Iditarod carries End Polio Now message
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Millions of viewers had an opportunity to see the End Polio Now logo during the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the frozen landscape of Alaska, USA.
The Iditarod, which ran 7-24 March, commemorates a race against time to deliver diphtheria serum to Nome during an outbreak of the disease in 1925. Through an agreement between the Iditarod Trail Committee and District 5010 , which covers parts of Canada, Russia, and the United States, this year's race built awareness of a similar race to the finish: Rotary's efforts to eradicate polio.
All mushers wore bibs with the End Polio Now logo emblazoned across the bottom. In addition, District 5010 secured a $27,500 PR grant to sponsor four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser, a Multiple Paul Harris Fellow and an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Wasilla Sunrise, who worked with Rotary to produce two public service announcements appearing on television and online.
Buser, who came in 18th in this year's race, displayed the End Polio Now logo prominently on his team's apparel and equipment, and symbolically carried three empty polio vaccine vials on his sled. He will continue to serve as a spokesman for polio eradication throughout the year at other events and appearances.
"The End Polio Now labels all over my sled and race gear were like Teflon -- they stood out above and beyond everything else," he says. "Through miles and miles of blowing snow, the red and white really cut through, and amplified the message.
"It's such a natural fit," Buser says, of using the race to promote polio eradication. "The Iditarod began as a lifesaving race, and End Polio Now is a lifesaving race."
Alaska's preeminent event
Clubs also used the excitement surrounding the event to raise funds for Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge . The Rotary Club of Anchorage East raised $15,000 during a live prerace auction at Chilkoot Charlie's, a bar in Anchorage. The Rotary Club of Anchorage International held a dinner party near Willow, where the race was restarted after its ceremonial launch in Anchorage, with donations going toward the challenge.
"What was exciting for us, as Alaskan Rotarians, is that the Iditarod is our preeminent event," says Trygve Erickson, past president of the Anchorage International club, who hosted the party with his fiancée Kimberly O'Meara, another past club president. "It was exciting to have the End Polio Now message attached to such an international sporting event."
Rotary Youth Exchange students and Rotaractors collected coins for the challenge before and after the race and handed out End Polio Now materials. The Rotary Club of Nome held a postrace fundraiser.
Past District Governor Alana Bergh, the District 5010 Rotary Foundation Committee chair, says the main idea behind the collaboration with the Iditarod Trail Committee was to "raise awareness that polio is still out there, and that you still have to immunize your children.
"We wanted to make sure people talk about it," she explains, noting that the Iditarod committee's Web site, www.iditarod.com , receives millions of hits during the race. The site featured a link to information about Rotary's efforts to end polio.
Chas St. George, a spokesman for the Iditarod and a member of the Rotary Club of Wasilla, says more than 500 media representatives from around the world converge on Alaska to cover the two-week event.
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