Rotarian Vaughan helps promote polio awareness

President-Elect Alex Vaughan, second from right, and members of the Dover Colonial Rotary are once again organizing the Dover Mile, which raises funds for Rotary Club programs. The event, always held close to Flag Day, includes a flag ceremony at 5:30 p.m., before the mile starts at 6 p.m. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — A social media post from Alex Vaughan about the Dover Mile prompted this week’s column.

“I’m about to become president of the Dover Colonial Rotary Club and I want you to know the money we raise at this event is what we will use to give back to our community through donations and service projects,” he wrote.

This will be the 32nd running of the Dover Mile and 5K Wednesday night.

For the Colonial Rotary, it’s a chance to raise funds for its scholarship program, dictionary distribution to local students and much more locally. Internationally, it helps Polio Plus.

As Mr. Vaughan puts it, money raised goes back to the “community and world community” that Dover Colonial Rotary serves.

You’ll see Mr. Vaughan, a professional disc jockey, at the event again this year in the role of master of ceremonies and sound support.

A call to Mr. Vaughan helped fill in some of the details on the big event, but also offered a chance to catch up with him about his ongoing efforts to raise awareness about polio.

He is now in his 24th year with Colonial Rotary.

“My plan is to do my tour of duty for a year as president,” said Mr. Vaughan, whose story as a polio survivor caught the attention of his Rotary district leaders.

“I’ve been asked to consider taking on a role with the Rotary district Polio Plus program. That’s a year and half out, but when I do step up to that, I’ll be kind of like an ambassador. I’ll be working on the district level.

“Right now, it’s supposed that I will travel to provide programs to other clubs in the district to educate about the Polio Plus program and where things are in world immunization based on facts we get back from Rotary International.”

Colonial Rotary is in District 7630, which stretches south to Cape Charles, Virginia, west to just across the bay in Maryland, and north to southeastern Pennsylvania.

Mr. Vaughan said the opportunity is a good fit.

“I’ve always been a communicator,” he said. “My mother enjoyed telling people that I never met a stranger. I can strike up a conversation easily with people and I enjoy the communication.

“The fact that I’m passionate about polio is how it’s treated me — in positive and negative ways in my life,” he said. “I have to credit my parents with raising me to be positive about things.”

***

Back in 2011, Mr. Vaughan first shared his story with this editor for the column.

He was 18 months old when his parents learned he had contracted polio in 1954 – the year prior to before Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was made public.

“Polio is a virus,” said Mr. Vaughan. “It’s a virus just like catching a cold or the flu. Up until the Salk vaccine and a couple of years later, the Sabin vaccine was made available, there was no treatment for it.”

Mr. Vaughan said the polio virus interrupts signal paths between the brain and various parts of the body, most often muscular parts.

“Basically, it turns off a switch that tells those muscles and bones to grow and function. In my case, my right leg and my right side are weaker and my right leg is shorter, almost by an inch.”

As Mr. Vaughan enters his retirement years, he said that he and other lifelong polio survivors are now contending with post-polio syndrome. To make up for muscle loss in one area, bodies have to work harder than normal in other ways.

“Those parts of the body are starting to deteriorate because they have been overused for a lifetime,” he said.

Mr. Vaughan said the World Health Organization connected with Rotary International originally because of the service groups’ reach. Polio Plus also benefits greatly from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

At endpolio.org, Rotary’s Polio Plus leaders boast, “Since 1988, we’ve seen a worldwide reduction in polio cases of 99.9 percent. For more than two years, we’ve seen wild polio cases in only two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

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Visit dovermile.com to register and learn more about Wednesday’s Dover Mile and 5K at Governor’s Café, 144 Kings Highway SW, Dover.

Mr. Vaughan said registrations open at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, but it is best to sign-up online to help keep things moving smoothly.

Since the event is held close to Flag Day each year, there is a ceremony at 5:30 p.m.

The Dover Mile run/walk starts at 6 p.m., followed by the Colonial 5K at 6:30 p.m.

Both attract participants who will do this for fun and those who love the competition.

In addition to individual registrations, there is opportunity for groups of 10 or more participants to have 80 percent of the fees donated back to their groups.

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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