“This is a natural partnership because both organizations have service in their motto… [Sam Houston State University’s] motto is ‘A measure of a life is its service,’ and the Rotary motto is ‘Service above self,’” Darren Williams, president of the Rotary Club of Huntsville and assistant professor of chemistry at SHSU said.
The university and the Rotary Club of Huntsville, will bring in an iron lung along with information and awareness about Polio to campus.
“People should expect lots of valuable information at the event,” Williams said. “They can look closely at an iron lung, which is a large tank that [helps] a person with polio breathe. They can also expect some fun. With a donation, they can make their mark on the ‘purple pinkie wall,’ and they can participate in the 0.5k fun run around Bearkat Plaza to receive a t-shirt.”
Donations will be divided up between colleges for a little friendly competition. For each $1 donated, the Melinda Gated Foundation will donate $2.
“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation got involved at the international level and pledged to match donations up to $200,000,000 a few years back,” Williams said. “They have increased their match every year and this year have pledged to double everyone’s donation. They have given approximately $1 billion to eradicate polio.”
Williams explained the two-to-one donation match by the Gates Foundation was too good to pass up.
“Students do not have a lot of money,” Williams said. “If we were going to do a fund raiser, it made sense to take advantage of a situation where every $1 a student gave would cause $3 to go to the effort. Each vaccination consists of two drops in a toddler’s mouth. These two drops cost $0.60. A $5 donation with the Gates Foundation match will pay for 25 children who will never have polio. A $100 donation will protect 500 children.”
Along with raising money in hopes of eradicating Polio, the event hopes to inform people about the importance of vaccinating their children for other preventable diseases and clear up some misconceptions about vaccines.
“The current meme that vaccines are dangerous or that they cause autism is false and dangerous,” Williams said. “Therefore, the vaccination push to eradicate polio serves as a timely message to promote the benefits of other vaccines that we can and should take. We have vaccines for mumps, measles, strains of the flu, Hepatitis A…the list goes on.”
While discussing the benefits of vaccines, it is important for people to realize the dangers it poses for the community when people do not get vaccines or vaccinate their children, according to Williams.
“When people do not vaccinate their children, then there are pockets of vulnerable people mixed in with vaccinated people. Not much happens if there are only a few, but when the number of unvaccinated people grows, then outbreaks can occur like the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland in California,” Williams said. “This was entirely preventable if those kids had been vaccinated.”
Williams said the preventable danger presented by not getting vaccinations can spread quickly in groups.
“You could think of every unvaccinated person as a match. A single match doesn’t pose much risk, but if there are whole groups of matches then you have a problem when a lit match – a sick person – walks into the group,” Williams said.
Along with raising awareness and funds for polio, the Rotary Club of Huntsville is involved with promoting literacy and education locally as well as promoting projects to provide health care and clean water abroad.
“We have several local service projects that promote literacy and education and we have several international service projects that promote health and clean water,” Williams said. “Some of your readers may have received an ‘I Like Me’ book when they were in kindergarten. We buy and deliver those books to the kindergarteners of [Huntsville Independent School District] every year. We fund scholarships and foreign exchange experiences. We have an ongoing project to drill water wells and upgrade hospital facilities in Nicaragua. The list is quite long.”