Polio survivor a hero in his community
Harold Wochholz talks to schoolchildren in Chandler, Arizona, USA, about the need to win a polio-free world. Photo courtesy of Harold Wochholz
Harold Wochholz knows what it’s like to battle polio. Paralyzed by the disease at age 24, he could only move his hands at first. Now a retired engineer, and mobile in a wheelchair, he speaks to schoolchildren in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, about the disease and what they can do to help eradicate it.
Wochholz, a member of the Rotary Club of Sun Lakes, Arizona, and chair of Rotary District 5510’s PolioPlus Subcommittee, worked with the Chandler public school district to establish PolioPlus as the single fundraiser for the district’s 43 schools during the 2010-11 year. He briefed student council representatives about the program, and approximately 400 students helped raise funds, using PolioPlus collection boxes and classroom presentations on the importance of eradicating the disease. The effort netted more than $23,000 for PolioPlus in support of Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge.
One school’s fifth and sixth grade classes took on a fundraiser as part of an extra credit project. Wochholz provided 100 copies each of Rotary’s Amazing Stories of Polio! illustrated history of the disease and the September 2010 issue of The Rotarian , which featured coverage of polio survivors, for students’ use in the project.
“The [students] shared in reading those two documents and briefed the other grade levels about polio and their intent to conduct a polio fundraiser at their school’s annual fall picnic,” he says. “They had an excellent awareness of Rotary’s commitment to coordinate the world’s health resources toward polio eradication. I was most pleased with their comments and certainly with the $1,800 they raised.”
Presentations on polio
From 2008 to 2010, Wochholz also personally helped raise $18,000 for PolioPlus by speaking to teachers and students about polio at schools that requested his presentations.
In addition, Wochholz has made PolioPlus presentations to more than 20 Rotary clubs in his district and helped them obtain fundraising collection boxes, posters, and other materials. His Sun Lakes club has held fundraising dinners, collected contributions at club meetings, and used Paul Harris Fellow recognition to generate support for ending polio.
Last year, NBC TV 12 News in Phoenix recognized Wochholz as a local hero for his passionate pursuit of a polio-free world, which has continued in the face of major physical challenges.
“Postpolio syndrome is very real for me and my family,” he says. “During the last 10 years, I have steadily experienced overall body weaknesses that moved me from crutches and into a wheelchair for ambulation.” Last year, both of his shoulder joints were replaced with titanium ones. He also had to undergo amputation of half of his left leg.
For Wochholz, any alternative to polio eradication is unacceptable. Even though children in the United States are routinely immunized against polio, that’s not the case in every country, he emphasizes.
“Polio will keep spreading unless we can get these drops in every child’s mouth in the entire world,” he says.
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