The sun was pouring in the windows on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the elegantly renovated Gate House restaurant for the Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club fashion show, and there was no doubt those in attendance were enjoying themselves enormously.
The fashion show, organized by club members and the owner and staff of Bella Grace, some of whom doubled as models of the store’s sophisticated and chic outfits.
There was no doubt those who attended the show were having fun — the lunch looked scrumptious, the wine was flowing and the clothes were a highlight, with many of the women in the audience wearing Bella Grace fashions.
Those who weren’t already clients of the Queen Street store sounded as though they were about to become regulars.
But although the afternoon was intended to be fun, there was a serious note to it — the sold-out event was a fundraiser for Rotary’s international efforts to eradicate polio.
Pam Wilson is a retired teacher who is now a Rotarian — she joined the club because as a child she and her family received help from a Rotary club, “and I will never forget their kindness,” she said in her address during the show.
She noted several famous people, politicians, actors, and others, with whom she has something in common — they all contracted polio as children.
In the 20th century, there were huge epidemics in North America. Vaccines have been available in North America since 1954, but by 1985, there were 50,000 cases occurring every year in other corners of the world, she said.
Thanks to the vaccines, there is no polio in India, and by the end of 2019, with no new cases in the last three years, she said, “we can safely say there is no polio in Africa. This is a remarkable accomplishment, due to research and very determined surveillance” by several international organizations.
There are two countries left with polio, in a remote, mountainous location bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wilson said. “The people of the region are nomadic and it’s difficult to track them as they cross the border often.”
Rotary has committed to giving $100 million U.S. to support the global effort to end polio, and with the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation matching money raised two-to-one, it become $300 million to hire vaccinators and to work on prevention. There are now 15,000 paid vaccinators going door-to-door around the world, with a goal of immunizing every child, Wilson said.
There is also an ongoing programming in many countries called Polio Plus, which cares for children and adults who have physical challenges as a result of the disease.
Lynne LeGallais, one of the organizers of the show, says the final numbers aren’t in, about $6,000 was raised to help eradicate polio — which means, thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $18,000 for the cause.