Jerry Coughter, executive director of UNC Charlotte Center City, recently climbed Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds to help eradicate polio worldwide.
Coughter made the excursion with a group of Rotarians from Charlotte Rotary District 7680. Rotary International sponsors the End Polio Now campaign. According to Coughter, Rotary International and its partners have raised funding to provide polio vaccine worldwide since 1985.
“In theory, any disease for which there is a vaccine, we should be able to eradicate,” Coughter stated. “And we’re close to that goal. However, if we don’t wipe polio out, there’s a chance it can come back, which is the case in some countries in Africa.”
An experienced hiker and camper, Coughter said the climb was a wonderful experience, and it was for a great cause. “It was a six-day trek that was basically an uphill climb. We had guides, but the last part of the trip was in the dark, so we’d be at the summit at sunrise. Everyone wore headlamps, and it was harder to breath at 19,000 feet. You had to stay focused.”
The majority of Americans have not seen the effects of polio firsthand, said Coughter. “But to fail to end polio is to invite a resurgence that would condemn millions of children to lifelong paralysis in the years ahead. As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, all children – wherever they live – remain at risk.”
Photo: Jerry Coughter (third left) at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.