Rotary launches new public service announcement campaign focused on polio eradication

Bill Gates leads list of international public figures that are "This Close" to ending polio

EVANSTON, Ill. U.S.A. - After more than 25 years of hard work, Rotary and its partners are now "This Close" to polio eradication, and a wide array of public figures and celebrities have signed on to help Rotary spread the word.

Headlined by Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, this diverse lineup of influential leaders and personalities includes Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, action movie star Jackie Chan, conservationist Jane Goodall, premier violinist Itzhak Perlman, Grammy Award winners A.R. Rahman, Angelique Kidjo and Ziggy Marley, golfing great Jack Nicklaus, and peace advocate Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan. In a series of print, broadcast and outdoor public service advertisements each uses a simple hand gesture to show Rotary is "This Close" to wiping out polio worldwide. Nicklaus, Perlman and Tutu are themselves survivors of this crippling disease.

"Polio eradication has benefited immensely from having Rotary's support," Bill Gates said today in his annual letter. "Rotary had the vision to get involved in 1985 and has kept polio eradication as its top priority." The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a major supporter of the global campaign to wipe out polio.

Other notable figures star in regionalized versions of the "This Close" campaign around the world, such as South Korean ballerina Sue Jin Kang, Nigerian soccer star Nwankwo Kanu, and Indian movie star Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign also has a grassroots component in which local Rotary members recruit participants who are well-known at the community level, thus connecting the campaign at every level: local, national and international.

Broadcast television commercials feature a mix of celebrities and non-celebrities around the world saying, "We are this close to making history. We are this close to changing the world. We are this close to ending polio-all we need is you."

"Most people don't realize that polio still affects children in some parts of the world," said three-time Kentucky Derby winner and "This Close" participant jockey Calvin Borel. "I want to do my part in raising awareness to get the support needed to end this crippling disease once and for all. That's a milestone that everyone should want to be a part of."

Polio eradication has been Rotary's top priority for more than two decades. The international humanitarian service organization is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.

Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort, and have recently pledged to raise an additional US$200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All of the resulting $555 million will be spent in support of eradication activities.

Great progress has been made, and the incidence of polio infection has plunged from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 reported cases in 2010. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 pediatric deaths.

To learn more about polio eradication, including how to participate in this historic effort, visit www.rotary.org/endpolio today.

Download "This Close" public service announcemets at: http://rotary.synapticdigital.com

For video and still photos go to: www.thenewsmarket.com/rotaryinternational

For more information:
Petina Dixon-Jenkins: 847-866-3054 or Petina.Dixon@rotary.org
Wayne Hearn: 847-866-3386 or Wayne.Hearn@rotary.org