By GasserOnline Correspondents, LOUANN BUHLINGER and TIM COLWELL
Photos By , Tina Mille
At the January 16 club luncheon, Past President Bob McKenzie was surprised with recognition from southern Arizona’s District 5500 for his participation in El Tour de Tucson, a 111-mile ride for charity, including a “Ride to End Polio.” District Governor Randy Brooks from Arizona, right, presented Bob a traveling trophy for raising $70,000 from Tulsa Rotarians and others.
Note: At our club luncheon on January 16, 2013, Past President Bob McKenzie was surprised with an award for raising $70,000 toward the fight to end polio by participating in the nationally recognized bike ride, El Tour de Tucson. Visiting from his southern Arizona district, Governor Randy Brooks told club attendees, “This wonderful fellow – from a district and Rotary club far away from ours in Arizona – cares enough to participate year after year, all for a great cause, a Ride to End Polio.” Governor Randy presented Bob with a traveling trophy that recognizes our past president’s fund raising success. “Bob raised $70,000 this past year,” said the visiting governor. “The next closest rider raised $20,000.”
The following is an updated story that appeared earlier in GTR Newspapers.
On a beautiful fall day last November, bicycle riders from all over the world came together to ride and help support charities at a premier American biking event, the El Tour de Tucson. Donning his Rotary logo emblazoned rider’s jersey, Tulsa businessman and Rotarian Bob McKenzie was there to raise money to help eliminate polio worldwide.
“I became involved after reading an article in The Rotarian magazine about the event,” says Bob. “This was the fourth year Rotarians rode in the race with a goal of raising $200,000 for the PolioPlus campaign. It turns out we have raised nearly $400,000 this year.” Last year, Bob raised $21,500 in donations making him the single largest fundraiser in the cyclist group. This year, the Tulsa Rotarian raised $70,000 in district donations and is hoping for more.
The 111-mile ride, El Tour de Tucson, hosts more than 9,000 cyclists, some there to meet personal goals but most to achieve charitable goals. More than $1.6 million dollars was raised in the last race for an array of charities. “I did the 111-mile race but other Rotary bicyclists raced other distances as well,” says Bob. He completed the race in less than six hours. Last year, he finished at 6:24, burning more than 3,200 calories.
The 90-member group riding to raise funds for Rotary’s Polio-Plus campaign come from all over the U.S. and four countries. Polio eradication is Rotary International’s top philanthropic priority. When Rotary launched the polio eradication program in 1985, there were more than 350,000 cases worldwide in more than 125 countries. Since then, Rotary has worked through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to help immunize more than two billion children and reduce the number of polio cases by 99 percent. By the time the world is certified polio free, Rotary’s contributions will exceed $1.2 billion. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have joined Rotary to help raise funds.
Because the polio vaccine has eliminated polio in the U.S., many are no longer familiar with the infectious disease. It strikes children mainly under the age of five and can cause paralysis and sometimes death. Historically, polio has been the world’s greatest cause of disability, and there is no cure. The best protection is prevention. So, the freedom of riding a bicycle to raise money to cure a disease that takes movement away from children is an honor.
Bob is an 18-year member of the Rotary Club of Tulsa and has served in many leadership roles including president from 2010-2011 and was awarded Rotarian of the Year in 2006. He truly believes in Rotary’s motto, Service Above Self, as is evidenced in his efforts to fund the cure for polio. One of the reasons that Bob is such an effective fundraiser is that he has the drive and infectious positive attitude to inspire others. Picture it … standing in front of more than 400 well-suited business members of the Rotary Club of Tulsa, Bob McKenzie stands in his Rotary jersey and shorts, lifts his bicycle with straightened arms above his head, and asks for all to join him in providing money towards this worthy cause.
Past President Bob moved to Tulsa a little more than 25 years ago. Operating under the name of Lyon Enterprises, Bob owns a Cici’s Pizza franchise which is regularly recognized as one of the top ten performing locations among 650 nationwide. The business is located at 4949 S. Peoria Ave. Because of McKenzie’s skills in developing relationships, groups come from all over the state to visit the store including many athletic teams.
Rotary is an international service organization made up of 1.2 million members worldwide, serving in 34,000 clubs. The motto, Service Above Self, exemplifies the humanitarian spirit of the inspired individuals who translate their passions into relevant social causes to change lives in communities. In Northeastern Oklahoma, there are 18 Rotary clubs to choose from. The Rotary Club of Tulsa is one of the organization’s largest clubs with more than 430 members. The group meets on Wednesdays at noon in Thomas Hall at First United Methodist Church in downtown Tulsa. For more information about membership, contact the Rotary Club of Tulsa at 918-584-7642.
Past President is looking forward to next year’s Arizona event and is still taking donations for PolioPlus. In fact, he’s received donations from Rotary Clubs, Rotary members and area residents who are interested in supporting his efforts. You can contact the Rotary Club of Tulsa office for more information at www.TulsaRotary.com. For Rotarians, your gift counts towards your Paul Harris Fellowship. To read more about the PolioPlus campaign, go to www.Rotary.org.