Concert Raises Awareness & Funds for Polio Eradication

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Itzhak Perlman & New York Philharmonic Joined Rotary's Effort to End Polio Now

-- 2 December 2009 Virtuoso violinist who survived polio as a child performed in special benefit to protect the world’s children

NEW YORK —Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman received several standing ovations during the fundraiser, Rotary's first benefit concert for polio. The organization joined with Perlman and the world-renowned New York Philharmonic to present the event. The Concert to End Polio took place on Wednesday, December 2, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City.

Polio eradication resonates strongly with Mr. Perlman, who contracted the disease at age four and overcame serious physical challenges to become one of the world’s most celebrated musicians, winning 15 Grammy Awards as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. In this historic, one-night-only performance — his first with the New York Philharmonic in four years — Mr. Perlman helped Rotary in its effort to raise $200 million to match a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All of the resulting $555 million will fund critical eradication activities in developing countries where polio still threatens children.

“We are honored that an artist of Mr. Perlman’s stature and a cultural institution as revered as the New York Philharmonic supports Rotary in our effort to achieve a polio-free world,” says Rotary International President John Kenny. “Their participation demonstrates the importance of this unprecedented global health initiative. It will be our lasting gift to the world’s children.” Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Glenn E. Estess Sr. presented Perlman with an award for his help in fighting polio during a reception after the concert. "There's no reason anyone should get this disease," said Perlman. The polio eradication campaign received more good news this week with the announcement that Rotary has surpassed the halfway mark in its effort to raise US$200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rotarians, many of whom traveled from great distances to attend the historic event, deemed the concert a success. For now, the battle continues, and ending polio is Rotary's top priority. Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Since then, the number of polio cases has been slashed by more than 99 percent, preventing five million cases of childhood paralysis and 250,000 deaths. However, the final 1 percent of cases are the most difficult and expensive to prevent. The wild poliovirus remains endemic in just four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

“The fact that polio is still around is ridiculous,” says Mr. Perlman, winner of 15 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. “There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to get polio. This is an issue that has to be dealt with immediately.” “We at the New York Philharmonic are proud to join our good friend and esteemed colleague Itzhak Perlman and Rotary International for this important cause,” says Zarin Mehta, President and Executive Director of the New York Philharmonic. “We hope that all our efforts will contribute to the worldwide eradication of this terrible disease.”

Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Since then, ending polio has been Rotary’s top priority, and tremendous progress has been made. The wild polio virus now remains endemic in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Worldwide, the number of polio cases has been slashed by more than 99 percent, preventing five million cases of childhood paralysis and 250,000 deaths. However, the final one percent of cases is the most difficult and expensive to prevent, which is why support for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign is crucial to the initiative’s success.

Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States and one of the oldest in the world. Since its inception, it has played a leading role in American musical life, championing and commissioning the music of its time. The Orchestra is also renowned around the globe, having appeared in 425 cities in 59 countries on five continents. The Philharmonic’s concerts are broadcast nationally on the weekly syndicated radio program, The New York Philharmonic This Week, streamed on the Orchestra’s website, nyphil.org, and carried on Sirius XM Radio. The Philharmonic has made nearly 2,000 recordings since 1917 and in 2006 became the first major American orchestra to offer downloadable concerts, recorded live and available on iTunes. Alan Gilbert becomes Music Director in September 2009, succeeding Lorin Maazel in a distinguished line of musical giants. Credit Suisse is the New York Philharmonic’s exclusive Global Sponsor.

Rotary is an international humanitarian service organization made up of more than 33,000 clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas, with a total membership of 1.2 million business, professional and community leaders. In addition to fighting polio, Rotary clubs carry out an array of humanitarian, educational and cultural exchange projects and activities that address the underlying causes of conflict, such as poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and lack of clean water. For more information on the polio eradication effort and how to support it, visit rotary.org/endpolio

 

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