Clubs celebrate Rotary's 105th birthday

From kicking a soccer ball in Cape Town, South Africa, to illuminating prominent landmarks with the End Polio Now message, Rotarians around the world are celebrating 23 February, the 105th anniversary of the first Rotary club meeting.

On this day in 1905, Paul Harris, Gustavus Loehr, Hiram Shorey, and Silvester Schiele met to talk about their personal and professional experiences. Harris then unfolded his general plan for a club. Out of this simple beginning sprang the world's first international service organization, which has now grown to include more than 1.2 million members in over 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.

Rotary International helped celebrate the milestone by spelling out End Polio Now on the side of RI World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA, and by joining districts 6440 and 6450 in plans to light up the Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago with the End Polio Now logo on the evening of 23 February. The Rotary Club of Chicago is celebrating its own 105th anniversary immediately after the lighting.

Other sites scheduled for illumination this week include the Pyramid of Khafre in Egypt; the Taipei Arena in Taiwan; the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain; the Old Port Captain's Office on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, with world-famous Table Mountain as the backdrop; the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Lake Marathon Dam overlooking the historic Marathon Memorial Battlefield in Greece; and  the Royal Palace at Caserta in Italy.

In Cape Town, one of the host cities for the 2010 World Cup, a Kick Polio Out of Africa awareness campaign will launch with the symbolic kicking of a soccer ball signed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who had polio as a child. The ball, which will be auctioned to the highest bidder, will then travel through 22 polio-affected countries en route to the RI Convention in Montréal, Québec, Canada, in June.

In Puerto Rico, the House of Representatives has approved a measure setting aside the week of 23 February to be celebrated as "the week of the Rotary movement."

In addition, clubs have found a variety of creative ways to celebrate Rotary's birthday, also known as World Understanding and Peace Day:

  • Members of Rotary clubs in Nepal will be taking part in a peace rally in Biratnagar.
  • The Rotary Club of Scottsbluff/Gering, Nebraska, USA, is celebrating Rotary's 105th birthday by marking the 90th year since it received its club charter with a fundraiser to expand the local library.
  • The Rotary Club of Canton, Georgia, USA, holds its weekly meeting on Tuesdays and will be celebrating with a large cake, complete with big 1, 0, and 5 candles. The club will also be donating $105 to PolioPlus.
  • The Rotary Club of Tumkur City, Karnataka, India, has conducted a free dental checkup for children at a Red Cross school for the deaf and mute.
  • The Rotary Club of Milledgeville, Georgia, USA, has invited Rotarians, families, veterans, and community members to a large Peace Day celebration at the peace monument at the county courthouse.
  • All 21 districts in Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland will be taking part in a Thanks for Life Week to raise funds for End Polio Now.

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