Opinion: Calgary Rotarians host the world in 2025

Article content

By Bryan Walton

In June 2025, Calgary and area Rotarians will host the world when between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors come to our city for the annual Rotary International Convention. This event will be the first mega convention in the expanded BMO Centre, which is expected to inject more than $60 million into our local economy.

Article content

So what is Rotary International and how did Rotary begin?

Advertisement 2

Article content

It all started in Chicago in 1905 when four businessmen met to discuss business and exchange ideas, all with the hope of improving their community. Today the organization has more than 1.4 million members and more than 46,000 clubs in more countries than are represented at the United Nations.

The first Rotary Club in our city was the Calgary Club charted in 1915. Our club, the Rotary Club of Calgary at Stampede Park, started in 1955. Since then, we have been working tirelessly to help those in need, both in our community and around the world.

Like other service clubs, we donate time, talent and treasure to worthy causes. And like other businesses, we offer goods, services and opportunities to the community, which in turn enables us to direct resources toward those who need it most.

Our club’s largest and most enduring fundraiser is the Calgary Stampede Dream Home Lottery, which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year that is channelled back into our community. When you purchase a ticket on the Stampede Dream Home, you are also making an important investment in your community.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

So, next time you see the Rotary International logo — on a building, a bus or in a local hospital — take pride in knowing that you have played a part in making a difference.

We also take pride in our many overseas initiatives. Rotary members believe that we have a shared responsibility to take action on our world’s most persistent issues. Our 46,000+ clubs work together to:

• Promote peace;

• Fight disease;

• Provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene;

• Save mothers and children;

• Support education;

• Grow local economies;

• Protect the environment.

Rotary International has been working to eradicate polio for more than 35 years. Our goal of ridding the world of this disease is closer than ever. We’ve reduced polio cases by 99.9 per cent since our first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979. Rotary members and partnering governments have contributed $12.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect nearly three billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Today, polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We also rise to the challenge of emerging needs such as assisting evacuees fleeing the war in Ukraine. Last year, we held a benefit dinner and auction called Rotary Ribbons for Peace. We raised $273,000 to help newcomers adjust here in Calgary. We have been distributing money, gift cards and goods to the evacuees, and members of our club have been working to pick up goods and deliver furniture and other household effects. We have partnered with the two Ukrainian parishes in Calgary to direct support for English language training, provide accommodations, find jobs, cover basic needs and address emerging urgent issues.

Advertisement 4

Article content

The flip side of war is peace, and if you travel to Waterton National Park you will see evidence of Rotary yet again. In 1931, Rotarians from Montana and Alberta gathered in Waterton to create an association that would advocate for a peace park. Success was realized in 1932 when the U.S. and Canadian governments agreed to designate Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as a first in the world. Since that time, we meet annually, alternating between Canada and the U.S. Next time you visit Waterton, you will see the Peace Plaza and Garden initiated by Rotarians.

If you are interested in Rotary, consider joining a club — we are always looking for business and community leaders who can help us achieve our mission with adherence to our motto, “Service Above Self.” Join and be part of hosting the Rotary International Convention in 2025.

Bryan Walton is incoming president of the Rotary Club of Calgary at Stampede Park for 2023-24.

Article content