhak Perlman and James DePreist speak at a reception after the Concert to End Polio. Bottom: Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar thanks Perlman and DePreist for their help in fighting polio. At right are Stenhammar’s wife, Monica, and Foundation Trustee Vice Chair John F. Germ, chair of Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge Committee. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman performed before a packed audience at Chicago’s Symphony Center on 7 March in a benefit concert to raise money and awareness for Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio.
Rotary joined with Perlman, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and conductor James DePreist to present the Concert to End Polio. Perlman received standing ovations during the program, prompting an encore performance of the Theme from Schindler’s List , composed by John Williams.
“The concert really touched me,” said Jeanne Clark, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Pikeville, Kentucky, USA. “I was a Group Study Exchange team leader to India in 2009. We helped immunize children during National Immunization Days. It’s giving me great joy to be a Rotarian and participate in ending polio any way I can.”
“This was a great event,” said Phillip Bandel, governor-nominee of District 5830 (parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) and a Rotary Foundation Major Donor who has contributed to PolioPlus. “I had nonparalytic polio when I was a child. That motivated me to help develop district support for PolioPlus back when it began in the 1980s.”
Both Perlman and DePreist are polio survivors who have overcome serious physical challenges to become among the most internationally recognized professionals in their fields. Perlman has won 15 Grammy Awards and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. DePreist received the National Medal of Arts, the United States’ highest honor for artistic excellence, in 2005, and has appeared as a guest conductor with every major North American orchestra and 19 others around the world.
Andrea Luehmann, president of the Rotary Club of Chicago, was impressed by Perlman’s and DePreist’s commitment to ending polio, including their involvement in Rotary’s “ This Close ” campaign. “I want the gap to be shrunk quickly -- from ‘this close’ to zero,” she said.
Throughout the evening, the Symphony Center building was illuminated with the End Polio Now message as part of Rotary’s public awareness campaign to build support for polio eradication.
At a post-concert reception, Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Carl Wilhelm-Stenhammar presented gifts to Perlman and DePreist for their dedication to fighting polio. Noting that they both “know firsthand how polio can affect a child’s life,” he thanked them for their determination in helping Rotary to achieve a polio-free world. He referred to Perlman as Rotary's "most active spokesperson for polio eradication."
“Even one case of polio should never happen. Because we have the vaccine, there’s no reason for anybody to go through what we’ve gone through,” said Perlman, referring to his and DePreist’s experience with the disease. “Help make polio something of the past, not of the future.”
“Nobody, no organization, has done as much on a consistent basis, on an effective basis, to eradicate polio from the world,” DePreist said of Rotary. “That’s a big challenge, and only a big organization can take it on and succeed.”
Ending polio is Rotary’s top priority. It is more than three-quarters of the way through its effort to raise US$200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Proceeds from the concert are being tallied.
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