Swim marathon, crocus sale to mark Rotary’s anniversary
Top: A swimmer in last year's swimming event. Photo courtesy of Rotary Club of Grantham
Bottom: A fabric purple crocus. Photo Courtesy of Rotary Crocus campaign
Thousands of participants around the world plan to swim 100 meters or more on 23 February in a global swimming event that is just one of many activities celebrating Rotary’s 108th anniversary.
The global event is being organized by the Rotary Club of Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, which has held an annual swim fundraiser to support local charities since 1990. Participants swim laps in a pool to earn pledged money during the “swimarathons.”
Last year, in addition to their local event, the Grantham Rotarians decided to spearhead a worldwide swim the week of Rotary’s anniversary, in an effort to set a new world record. Guinness World Records officially recorded 4,546 participants ages 8 to 93 synchronizing their 100-meter swims to the exact same hour across 15 time zones. The effort raised more than US$100,000 for polio eradication.
This year, the organizers are hoping to create the biggest same-day global swimming event and are inviting clubs to hold swimming fundraisers throughout the day, with proceeds going to PolioPlus and local club-supported charities. Already, more than 180 clubs in 43 countries on six continents have signed up.
Paul Wilson, one of the event’s two coordinators, says his most gratifying Rotary moment came last year, watching 14-year-old Moin Junnedi, India’s youngest national Paralympian, complete his swim. (Read a blog post from Wilson)
“Junnedi suffers from a severe brittle bones condition which has meant he’s suffered with over 200 fractures during his young life,” says Wilson. “Just a day or two before this swim, he suffered four fractures, but was so determined to take part. It was pure inspiration.”
Purple crocuses, polio advocacy
Rotarians in the United Kingdom are also behind another global fundraising effort aimed at marking Rotary’s anniversary by elevating the public’s awareness of Rotary and raising money for polio eradication. Twenty Rotary districts in Great Britain and Ireland are selling purple fabric crocuses, which can be worn in jacket buttonholes, for an average donation of US$5.
The crocuses have an End Polio Now label on the stem and are purple to represent the dye used during National Immunization Days to mark the fingers of children who have been immunized. Lynn Mitchell, a past governor of District 1120, thought of the idea, inspired by the Thanks for Life Campaign in 2011, in which Rotarians and volunteers planted hundreds of thousands of real crocuses throughout the United Kingdom. Last year clubs ordered 25,000 of the fabric crocuses as a trial and raised more than $40,000.
This year, the districts have ordered 150,000 of the crocuses, launched a Facebook page, and used social media such as Twitter (@rotarycrocus) to spread the message. They hope to raise $250,000 for polio eradication.
Mitchell says Rotary clubs in Canada, Nigeria, and the United States have ordered boxes of the fabric flowers, and inquiries have come from Gibraltar, Guinea, India, Israel, Japan, Romania, and South Africa. (Read a blog post from Mitchell)
In Canada, Rotarians are inviting parliamentary representatives to Rotary club meetings in the days leading up to the anniversary, to advocate continued support for polio eradication.
Ways to celebrate
Honor Rotary’s anniversary by planning an event in your community. Here are some ways you can join the celebration: