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4 questions about holding a World Polio Day event



with Mary Van Hout

Past governor of District 6250 (parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin)

1. How did your district celebrate World Polio Day last year?

Our state Capitol in Madison [Wisconsin] has a square around it, and it is a popular place for people to rally for a cause. About 75 Rotarians from our district met on the steps of the Capitol at 4 p.m. on 24 October. At that time of day, there are a lot of people coming and going on the square. We had short presentations from our district governor and other club leaders and members to provide some information and some inspiration, and then we marched around the square holding banners that said End Polio Now. We ended up at a local establishment for a beer and a bite to eat.

The unfortunate part was that the weather that day was really awful. Not only was it really cold, it was extremely windy. It was a nasty day. And that diminished the size of our crowd significantly. The weather can play such an important part in turnout.

2. What was your goal?

Tell us about your World Polio Day event

How will your club celebrate World Polio Day? Will you hold a rally, sponsor a run, have a booth at a farmers market, or host a music festival? Rotary has an event planning guide with ideas to get you started. It includes details about how to use virtual reality during your World Polio Day celebration to show people in your community the impact that Rotary has had in the fight to end the disease. Find the guide, sample press releases, social media graphics, and more at, then tell us what you’re planning at Your event may end up featured on the World Polio Day livestream or in other End Polio Now promotions.

Part of the focus was to be seen. We have a brief window to firmly attach Rotary’s name to the eradication effort. This was all about awareness that there is polio in the world and that Rotary has been working so hard to do something about it. We wanted to provide information to non-Rotarians about it. We did outreach with the governor of Wisconsin and the mayor of Madison, and we received proclamations from them citing the day as World Polio Day. We also advertised on television and on the radio, so even if people could not be at the rally, they heard about Rotary’s work with polio through the media.

 Another goal was helping district Rotarians understand our polio eradication efforts. In the months between the initiation of this project in late August through World Polio Day, there was lots of communication to district Rotarians, such as through our assistant governor groups, direct emails to area club presidents, our district newsletter, and presentations atlocal Rotary clubs to encourage their awareness and attendance. 

3. What tips do you have for Rotarians planning their events?

Start early! In retrospect, I wish we had planned for a big-name speaker, but we ran out of time. Communicate frequently with clubs and club members.

4. What is your district doing this year?

There is a committee planning a “Pints for Polio” event. They’re working to have local bars and restaurants around the district share proceeds from the sale of a pint of beer or other beverage toward polio eradication. Their goal is to be in lots of small communities so that the awareness about ending polio is broader based, which I think is a fabulous idea.

• Illustration by Viktor Miller Gausa. Read more stories from The Rotarian