WARWICK — Polio, once a dreaded disease crippling hundreds of thousands annually, is nearing eradication worldwide.And Warwickians have played a part in this decades-long project. Rotary District Governor James Damiani, who heads the 60-club, eight-county Rotary District 7210, recently updated the local Rotarians on the battle against polio. “There were 350,000 cases of the crippling disease in 1986 when Rotary began its quest to eliminate polio worldwide,” said Damiani. “In 2016 there were 35 known cases and last year only a handful of cases were reported. "As a result of the global effort to eradicate the disease," Damiani added, "more than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis.”Warwick Rotarians have been active with Rotary International’s PolioPlus project from the start. During the presidency of Leo Kaytes Sr., in 1986-87, the club raised more than $10,000 with fund raisers, including a rock and roll concert.Almost every year Warwick Valley Rotary has donated funds to the PolioPlus project.The Global Eradication InitiativeIn what is hopefully a final effort to eliminate polio, Rotarians from 35,000 clubs internationally are seeking to raise $150 million in a matching grant challenge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They are part of The Global Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership led by national governments with five core partners – the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.Proceeds from the Oct. 25 Warwick Citizen of the Year celebration honoring Stan Martin and Outstanding Community Service Honorees Tom Buchanan and Paul Orthmann will benefit PolioPlus more than anticipated.Gates Foundation match 2:1Carole Tjoa, District PolioPlus chair and a former Rotary district governor, informed the club that the $2,000 raised at the Citizen of the Year dinner will be matched 2:1 by the Gates Foundation, making Warwick’s contribution $6,000.Dr. David Kruger, a volunteer assistant on the District 7210 PolioPlus Committee, accepted the club’s donation and thanked Warwick Rotarians for their on-going support and generosity.A single travelerKruger emphasized the necessity to eliminate polio. “Although polio cases have decreased by over 99 percent in the past 30 years and no cases of polio have originated in the United States since 1979, the disease has been brought into the country by travelers with polio," Kruger said. "It takes only one traveler with polio to bring the disease into the United States."