Rotary International News -- 27 October 2011


Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, USA, is best known as the star of the syndicated television series Jack Hanna's Into the Wild. But he has also been recognized for his work rehabilitating victims of the genocide in Rwanda. Hanna, a participant in Rotary's "This Close" polio awareness campaign, spoke to RI News about his family's experience with polio, and the importance of Rotary's efforts to eradicate the disease. 

RI News: Your brother contracted polio when you were a child. What impact did that have on you?  
Hanna: My brother and his friend both contracted polio at about the same time in the '50s. He was eight at the time, and I was only five; I didn’t really understand the disease and its complications. Back then, people didn’t really know what caused it.  
We all had to be careful where we went. We had to be very cautious that nobody else would get it. It's a terrible disease, and a lot of people who contracted it back then didn't survive. The polio went to my brother's legs, and he was forced to wear braces. After therapy, he was able to work through it.  

RI News: How would you describe the impact of campaigns like "This Close" and End Polio Now?  
Hanna: You mention World Polio Day in the United States, and people don't always understand the importance. Polio is a deadly disease in certain countries, and many people don't realize that. Eradicating the disease is important. It's great that Rotary is out there and cares about this. As an international organization, Rotary has the power in numbers to make this happen.  
RI News: What other humanitarian efforts are you involved with? 
Hanna: I work with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where we have raised $400,000 a year for the hospital. I also work with Partners in Conservation in Rwanda, which runs a school to help children of the genocide. The best thing in life is being able to help someone else.  
RI News: You seem to have a lot in common with Rotary's mission. What is your impression of Rotary and Rotarians?  
Hanna: When I think about humanitarian service, I always think of Rotary. It's amazing how your name is always out there in every community. Rotarians practice what they preach. They’re always there, where they're needed most.