Your Stories

A Personal Challenge with a Higher Purpose

by Gerry Kosanovic, Ph.D., District 5110 Governor, 2021-2022

The temperature was 116˚on June 27, 2021, in downtown Portland, Oregon, the day cyclists began their race at the Tilikum Crossing Bridge.  Bike NonStop, creators of the event, mapped a self-supported bicycle course across the continental United States, supplying each rider with a GPS tracking device.  

An updated position status was traced every five minutes across each of the twelve states on the route.  The finish line of the 3,500-mile multi-surface road adventure was the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C.

The bicycle riders journeyed for glory; a personal test of grit and determination. No trophy or medal awaited the cyclists at the end, just the satisfaction of completing a grueling challenge. However, one rider, twenty-seven-year-old Oregon State University graduate Jared Kosanovic, elevated the purpose of his ride;  raising money and awareness for the Rotary “End Polio Now” project.  

Rotary International launched the polio program in 1985 and later became a founding member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization in 1988. The complete and total eradication of polioviruses in the world is the primary goal of all Rotary member clubs, such that no child ever again suffers paralytic poliomyelitis.  

Jared described his fundraising choice of PolioPlus on his personal blog, “As part of doing something bigger for myself, I also want to do something for others. That is why I will be using the race to raise funds to help end polio.  While stopping by a Rotary convention as a child with my dad, I can recall seeing an iron lung for the first time….that image from my childhood is still in my memory today as a symbol of the poliovirus.” 

The iron lung, a huge cylindrical mechanical respirator that stimulates breathing, was a standard care device for many victims of polio prior to the discovery of the polio vaccine.  The use of the iron lung all but disappeared from hospitals when the United States was the first nation to be declared polio-free in 1979.  Others would follow suit as individual countries were gradually declared free of polio.  Last year all of Africa was joyfully certified polio-free on August 25, 2020.  

With only two nations remaining on the active wild poliovirus list, Rotary partners remain steadfast in their commitment to distribute the vaccine.

Wearing his perspiration-soaked “Ride-to-End Polio,” jersey, Jared stood with his bike at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.  He finished the race after 24 days of energetic travel, with an average speed of 12 miles per hour.  He remained healthy and optimistic despite biking through sporadic rain showers, peddling an occasional 200-mile day, and suffering a total of six flat tires.  The determination of biking across the USA was cheerfully in the rear-view mirror.Equally rewarding for Jared are his heroes, the individuals that contributed to his Rotary fundraising link which garnered over $6,000 in donations.  

Former “End Polio Now” Rotary Zone Coordinator, Cort Vaughn, a polio survivor, framed Jared’s fundraising endeavor: “His noble effort translates to over $18,000 when you include the Gates Family Foundation 2 for 1 money match for Rotary’s PolioPlus Fund.   The vaccine only costs 60 cents/dose, so if you divide the total funds raised by $0.60…Jared has helped vaccinate and save the lives of over 30,000 children.  Awesome.”  

Rotary’s “End Polio Now” campaign endures with volunteers around the globe still serving to administer the polio vaccine to children. All citizens can join this effort by donating funds or voice in an effort to help eradicate this terrible virus (   

We’ve come so far and we are so very close. 

Hopefully, we can all celebrate a polio-free world when the finish line is crossed in the near future.

No medal.  No trophy.  Just the satisfaction of saved lives.