Business Owner Rides to Cure Polio
By LOUANN BUHLINGER
ON THE MOVE: Bob McKenzie rides his bike through the Rotary Plaza on the Williams Center Green in downtown Tulsa in his quest to raise funds to help eradicate polio worldwide.
On a beautiful fall day in November, bicycle riders from all over the world came together to ride for charity in 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 McKenzie. “This is the fourth year Rotarians are riding 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, McKenzie raised $21,500 in donations making him the single largest fundraiser in the cyclist group. This year, McKenzie has raised $66,000 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 McKenzie. He completed the race in less than six hours. Last year, he finished at 6:24, burning more than 3,200 calories.
The 100-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. Most recently, 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.
McKenzie 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 McKenzie 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.
McKenzie moved to Tulsa a little more than 25 years ago. Operating under the name of Lyon Enterprises, McKenzie 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. in Tulsa. 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 460 members. The group meets on Wednesdays at noon at the First Methodist Church in downtown Tulsa. For more information about membership, contact the Rotary Club of Tulsa at 918-584-7642.
McKenzie is still taking donations. 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, their gift counts towards their Paul Harris Foundation membership. To read more about the PolioPlus campaign, go to www.Rotary.org.