On October 19, five days before World Polio Day, the Interact Club of Acton-Boxborough High School in Acton held a wildly successful Charity Ball to support Polio. The $3,000 raised at the ball, along with the multiplying factors of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, means that $9,000 will be donated to fight the last occurrences of polio in the world.
The Charity Ball started with a small group of Interact students, rejuvenated in the last year by their new officers. They are determined to make a difference by making their fellow students aware of what a dreaded, deadly disease polio once was, and telling them the inspiring story of Rotary’s journey toward eradicating polio forever. Add a vibrant Rotary advisor, who challenged the students, asking “Now that you know about polio, what do you want to do to help?” Stir in the fact that teenagers love dances but few high schools are willing to hold them. And, voila! The Charity Ball was born.
The symbolism was extremely powerful - dance to raise money for fighting the disease that affects the joints and the bones, and causes muscle weakness and paralysis. The “ticket” for the Ball was having the students’ pinkies painted in purple, holding firm to tradition during the vaccinations against polio.
Interact Co-Presidents Mila Rushkin and Natalie Dawn worked for more than a year under the watchful eye of their advisor, District Governor Elect Diana Nestorova to decide on a project, locate a venue, find ways to raise funds, assign tasks, and work together to accomplish their goal. They found businesses willing to donate food, and held bake sales to assemble the funds they needed for refreshments and decorations. When it came to publicity, they are young people of their time; they turned successfully to social media, and more than 200 students came to the Ball from many surrounding towns and schools.
The Interactors also knew that there would need to be rules. They used numbered paper bags to store purses, coats, etc. and to prevent students from bringing in unwanted items. Students wrote the number of the bag on their hand. They determined that once a student left, he or she could not be readmitted, and they stood by their decision, handling individual cases with tact but determination. Once in, the kids had a blast! The dance floor was crowded with young people, jumping, singing, and having a great time.
Rotarians who attended as chaperones were mightily impressed with how well the evening went, how thoroughly it had been planned, and well-behaved the young people were. The event shows that the spirit of action and of giving is alive and well in the young people of today. They are just looking for a way to contribute, and for this group of 24 students, Interact and End Polio gave them their purpose.
As Maureen Masciola, an Acton-Boxborough Rotarian and chaperone at the Ball said, “Here is a group of high schoolers have taken up the polio cause, something that was not even a part of their life experiences.”
Anjali Raman, one of the Interact officers, commented, “We also sought to spread awareness that while polio may no longer affect our country, it is our responsibility to help other countries. Responsibility knows no borders.”
That is surely the spirit of a future Rotarian! Marianne Fleckner, president of the Rotary Club of Acton-Boxborough,  was very impressed by the deportment of the students. She exclaimed, “The satisfaction you receive by partnering with our future leaders and Rotarians of tomorrow, is priceless”.
For more information about the Interact Club of Acton-Boxborough, contact  Acton-Boxborough Rotarian Diana Nestorova, the club advisor, at diana_nestorova@hotmail.com.