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Rotarians ride hundreds of miles to pedal out polio

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Pictured in front of the Tamaqua YMCA are Tamaqua Rotary Club members Lynn Zimmerman and Floyd Zimmerman; Jeff Coup, District Polio Plus Chair; Michelle Simons, Rotarian rider; Matthew Shull, safety driver; Eric McDowell…
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Pictured in front of the Tamaqua YMCA are Tamaqua Rotary Club members Lynn Zimmerman and Floyd Zimmerman; Jeff Coup, District Polio Plus Chair; Michelle Simons, Rotarian rider; Matthew Shull, safety driver; Eric McDowell, Rotarian rider; Joe Dubosky, husband of Michelle; Major Sharon Whispell, Tamaqua Salvation Army and Tamaqua Rotarian; and Kevin Bailey, Tamaqua Rotarian.
Published June 27. 2012 05:02PM

Members of the Milton Rotary Club and others trekked 380 miles in five days as part of their second annual Rotary Pedals Out Polio Bike Ride held to raise donations in Rotary Club's campaign to eradicate poliomyelitis/polio, or Poliomyelitis; a disease caused by infection with the poliovirus. The virus spreads by direct person-to-person contact, by contact with infected mucus or phlegm from the nose or mouth, or by contact with infected feces.

This year's ride, which was raised from four to five days, started in Ashland (Schuylkill County) on Wednesday and ended in Cross Fork (Potter County) on Sunday. Ending their first day's trip, riders stopped at the YMCA in Tamaqua Wednesday evening, where they were hosted to a meal and good night's rest by members of the Tamaqua Rotary Club before their departure Thursday morning.

The ride began Wednesday in Ashland and ended its first day in Tamaqua (82.2 miles); Thursday was Tamaqua to Mt. Carmel (48.4 miles); Friday was Mt. Carmel to Sudbury (74.8 miles); Saturday was Sunbury to Hughesville (81.8 miles); and finished Sunday, Highesville to Cross Forks (92.3 miles).

In addition to Tamaqua, some of their stops consisted of Ashland, Berwick, Bloomsburg, Cross Fork, Danville, Elysburg, Frackville, Hegins-Valley View, Hughesville, Lewisburg, Lock Haven, Mahanoy City, Mifflinburg, Mill Hall, Milton, Minersville, Montoursville, Mount Carmel, Muncy, Port Carbon, Pottsville, Renovo, Ringtown, Selinsgrove, Shamokin, Shenandoah, Southern Schuylkill, Sunbury, Tower City-Porter, West Snyder-Beaver Springs and Williamsport.

The ride, which was spearheaded by Milton Rotary Club members Jeff Coup, Eric McDowell and Michelle Simons, raised $22,000 last year. With additional funds still forthcoming the event has already raised $55,000.00 which will be contributed to Rotary International's poliomyelitis/polio eradication program which has helped reduce poliomyelitis/polio cases worldwide from 1000 a day to less than 1000 a year. Due to a number of funds being donated online, Coup said he would not know until the middle of this week how much the ride raised.

Other cyclists, not just Rotarians, were also encouraged to participate in any part of the ride, which had over 2 dozen departure points. A cheering crowd was waiting for the riders in Milton as they finished their long cruise across Pennsylvania. "I'm really impressed with the support of some of the Rotary clubs," Coup said. While in Milton, McDowell shared the story of a woman who donated to the group while they were in the area of Mahanoy City on Thursday. He said the woman followed them into the city to make a donation to their efforts. The woman then told the group that her cousin was killed while on a bicycle ride to raise money for breast cancer research in the western part of the United States. "That hits you hard," McDowell said. He and Coup also talked about some of the challenges the riders had to overcome since starting out on Wednesday, as temperatures hit the mid 90s at times. The high temperatures also continued on Thursday. "The first two days, the weather, it made the ride a little more challenging," he said. "The first two days were brutal," Coup added. "They were the hardest two days I had to ride on a bicycle."On Friday, Coup said they avoided being stuck in a strong thunderstorm by stopping off at a convenience store in Berwick just as the storm hit the area.

As the 54 riders pedaled into Cross Fork on Sunday, a special celebration dinner was held to mark both the success of the ride and the merging of Rotary District 7370 and Rotary District 7350. The two districts officially merged on Sunday.

Coup stated, "I am very proud of the way hundreds of fellow Rotarians around Rotary District 7370 in Central PA pitched in to make our 'Rotary Pedals Out Polio' campaign a success." "Rotary is very close to getting the disease eradicated," added Coup. The Milton club is part of district 7370, the district the riders taking part in the Rotary Pedals Out Polio fundraiser traveled through. District 7350 covers an area that includes communities near the Pennsylvania-New York border, to the State College area, to Maryland and West Virginia. The merged district will be known as Rotary District 7360. "I think a lot of people don't realize that polio is still a problem in parts of the world. I'm proud that Rotary International has taken the lead to eradicate this destructive illness," said Tamaqua Rotary Club member Lynn Zimmerman. "It was a thrill for our Tamaqua Rotary Club to be part of the 380-mile trip to raise funds and make us all aware of the need to wipe out this disease throughout the world," Zimmerman added.

Tamaqua Rotarian Floyd Zimmerman said, "These rider's sacrifice and dedication exemplify true Rotary spirit - service above self."

For more information on how to donate, participate in next year's ride or volunteer, contact Coup at (570) 473-3608 or via

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