Pedaling Out Polio

Milton Rotarians biking 335 miles to raise funds, awareness

Jeff and Eric Pedal Polio

From left, Milton Rotarians Eric McDowell and Jeff Coup are spearheading the Rotary Pedals Out Polio Four Day Bike Ride. The ride will be held June 25-28 and will cover 335 miles in Central Pennsylvania as part of an effort to raise the funds needed to eradicate polio.
Photo by Kevin Mertz/Standard Journal.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 12:00 am
by Kevin Mertz

MILTON — Two members of the Milton Rotary Club are preparing to pedal 335 miles as part of their efforts to help eradicate polio.

Jeff Coup and Eric McDowell are spearheading the Rotary Pedals Out Polio Four Day Bike Ride.

“Back when Rotary started working on polio eradication in 1985, I was asked to be the district chairman,” Coup explained. “We thought (polio eradication) would get done in a three-year period. The original goal was to have national eradication days.”

With the help of funds raised through The Rotary Foundation, Coup said the eradication days were held in nations around the world, where those in need would receive polio vaccinations.

Much progress has been made to eradicate the disease. However, four countries have proven to be “extremely difficult” for members of Rotary to access in order to wipe out polio. Those countries, Coup said, are Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.

“We are making really good progress now in all of those countries, but it’s taking a whole lot of money to get those countries taken care of,” Coup said.

He said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently pledged a $100 million grant if The Rotary Foundation could raise $100 million toward its efforts to eradicate polio. The Gates foundation then upped its commitment, and promised an additional $200 million if Rotary could raise an additional $100 million.

McDowell said Rotary has already raised $173.2 million toward that goal.

Coup and McDowell, who are both avid bicyclists, have stepped up to the plate in an effort to add to those funds.

From June 25-28, the two will pedal through each community in Rotary District 7370 that has a Rotary club. And the two are inviting members of the community to join them on any part of the ride, for a minimum donation of $25 to help eradicate polio.

“One person said he will ride three blocks with us. We’ve had others say they’ll ride at least a day with us,” McDowell said.

Saturday, June 25, will see the group ride 71 miles between Renovo and Hughesville. On Sunday, June 26, the ride will consist of 94 miles between Hughesville and Danville, and will include stops in Milton and Lewisburg. On Monday, June 27, the ride will go 67 miles between Danville and Ashland. The final day will cover 90 miles between Ashland and Tamaqua.

“I like to ride bicycle,” Coup said. “I do it for fun, a Saturday morning ride.”

The idea for the Rotary Pedals Out Polio Four Day Bike Ride was born last year when Coup participated in a two-day multiple sclerosis benefit ride. McDowell jumped on board with the effort as soon as he heard of Coup’s plan.

“I like the longer (bike) rides,” McDowell said. “I like to spend the day on a bike.”

The two recently rode 76 miles in an effort to gear up for their 335-mile trek across the state.

The Rotary Pedals Out Polio Four Day Bike Ride initiative will feature 10-minute stops in each Rotary community along the way. The stops will give ride participants the opportunity to take a break. In addition, donations will be accepted in participants may join in on the ride at each location.

“It’s nice to be part of something that could eradicate this disease, even a small part,” McDowell said.

“Total polio eradication is a totally obtainable goal which is within our grasp,” Coup added.

He also noted that until polio is wiped out, there is a chance it could pop up in the United States.

“People in our country get lulled into thinking polio can’t raise its head again in our country,” Coup said. “The wild polio virus is only one plane ride away from here. It’s important for our children and grandchildren to totally eradicate this disease.”

For more information on participating in, or contributing to, the Rotary Pedals Out Polio Four Day Bike Ride, visit

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or e-mail

Here is a picture at their stop in Milton on Sunday.