By Libby Hopkins
Paul P. Harris had a vision back in 1905 when he formed the very first rotary club in Chicago. According to the rotary’s Website at www.rotary.org, Harris wanted rotaries to be “A place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships.” Harris also wanted rotary clubs to make a difference in the lives of its members as well as the communities they serve.
Harris’ vision is still alive and well today. Rotaries have joined forces on many community projects as well as international projects. One of those projects is eradicating Polio. Since 1979, rotaries have been fighting Polio and there are just three countries left in the world that still have cases of Polio. Rotary members like Peter Vaka are determined to end Polio. Vaka is the President of the New Tampa Evening Rotary Club and he has been involved with rotary since 1976.
Vaka’s rotary club is working with other rotaries in the area to host the Rotary Ride for Kids bike-a-thon Friday and Saturday, February 7 and 8 at Rotary’s Camp Florida in Brandon. “All the funds raised at the event go to benefit Rotary’s Camp Florida as well as supporting Rotary’s Polio Plus campaign to end Polio worldwide with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation matching $2 for every $1 we raise,” Vaka said. Rotary’s Camp Florida is a camp for disabled children that gives them a camp experience like normal children.
The two-day event offers an old-fashioned cookout/dinner party on Friday, February 7 and guests are invited to sleep over at the camp for the low cost of $25. On Saturday, February 8, registration starts at 6 a.m. for the three different bike rides being offered. The first is a Metric Century Tour that begins at 7:45 a.m. The second is a 36-mile bike ride that starts at 8 a.m. with the final bike ride starting at 8:15 a.m. that covers 16-miles. The bike rides start and finish at Rotary’s Camp Florida. The cost to register for the rides are $35 in advance, $40 the day of the event. “We hope to have more than 200 riders for this event,” Vaka said. To learn more about Rotary Ride for Kids, you can visit its Website at www.rotaryrideforkids.org or call 864-0807. Rotary’s Camp Florida is located at 1915 Camp Florida Rd. in Brandon.