by Doris Sanders
Some of us are younger, and a stumble or fall on an irregular, bumpy sidewalk might cause a few scrapes and bruises – and a wounded ego – but chances are they’ll heal quickly. Some of us are mid-life, and the same fall can have more serious consequences, maybe even hospitalization and long term health issues. And let’s face it, all of us are going to be older someday; many of us already are. Tripping and falling for us can alter our lives forever; sometimes even be fatal.
Denver Cherry Creek Rotary Club members have seen these scenarios play out among their diverse membership. Thus, we are natural partners with WalkDenver, which had the foresight in 2011 to improve the walkability of Denver. By becoming a Gold Footprint Supporter, we “put our money where our mouth is” in support of WalkDenver’s vision.
WalkDenver’s vision: “In 2040, Denver will be the most walkable city in the United States. As a result, its residents will be the country’s healthiest and happiest, and its economy will be thriving.”
This vision statement hits all of the goals of Rotary International, the “parent organization” for the 35,000+ local clubs in 200 countries across the globe. Overall, RI’s priorities for projects are to 1) support sustainable projects, like WalkDenver’s commitment to make Denver the most walkable city in the US by 2040, 2) grow local economies, an important aspect of WalkDenver’s vision, and 3) conduct service projects, as WalkDenver is certainly doing!
It is implicit in WalkDenver’s vision that improving walkability will improve the health of all ages, as walking is the one thing that almost anyone can do from about one year of age until death. Not only can it help prevent obesity, the scourge circling the globe, but it involves no special equipment and costs nothing. That makes it infinitely “doable.”
Rotary International and its local clubs are immersed in a goal that shares a portion of WalkDenver’s vision statement: to promote health, happiness and thriving economies. In 1985, we started the “Polio Plus” Program to eradicate polio across the world. We were joined in 1988 by such notable organizations as the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In 1988, there were 350,000 annual cases of wild polio virus from 125 countries. In 2017, there were 22 wild poliovirus cases reported in only two countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan. Local Rotary clubs worldwide contributed funding and participated on immunization teams that blanketed countries with polio cases. While most countries welcomed these teams, they sometimes faced intimidation from citizens who did not understand their purpose, and in a few tragic cases were killed. This has not deterred Rotary from its goal of eradicating polio worldwide.
This is an example of the kind of long-term, global projects Rotary supports. Local clubs also have their own projects, depending on the interests of the membership. Right now, DCCR has several projects that support children. For over 20 years, our Dental Mission has traveled to a Latin American country for two weeks to provide dental services to children, most who have never seen a dentist.
We have also provided over 100 eReaders to disadvantaged schools, in some cases resulting in an increase of five levels in children’s reading abilities. We furnish books for school libraries, tutor in a variety of subjects, raise funds through a Book Fair in partnership with Barnes and Noble, and partner with Operation Warm to provide new warm coats to children who may otherwise have no coat at all.
An important project completed every year are Leadership Programs for both Junior High and High School students. This program, known as the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, has propelled some students to leadership positions in their schools or to college when they probably would never have considered it before participating.
The most important thing we do, whether at the local or the international level, is support each other personally and professionally. For example, one member of our club, an older member, participates erratically due to brain injuries. We support her in every way possible, and include her in projects when she is capable. Another member was quite distraught over the death of a close friend. The club rallied around him to give moral support. Another member’s son needed a new heart. We worried with her and then celebrated with her after the successful transplant of a new heart for her son. Our premise, and that of Rotary International, is that if we are to accomplish projects, we must help each other first.
We always welcome new members, no invitation necessary. Just show up at one of our meetings, and be ready to be welcomed with open arms.