Jack O’Neill Honored by Burbank Sunrise Rotary at Their Silver Anniversary Gala

By On September 15, 2013

The Burbank Sunrise Rotary club celebrated their 25th year by honoring Jack O’Neill and raising nearly $39,000, enough money to immunize 64,000 of the world’s most vulnerable children against polio.  The celebration took place at the Holiday Inn last Sunday, September 8, and concluded with an evening of music and dancing.

Rotary President Lee Stacy, Honoree Jack O'neill and Past President & Dinner Chairman Greg Simay. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Rotary President Lee Stacy, Honoree Jack O’neill and Past President and Dinner Chairman Greg Simay. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Notables wishing Burbank Sunrise well included U.S. Representative ADAM SCHIFF, Burbank Mayor EMILY GABEL-LUDDY, Vice-Mayor DAVID GORDON, Councilmember BOB FRUTOS, former Burbank Mayor MARSHA RAMOS, former Councilmember TIM MURPHY, and former 44th District Assembly member ANTHONY PORTALINO.

Jack emceed Sunrise Rotary’s Silver Anniversary Gala, reprising a role that he has served for countless community organizations and causes. As a senior executive with NBC, he had played a pivotal role in garnering support for the network’s master plan for its extensive Burbank facilities. Jack later served as the chief operating officer of the Bob Hope Family Estate.

Rotary member Beth Anderson presents Jack O'Neill his Paul Harris Fellow Award along with Rotary President Lee Stacy. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Rotary member Beth Anderson presents Jack O’Neill his Paul Harris Fellow Award along with Rotary President Lee Stacy. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Sunrise honored Jack with a Paul Harris Fellowship, named after the Rotary International (RI) founder.  “Jack’s many years of being a positive force for Burbank made him a particularly good choice for this honor,” said LEE STACY, Burbank Sunrise president and District Grants Chair. “Jack joins a distinguished group of people who advance the ideals of  RI.”

Burbank Sunrise member and District PolioPlus Chairperson JULIE JENKINS gave a deeply moving account of Rotary International’s battle against polio: a cruel malady that had remained one of the world’s leading causes of poverty even after it had been conquered in 1950’s America. Coincidentally, 1988 was not only when Burbank Sunrise was chartered but also when RI’s commitment to eradicating polio became a worldwide effort. Back then there were over 350,000 new cases annually. Today there are less than 300, a 99.9% reduction. “Because of Rotary’s efforts, there are now 10 million people alive and walking who would have been otherwise paralyzed or worse,” said Julie.

That’s the good news. The bad news is this: Until it’s eradicated completely, polio can quickly spread and reassert itself as the world’s scourge. “If polio spreads out of control, we could have 10 million paralyzed victims within 20 years,” warns Julie. And once polio wracks and cripples a child’s body, there is no cure. Polio is making its last stand in the worst arenas of war and chaos—Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria.  “We are ‘this close’ to finally getting rid of polio,” said Julie, holding up her thumb and index finger in a gesture echoing RI’s public awareness campaign. “But we must reach the children in these areas and immunize them.”

In attendance were former Mayor Tim Murphy and Current Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

In attendance were former Mayor Tim Murphy and Current Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation decided to donate two dollars for every outside dollar contributed to RI’s PolioPlus effort. “This was too good an opportunity to pass up,” said Lee. “So the club decided to make its silver anniversary celebration an occasion to also do fundraising for PolioPlus.” Lee also added that RI has also used its polio-fighting resources to distribute Vitamin A to 1.3 billion people so far, and health experts have estimated this effort alone has avoided 1.5 million childhood deaths.

The club sold raffle tickets for 15 gift baskets, and past District Governor ELI GUANA conducted the silent auction, which included a Hawaiian vacation in Maui. It also included a generous donation of time from the evening’s band, Misplaced Priorities. The result: $12,800 was raised at the gala. Together with the two-for-one match of $25,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a total of $38,400 was raised.  At only 60 cents per immunization, that amount makes it possible for 64,000 children to be immunized against polio.

Local Burbank Realtor Ana Lizarrage and her husband Hurbert. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Local Burbank Realtor Ana Lizarrage and her husband Hurbert. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Noon Rotary had sponsored Burbank Sunrise, and back in 1988 it was the first club in the district (then District 5260) to meet early in the morning. More significantly, Burbank Sunrise was the first club that included men and women from the start, reflecting a change that had occurred in Rotary’s membership policy only a short while before. (Burbank Sunrise’s current membership is about 40% women.) Charter and current member GREG SIMAY introduced fellow charter member DR. KEN WAINWRIGHT. He also recognized GEORGE MAUNEY, who had been a Burbank Noon member in 1988 that had been part of the club’s sponsoring team.

If you wish to learn more about RI’s polio eradication efforts, please visit www.endpolio.org.