To celebrate the 110-year anniversary of Rotary International, the Lake Norman YMCA in Cornelius held its first Rotary Global Swimarathon on Feb. 22.
This year, the Lake Norman Rotary Club, along with the Rotary Clubs of Cabarrus County and Kannapolis, joined other Rotary Clubs around the world for the one-day swimming event to raise money for the fight against polio.
Chantal Bilodeau, 58, methodically swam her laps as the younger swimmers seemed to enjoy playing in their lanes. When Bilodeau finished her laps, the Cornelius resident said, “I get it, I have three friends that are post-polio so I understand the need.”
Smera Chandan, 8, kept alternating between the backstroke, dog paddle and floating on her back as she swam her laps. It was her first time to participate, and she jumped back into the water to play after she had finished her required swim.
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Each participant swam 125 yards, or five lanes, while donating $5 during the 90-minute event.
“We keep trying to find interesting ways to raise money,” said Ken Dresser, district governor of Rotary District 7680 (Rotary Club of North Mecklenburg). “The Rotary has donated over a billion dollars to eradicate polio,” said Dresser, adding that the organization’s End Polio Now program has been raising funds for the fight against polio for 30 years.
Cornelius resident and past Rotary District Governor Chris Jones said that the second goal is to raise public awareness. “Polio is still out there. Everybody is still at risk until it is totally gone,” he said.
Polio, or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. The disease affects the muscle strength of patients, usually most pronounced in the legs. About 0.5 percent of polio cases result in an inability to move, which can occur over a few hours or over a few days and last the rest of their lives.
In those with muscle weakness, as much as 5 percent of children and 30 percent of adults die from the infection.
Jones and his wife, Colleen Jones, went to Dhanbad, India, in March 2014 and participated in the Supplemental National Immunization Day, in an effort to stop polio.
Jones said his team of six immunized about 1,000 children that day. “There is still much more that needs to be done, with polio still existing in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” he said.
On Sunday, the West Cabarrus YMCA had 55 swimmers raise $1,700, but the Kannapolis YMCA had to close its pool due to the phone lines being down and could not participate.
Kamlesh Chandan, Swimarathon chair at the Lake Norman YMCA, said he had hoped for more than the 25 swimmers, who raised $1,405, but he felt it was a good showing for their first time.
The 80-swimmer partnership at the two YMCAs raised a total of $3,105, besting the $2,600 raised by 171 swimmers at the West Cabarrus and Kannapolis YMCAs in 2014.
According to Rotary, every dollar the club commits to the World Health Organization and UNICEF for polio immunization will be matched 2-to-1 (up to $35 million per year) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. So the $3,105 raised will become $9,315, which which will pay for 9,315 immunizations.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at email@example.com
For information on the Swimarathon, go to www.ncrotaryswim.org. For more on the End Polio Now program, go to http://www.endpolio.org. For more on Rotary International, go to https://www.rotary.org