The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Chris Parkinson administering vaccines on National Immunization Day in Gasera, India. Courtesy photo.

The Bobby Darling Show
When: Saturday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Bow High School, 32 White Rock Hill Road, Bow
Tickets: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (65 +), $5 for students

Helping Bill Gates help others
Concert to raise funds to finish polio


For more than 100 years, polio was a disease that debilitated people all around the world, and that included America’s longest-serving president. In the 1950s, modern medicine began fighting back. Now polio is on the verge of eradication. But a final push still needs to be done. The Bow Rotary Club aims to help.

Since 1985, Rotary International has raised $900 million in the effort to eradicate polio, according to Chris Parkinson, who is organizing a concert fundraiser in Bow set for Saturday, March 12. New cases of polio have declined worldwide from 365,000 in 1980 to less than 1,700 in 2009, according to information provided by the Bow Rotary Club.

Such astonishing results caught the attention of one of the world’s richest men. Bill Gates via his Gates Foundation has donated an additional $355 million challenge grant, which Rotary International hopes to match with $200 million in donations.

While there is no denying the success of the work, polio is still a health issue in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, according to Parkinson. Parkinson traveled to India in 2009 with a team of Rotarians from the U.S. and Canada and participated in a National Immunization Day program.

“It was eye-opening,” Parkinson said. “We visited two small Muslim villages outside New Delhi. There was some mistrust in those areas for a while because they thought we were doing something evil with the vaccinations. But now it’s clear the good work being done.”

Parkinson said the magnitude of such a project is astounding. He said on two Immunization Days the effort vaccinated 175 million children. Such an undertaking required 155,000 supervisors and vehicles and six million ice packs to keep the vaccines cold. He said on these Immunization Days they bring in a cricket star (who Parkinson said was like the Indian equivalent of David Ortiz) to drum up interest with the kids.

“In the 1980s, 1,000 children were being infected a day,” Parkinson said. “Now we have 1,700 for the year in those four countries. Those are some pretty incredible numbers.”

But Parkinson said they can’t let up. Poliomyelitis, the more formal name for polio, is “a viral disease that can affect nerves and can lead to partial or full paralysis,” according to the National Institute of Health. The virus spreads by person-to-person contact, by contact with infected mucus from the nose or mouth or by contact with infected feces. In areas with unsanitary living conditions, it can spread rapidly.

Strains of the virus can mutate, so polio in Nigeria might be different than polio in Pakistan. As a result, different strategies need to be implemented. It can be made more difficult in a place as volatile as Afghanistan because there is a war going on. However, Parkinson said if the Rotarians are able to convey the importance of the vaccines to tribal elders, they can often arrange a cease fire so they are able to administer the vaccines.

Vaccinating someone is as easy as getting a few drops on the tongue of children five years of age and younger, according to Parkinson.

“A lot of people in the United States don’t remember polio,” Parkinson said.

Another issue is that memberships in Rotary Clubs in the U.S. are on the decline; however, Parkinson said there is a large service effort in New Hampshire. Memberships in other parts of the world are on the rise. Parkinson said Rotary is huge in Brazil, Taiwan, India and Japan.

“Rotary Clubs are in 200 countries,” Parkinson said. “It is rare when there isn’t one.”

All of these 33,000 clubs worldwide are trying to raise money. The Bow Rotary Club will host The Bobby Darling Show, a musical comedy revue, on Saturday, March 12. Parkinson first saw the duo in Niagara Falls and was amazed by their humor and skill. He said at one point both play the same guitar at the same time.

“The show is not risqué,” Parkinson said. “It is just great entertainment.”

Those in attendance will also witness performances by local singers, like the Concord Chorale and the Bow High Community Voices. Governor John Lynch and his wife, Dr. Susan Lynch, will make a special presentation to Mary Louise Hancock, a local community leader and polio survivor.

Parkinson said he is hopeful one mighty, final push might end polio for good.

“I keep hoping the end is right here,” Parkinson said. “I’m hopeful in the next few years it will happen. The progress in the last two years has been fantastic.”

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