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This is the year to conquer polio Rotary’s Purple Pinkie race goes virtual

Even a pandemic can’t stop Rotary District 7430 from Montgomery, Bucks, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties from pulling together in the worldwide effort to finally eradicate polio from the world.

With the number of worldwide polio cases down to fewer than 200, and those confined to only Pakistan and Afghanistan, the goal is tantalizingly within reach.

In 1985, when Rotary International first began the project of focusing attention on polio, there were about 3.5 million cases of polio worldwide.

Since then, thanks to the partnerships Rotary formed along the way, and to the work of so many people involved, polio started disappearing from many countries as vaccines were distributed and administered to children worldwide.

As of this past summer, Africa was declared polio free, leaving only Pakistan and Afghanistan left to conquer.

Oct. 24 is World Polio Day.

In the Lehigh Valley, activities are centered on the 10th annual Yvette Palmer Purple Pinkie 5K Run/Walk/Wheel Race to Zero.

While this event has traditionally been an outdoor fundraiser, this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the race will be virtual.

To accommodate as many activities and schedules as possible, the race will run from Oct. 17-24.

Participants are encouraged to choose a variety of activities to suit their own lifestyles: running, biking, walking, climbing stairs, using a treadmill, or whatever creative way they choose to honor the idea of an activity.

Last year, the district raised more than $60,000 from Purple Pinkie proceeds, and is seeking to exceed that amount this year.

With a 2-for-1 match from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was also donated last year, the money raised will go a long way in helping vaccines reach unvaccinated children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Along with the Gates Foundation, Rotary International works with other partners, including UNICEF, the CDC, and the World Health Organization.

Without all of these groups working together, the progress of the last 35 years would not have been possible.

Carol Ferguson, a member of the Doylestown Rotary Club, and District Chair of the event, is a polio survivor.

She created a Polio Survivors Network in Pennsylvania.

John Scott of Allentown West Rotary is the director of the race.

Michael McGovern of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, is chair of the Rotary International PolioPlus Committee.

McGovern will appear in a virtual celebration call on the day of the event to congratulate and thank the participants for their commitment.

There will be prizes and surprises as well, for all who participate.

To register for the race, make a donation, or to learn more, go topurplepinkie.net.