Rotary clubs plan for a virtual World Polio Day

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may be what people are talking about most these days. But Rotary members have been fighting a similarly challenging virus — the one that causes polio — for four decades. 

Usually, Rotary clubs gather in person for large World Polio Day events to increase awareness of polio and raise funds for its eradication. This year, because many people around the world need to avoid large meetings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Rotarians are adapting their events so they can connect online and maintain momentum in our fight to end polio.

For ideas about how to move your World Polio Day event online, read how these members plan to observe World Polio Day virtually.

The Rotary Clubs of Pemberton, Squamish, Whistler, and Whistler Millennium in British Columbia, Canada, are planning a virtual fundraiser, Sea to Sky Pedal for Polio, using the fundraising platform CanadaHelps. Participants registered individually or as teams to pedal, walk, or run a certain distance between 29 August and 6 September. Their goal is to raise $20,000 for Rotary’s PolioPlus Fund.

Gill Forester, president of the Rotary Club of Whistler, explains that the clubs originally planned to host a barbecue together for World Polio Day. As the pandemic developed, they realized that they had to change the plan and that an online event could expand their reach. 

“I thought we could do a more remote fundraiser by getting people to walk, run, or pedal during the last week of school holidays,” Forester says. “Participants, donors, and sponsors can be anywhere in the world.”

The Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood, Ontario, Canada, has held online World Polio Day events for the past two years to demonstrate a global classroom that connects students with experts worldwide. An in-person event on the campus of Durham College was also streamed live. This year, the club and its cohost, the Rotary Club of Oshawa, have moved the entire event online.

It will be broadcast live from the global classroom and will include video versions of proclamations by local officials, flag-raising ceremonies, and a virtual presentation by Dr. Robert Scott, the past chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, talking live via internet with Rotary Foundation Trustee and Past RI President Ian H.S. Riseley from Australia.

Central and South America
Sonia Uribe, the Rotary public image coordinator for Zone 25A (Mexico, Central America, parts of South America), is organizing a “wear red” event for World Polio Day. Participants take photos of themselves wearing red and post the photos to social media. The organizers are also selling stuffed toys to raise money for PolioPlus.

Rotary members in Switzerland are organizing a virtual event moderated by TV news host Michaela Padberg and featuring polio survivor and Rotarian Urs Herzog. RI President Holger Knaack will speak at the event, along with Michel Zaffran, director of polio eradication at the World Health Organization; and Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee.

Use Rotary’s World Polio Day Toolkit to plan your own virtual event and register your event to show Rotary’s global commitment to polio eradication.

Do you need a simple event idea to get your club involved in World Polio Day? Organize a virtual watch party to stream Rotary’s World Polio Day Online Global Update on 24 October. Be sure to register your event on to receive updates.

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Rotary International | Feb. 17, 2022