Concert raises awareness, funds for polio eradication
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Glenn E. Estess Sr. (left) presents an award to violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman in appreciation of his help in fighting polio during a reception following the 2 December concert. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman played to a sold-out audience in New York City's Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on 2 December, during a benefit concert to raise money and awareness for Rotary's efforts to eradicate polio.
Perlman received several standing ovations during the fundraiser, a benefit concert for polio. The organization joined with Perlman and the world-renowned New York Philharmonic for the first time to present the event.
"The concert was very uplifting," said Charles Murphy, governor-elect of District 7950 (parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire). Murphy works with people with disabilities, and one of his best friends has survived polio. "I have a vision of polio ending."
The polio eradication effort resonates strongly with Perlman, who contracted the disease at age four and overcame physical challenges to become one of the world's most celebrated musicians, winning 15 Grammy Awards as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Glenn E. Estess Sr. presented Perlman with an award for his help in fighting polio during a reception after the concert.
"There’s no reason anyone should get this disease," said Perlman.
The polio eradication campaign received more good news this week with the announcement that Rotary has surpassed the halfway mark in its effort to raise US$200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Rotarians, many of whom traveled from great distances to attend the historic event, deemed the concert a success. Ann Lee Hussey, Murphy's friend and a district governor-elect, said the event really helped raise awareness about polio.
Hussey, a member of the Rotary Club of Casco Bay-Sunrise (Portland Area), Maine, is chair of the Rotarian Action Group for Polio Survivors and Associates.
A polio survivor herself, she remembers when people with the disease were shunned, and survivors didn’t want to talk about it for fear of standing out. But Hussey says she encourages polio survivors to share their story with Rotary clubs and others, because it helps motivate Rotarians to continue the push to end the disease. “It will be such a relief when polio is gone,” she said.
For now, the battle continues, and ending polio is Rotary’s top priority.
Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988.
Since then, the number of polio cases has been slashed by more than 99 percent, preventing five million cases of childhood paralysis and 250,000 deaths. However, the final 1 percent of cases are the most difficult and expensive to prevent. The wild poliovirus remains endemic in just four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
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