HARLINGEN — “End Polio Now.”

Those three words said it all for the volunteers who took a walk Saturday morning around Harlingen Lake.

About 30 volunteers wore those words as they strolled briskly through the morning sun, engaging in upbeat conversation about the hope that the devastating polio virus could soon be eradicated.

Sunday is World Polio Day, first established by Rotary International and now observed around the world. Saturday morning, the Rotary Club of Harlingen sponsored the walk to raise awareness.

“Rotary International partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” said Lucy Cadenas, president of the Rotary Club of Harlingen.

“For every dollar we raise, they double,” she said. “If we raise $1,000, they put up $2,000.”

She pointed to the End Polio Now shirt she was wearing.

“We were selling the shirts for $26.50,” she said.

However, Saturday morning was about awareness.

“Polio isn’t talked about as much as the coronavirus and other things,” said Wayne Lowry as he walked around the lake.

“We just want to keep it in the minds of our community that it’s still not completely eradicated,” Lowry said. “We want to bring attention to it.”

(Courtesy: Rotary Club of Harlingen/Facebook)

Even local youth turned out for the event.

Izabel Vasquez and Madison York, both sophomores at Harlingen High School South, did the walk as members of the school’s Rotary Club.

“What made me decide to come was, I knew deep down in my heart that it’s only three countries left that still have polio,” said Izabel, 15, secretary of her school’s Rotary Club.

At that moment some discussion arose about which countries still had polio. And was it three countries or two? Which ones? Pakistan for sure, and some said Nigeria. Others said no, not Nigeria. Afghanistan.

So only Pakistan and Afghanistan have reported cases of polio, and this year they’ve only had one. Nigeria still had polio in 2012 but that country is now free of the disease. Rotary International says all children everywhere are at risk until they’re vaccinated against polio.

Two countries or three, Nigeria or not, the problem remains, and when Izabel was asked to help publicize the event she was happy to do so.

“I’m heavily in charge of all of the service hours that we do here, so I was one of the people they asked to spread the word,” she said. “I even posted it on my Facebook page.”

Madison, who is vice president of the South club, was happy with the event’s success.

“I think the walk went pretty good,” she said. “I think we had a pretty good turnout of the people that showed up.”

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