Tango & Cash will fight polio

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— The Steamboat Springs Rotary Club will use proceeds from its annual Tango and Cash fund-raiser to help eradicate polio in the world.

Rod Hanna, Steamboat Rotary Club president, said eradicating polio might seem like a distant issue in the United States. It hasn't been a problem here for years. In 1994, all of the Americas were declared free of polio, thanks in large part to the millions of dollars Rotary Club International raised for the cause.

Last June, the European region also was declared eradicated.

But there is still one more goal eradicating polio worldwide by 2005. That mission was undertaken by Rotary Club International, the World Health Organization and other groups last summer when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was announced.

"Now it's down to just a few countries where it still exists," Hanna said.

Most are war-torn countries where the relatively simple and inexpensive vaccine about 50 cents a dose hasn't made it to the people.

Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan are places where polio is considered a serious problem.

The World Health Organization estimates that $1 billion is required before 2005 to ensure delivery of more than six billion doses of oral polio vaccine needed to stamp out the virus. A shortfall of money has been identified as the greatest threat to polio eradication.

Rotary's worldwide goal is to raise $80 million by June 2003. To reach it, all 1.2 million Rotary members were asked to pitch in.

In Steamboat, club members committed to $15,000 and are using proceeds from Tango and Cash to help reach that goal.

That means depending on the community to understand the significance of the event and the issue, even if it doesn't directly affect the Yampa Valley.

"We hope it doesn't turn off some of the locals, because it's not a local cause," Rotarian Jay Wetzer said. "It's a small world, as far as I'm concerned."

It also wasn't too long ago that polio was a problem in the United States.

"Those of use who are older remember that it was a devastating disease," Hanna said.

Now is a chance to eliminate the problem in the entire world.

Tango and Cash is a night of dinner, dancing and drawings set for Nov. 9 at the Chart House restaurant. Rotarians will sell 260 drawing tickets for $100 each for the event.

After dinner, the $15,000 in ticket sales is given as cash prizes. The Steamboat chapter expects to raise $10,000 toward its goal from Tango and Cash, and then will raise the remaining $5,000 within the chapter.

Dinner tickets are $35.

Drawing and dinner tickets may be purchased at Central Park Liquor, or from any Rotarian.

"It's a nice, elegant dinner at the Chart House," Wetzer said, "with a little dancing,"

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