Rotary International, along with the WHO, CDC, and UNICEF, voluntarily crusades to eradicate polio globally in places where it is still crippling and killing children.  This poem, written by Carol Lewis, is dedicated to those who are the poem’s title -  

Polio Plus Heroes

Salk and Sabin knew little

about the decision to eat or 

not, unlike the father who must deny

his daily beggar’s wage to say ‘yes’

to his son’s only chance to walk, to move

without dragging withered legs behind or crawling

on knobby knees, callused palms behaving like

feet. Lucky, he did not ride on his brother’s

back but crept on his own to scour

trash before the dogs or pigs ate his scraps,

was already close to the pond scum

that others’ backs bent toward, cleared to bathe.

At free surgery camp among India’s poor, polio

victims queue up, take a number like a lottery 

and pray they make it to the front before surgeries

and sunlight end. Twenty children lie recovering in antiquation,

their beds of iron no cure for pain, yet they smile while their

tortured limbs align into a future and hope floats

into their mother’s eyes. For each one, there are hundreds

more who cling to the millions of volunteers flooding

their country. Rotarians worldwide desert their comfort, risk life,

to work magic with two precious vaccine drops that may

change misery into joy…for 40 cents…pennies that promise 

to defeat the despair of polio.


No child can escape or be immune, wealth

and wishes do not protect without two droplets,  

each tiny pinkie purpled with telltale ink

for the track record. Then just imagine if – imagine – 

a whole world free from fear and pain,

free to be. Dreams are real when dreamed as one,

and one by one, one less disease will wilt our young. 

No more shoes on their hands, no more

brothers who resemble rice sacks, un-marriageable 

girls with paralysis, stigma; post-polio syndrome 

will gloriously disappear, replaced

by the wholesome face of humanity.