Rotary, Sandler team up to fight polio

Abby Donnelly
Abby Donnelly

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Abby Donnelly had an idea for combining work and charity.

Eradicating polio is the top priority for Rotary International, which is trying to raise $200 million over the next three years to meet a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight the disease.

Donnelly, a member and former president of Crescent Rotary Club in Greensboro and a partner at Sandler Training, a local franchise of Maryland-based professional-development firm Sandler Systems, suggested Sandler sponsor a day of training for local business professionals, with all proceeds benefiting Rotary’s polio initiative.

The training day, scheduled for Oct. 19 at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center, aims to attract 400 corporate presidents, CEOs, owners, managers and sales professionals.

The entire registration fee of $199, which covers sessions that typically would cost $2,500, will be applied to the polio initiative.

And with a single vaccine to immunize a child costing as little as 60 cents, each person registering for the training day will cover the cost of immunizing 1,650 children.

Mike Conrad, district governor for Rotary District 7690, which includes 15 Piedmont Triad counties, and executive director of the Piedmont Triad chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, says the number of polio cases in the world has declined 99 percent since Rotary launched its polio-eradication campaign in 1985.

With just over 1,000 cases through the world, he says, the disease is endemic only in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria

The district’s goal is to raise $350,000 over the next three years to meet the challenge from the Gates Foundation.

The Koury Convention Center is providing space for the training day at cost, while Fairway Outdoor Advertising is providing billboards at cost, the Business Journal is donating advertising space, and financial-adviser firm Edward Jones is serving as gold sponsor.

Donnelly says the day-long benefit could serve as a model for Rotary and Sandler in other communities.

Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Systems, will be the keynote speaker for the event, and Donnelly already has reserved the Koury Convention Center at cost for a second training day on Oct. 18, 2010.

The partnership between Rotary and Sandler is a “win-win-win,” Donnelly says.

“The more Sandler can contribute expertise and resources, the more we can raise money for polio eradication,” she says, “and the more we can do that through training sales people and managers and leaders, the more effective our businesses are, which grows our economy, which is good for everybody.”

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