Farmers, Urbana Rotary Grow an End to Polio

When you sit down with family and friends Thursday, be sure to include farmers in your Thanksgiving prayer. For that matter, keep them in mind whenever you eat.

Karen and Bart Ward by their Acre of Corn.

And this year, keep in mind a group of about 35 farmers who have joined the Urbana, Ohio, Rotary Club in a project that’s using some of the fruits of their labor not only to nourish but also to save lives.

Through the club’s Acre of Corn project, each of the farmers is giving the gross income from one acre of their corn harvest to Rotary International’s End Polio Now campaign.

Their donations will go toward Rotary’s $200 million pledge to match a $355 million gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The money is funding a massive drive to produce, distribute and administer oral polio vaccine to children in the last four countries where polio continues to paralyze and threaten the lives of children — Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Don Bauer of the Urbana Rotary Club developed the fund-raising concept. He’s happy to report that the international campaign has been highly successful since Rotary International became involved in 1985. Worldwide, incidence of polio has fallen 99 percent, from 350,000 cases a year in 125 countries to 1,600 cases a year in the four remaining polio-endemic countries.

And in just the last year the number of cases in India dropped from 498 to 39, as of October 26. In Nigeria, cases have declined from 382 to 8 in the last 12 months.

However, Don says, “As good as this news is, we can’t stop now. World health officials say that polio has to be eradicated completely or it will come back and could paralyze 10 million children over the next 40 years.”

Personal Interest

One of the 35 participating farmers, Bud Runyan of Urbana, has a personal interest in the campaign. The summer after graduating from Urbana Local High School, in 1953, he contracted polio.

Bud Runyan, left, honored as the 2010 Rotary Farmer of the Year Award by Rotarian Chuck Havens.

Today he’s thankful to live with no effects of the disease. After being diagnosed, he underwent three months of weekly electroshock treatments in Columbus, which left him nearly symptom free.

He credits his bout with polio for his 30-year career as a vocational agriculture teacher at West Liberty, West Liberty-Salem and Urbana high schools. He was on the fence about going to college, but since he couldn’t work while he was getting his treatments in Columbus, he decided he might as well take classes at The Ohio State University. He kept studying after the treatments were over and graduated in 1958.

“I’m thankful that I was lucky enough to come out of it without problems and that I can do something to prevent others from getting polio,” says Runyan, who was honored as the Urbana Rotary Club’s Farmer of the Year earlier this year.

For more  information on the Acre of Corn program, contact Don Bauer at 937-215-3100 or bullstove@ctcn.net.

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