Today on World Polio Day, Rotary groups across Great Britain and Ireland will be raising awareness for the fight to eradicate the disease by planting 2.5 million purple crocus corms nationwide. WheelPower will plant 25,000 of these at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the home of wheelchair sport.

Founder of WheelPower and Stoke Mandeville Stadium Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, first pioneered the rehabilitation of patients who suffered from paralysis as a result of contracting polio in the 1940’.

The eradication of polio is one of Rotary’s longest standing and most significant humanitarian commitments.

Rotary’s efforts, along with their global partners, have led to the immunisation of more than 2.5 billion children against the disease since pledging to eradicate it over 30 years ago. As a result, the number of cases worldwide has reduced by 99.9%, with the number of polio endemic countries falling from 125 to just three; Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

2017 saw just 22 cases of the disease, the lowest in history, making a polio-free world closer than ever.

Today in Buckinghamshire, up to 50 volunteers from Rotary, local schools, and community groups are set to plant 11 bulbs per second next to the athletics track at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, which are expected to bloom into a beautiful carpet of purple from late February/early March 2019.

So why purple? Rotary’s Purple4Polio campaign, which was launched in 2016, aims to ensure that no child in the world goes unimmunised against polio, and to symbolise that a child has had the immunisation, they receive a ‘purple pinkie’ – purple dye placed on their little finger fingernail.

WheelPower Trustee and President of the Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland, Debbie Hodge, said: “The legacy of polio is post-polio syndrome. Rotary and WheelPower working together can give polio survivors the opportunity to live healthy lives through sport and exercise. It is important that we remind the public that the fight for a polio-free world has not yet been won, but we will end polio.”

Martin McElhatton, Chief Executive for WheelPower added: “Our national partnership with Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland aims to help young and newly disabled people play sport and be active. Rotary helps WheelPower to promote our work and by planting 20,000 crocus bulbs at our home at Stoke Mandeville Stadium we can go some way to promote Rotary’s amazing goal to eradicate Polio. Every spring Stoke Mandeville Stadium will be bedecked in purple and hopefully the world will be closer to being polio free.”