From foot surgery to biking 104 miles to end polio

Catherine Lankford trains as part of the Miles to End Polio team.

Catherine Lankford trains as part of the Miles to End Polio team.

By Catherine Lankford, Rotary staff and former RC program specialist

My upcoming participation in El Tour de Tucson as part of Rotary’s Miles to End Polio team means a great deal to me on many levels.

My first introduction and connection to Rotary began in Mexico, Missouri, through my paternal grandfather, who was a member and president of the Rotary club in that community. I remember hearing stories from him about his weekly meetings, the work he did with his club, his commitment to polio eradication (both as a Rotarian and medical doctor), and the lifelong friends he made in Missouri and all over the world. My maternal grandmother was also recognized by that club with a Paul Harris Fellow for her outstanding work as an elementary school teacher and community member.

I began working at Rotary International in March of 2011 and feel fortunate to work for a company dedicated to making the world a better place. I was drawn to Rotary primarily because of our polio eradication efforts. The Miles to End Polio ride will mark the first time that I am directly impacting that effort and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. It is also meaningful to me on a personal level.

Broken bones

In April of 2013, I broke multiple bones in my foot, and spent over 10 months in a walking boot and cast. I had surgery and went through seven months of subsequent physical therapy to learn to walk again and strengthen my muscles.

This was an incredibly trying experience for me, both physically and emotionally, as there were times that it was questionable whether I would be able to run or bike again. I can’t imagine a better way to close this chapter of my life than riding in El Tour de Tucson and raising money to ensure polio is eradicated and no one else has to suffer from this debilitating disease again.

Far and away, the best part of being on a bike again and training with Team Rotary (including my first ever 100 mile ride on 28 September!) is the instant gratitude I feel for the recovery that I had, the ability to be active, and the ride to end polio in Tucson. Gratitude is the attitude!

Catherine poses with RC Henrique Vasconcelos after being recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow at the 2014 Coordinator and Adviser Institute.

Catherine poses with RC Henrique Vasconcelos after being recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow at the 2014 Coordinator and Adviser Institute.

Lankford is one of six Rotary staff members who will join Rotary General Secretary John Hewko in biking El Tour de Tucson in Arizona in November to raise money for polio eradication. Read posts from other team members, and learn how you can support the team.


Recognition points exchange leads to an increase in donations

At the 2014 Institute, regional Rotary Foundation coordinator (RRFC) Todd Lindley gave a presentation about using resources, such as reports, on to achieve success in the field. During the presentation, he mentioned using an existing Rotary report, the Club Recognition Summary, to locate large collections of unused recognition points. Rotary Foundation recognition points are awarded to donors who contribute to The Rotary Foundation through the Annual Fund or PolioPlus. Points are also awarded to donors who sponsor a portion of a Rotary Foundation grant. The Club Recognition Summary report provides club and district leadership with the recognition amount, Foundation recognition points, current Paul Harris Fellow (PHF) level, and date that PHF level was achieved for club members in their area.

Incoming RRFC Carol Govers was reminded of a recognition point exchange that occurred in district 9100, located in West Africa. District leadership took advantage of unused recognition points and exchanged them to match contributions in the region. This provided incentive for donors to contribute more and get more points, bringing them closer to becoming a PHF. Govers had more than 100,000 unused Rotary Foundation recognition points. Lindley and Govers connected after the presentation and Govers talked about the recognition points exchange that had occurred in district 9100 several years earlier. The impact on giving to the Annual fund was significant and they agreed to test out a similar strategy in one of Lindley’s districts as a way to encourage donors to contribute to The Rotary Foundation.

Lindley started a matching points exchange in a district in his region that needed some additional incentives to increase their annual giving. From 1 April to 15 May, donations $100 or more to the Annual Fund in that district could be matched one to one with Rotary Foundation recognition points. The district raised approximately $50,000 in Annual Fund contributions and the program was deemed a success. Govers and Lindley are sure that this practice could be used effectively in other parts of the world. In 2014-15, another district in Lindley’s region will be participating in a points exchange from 1 September to 15 October. Based on the success of the first matching points exchange, Lindley and Govers are confident that this model will succeed in increasing contributions.

To implement this in your region:

  1. Train districts on how to use reports – from running the data to analyzing the results.
  2. Use the Club Recognition Summary report to locate collections of available recognition points in your region.
  3. Talk to district leaders about how they can effectively use these points to engage members and encourage contributions.
  4. Reach out to recognition points owners about contributing their unused points to boost their club or districts giving to the Annual Fund.

Would this be an effective fundraising tool in your region?

Learn more about gifts to the Rotary Foundation and Foundation recognition on

World’s Greatest Meal to help end polio

Written by Rotarian Michelle Tanner and Polio Chair Susanne Rea

Pciture 1In May 2014, Polio Chair Susanne Rea shared her story on Rotary Voices about how the World’s Greatest Meal is striving to fund a million polio vaccines through social media. The World’s Greatest Meal (WGM) is a project created by Polio Chair Susanne Rea (Rotary Club of Cairns Sunrise, Australia) and past District Governor Mukesh Malhotra, (Rotary Club of Hounslow, England).

The concept behind the project is simple: participants enjoy a meal together, raise funds to end polio, and use the power of social media to globally raise awareness of Rotary’s polio eradication campaign.

Initially, the focus was on holding an event around Rotary’s anniversary (23 February 2014) but as the reach of the project grew, the potential to really make a difference in ending polio became evident and the decision was made to continue it throughout the year.

So, how does the World’s Greatest Meal work? First, keep the project simple. Participants are encouraged to follow four steps:

  1. Refer to the World’s Greatest Meal website or Facebook
  2. Plan an event focused on sharing a meal then click ‘register event’ and add basic details to the WGM website
  3. Hold the WGM event.
  4. Submit the funds raised to The Rotary Foundation (be sure to indicate PolioPlus) and complete the after event form.

Picture 2Social media is the backbone of this project. The first (global) Facebook page was followed by a website and many, country-based, WGM Facebook pages such as RIBI, District 7770 in the United States, and Spain. A video was created and made available in Spanish and English. Twitter and a YouTube channel followed.

Rotarians across the globe were ‘recruited’ to the project and the WGM Team was formed. The Rotary Convention in Sydney provided an opportunity for many on the team and other interested people to come together to share ideas and experiences at a post-convention meeting.

WGM aims to raise US$1m (including matched funds from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and have 500 events registered by World Polio Day, 24 October 2014. As of 4 September 2014, 544 events have been registered in 47 countries across 5 continents. The long term fundraising target is $5 million (including matching) by December 2018.

Picture 3The WGM is an example of how an idea can grow into a global project. Contributions, small or large, are welcomed for a cause close to Rotary’s heart. What can you do to participate in this initiative? Why not mark World Polio Day on 24 October with your own WGM event – host a viewing party of Rotary’s World Polio Day 2014 Livestream event or host your own event.

More World Polio Day resources can be found on