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What Rotary Really Means

District Governor Penny Atkinson, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

I’ve been a Rotarian for over 20 years. Our club is lighthearted and fun loving. Simply attending our weekly meetings is an experience you won’t forget. As program chair, I’m proud of our weekly speakers. But a few times a year there are those really special meetings – the ones that leave you with a great feeling in your heart for what we do as Rotarians in the Park City Rotary Club.

We hear about Rotary often. But sometimes the words don’t penetrate. Rotary is about eliminating polio. It’s about building schools and libraries in underserved villages. It’s providing water for kids. And it’s about making our community an better place to live.

At our meeting this week, Rotarian Larry Warren, now manager of our community radio station KPCW, decided to spice up an otherwise slow fundraising hour with a Rotary challenge between the two clubs in town. In an hour where he normally raised just $500, our two clubs pitched in nearly $7,000!

Problem is, our club was about $675 short of victory. So when Sergeant at ArmsĀ  for the day Rabbi Josh came to the podium, he did a little fundraising on his own. And in the space of two minutes, we topped another $700 from the room. Boy were we proud!

One of the more projects we undertake each year is recognizing members of our community as Citizens of the Year. Our community has a great history, as a mining town and a resort. Recently, our Park City Museum had a major facelift. It now offers an amazing trail through our past for the thousands of visitors who walk Main Street every year. But the re-creation of our heritage wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the amazing work of two Park City women who spearheaded an $8-million+ fundraising drive, Sydney Reed and Lynn Fey, our Citizens of the Year. Sydney and Lynn are examples of why this is such a great town.

A few years ago we also began honoring professional work to benefit our community. It was a very proud and emotional club member Jerry Gibbs who was able to honor his longtime colleagues Destry Pollard and Kent Cashel for their amazing work on our Park City Transit system.

Somehow we managed to find just enough time to hear from our District Governor Penny Atkinson, whose husband Kelly was governor just a few years ago. If there were any tears of pride left in the room, they were gone after hearing from Penny.

She told us about how Rotary International approached the World Health Organization in 1985 and said, ‘we want to eliminate polio.’ The WHO laughed. They aren’t laughing now. Today, thanks to Rotary’s Polio Plus program, there are only four nations in the world with polio cases (possibly dropping to three soon). And total cases are down from 300,000 to just a few hundred. Rotary made a difference.

She told the story about visiting a village in South America and seeing a young boy with a bottle of what looked like apple juice. It wasn’t. It was his drinking water. A neighboring village had had a water system installed by Rotary some years earlier. A villager stopped her and said, ‘thank you for what you did. Our children aren’t dying any more.’

And finally there was the story of the young girl from Russia – one of 22 Rotary exchange students Penny and Kelly have hosted. Each month the students got $100 from Rotary. It could be spent on clothes, electronics, fun things or daily needs. But the Russian girl didn’t rush off to the mall. And she didn’t say much about what she did with her $100 each month.

What she did was save it. After all, it was more than her parents made in two months. And her father was dying. She saved it all and took it home to help pay for surgery – a surgery which gave her father five more years to live. Today, she’s emigrated to Utah to be with the friends who helped to make that possible.

From the work we do in Park City to our projects in Central America to what we contribute to the good of Rotary International, there are many reasons to be proud to be a Rotarian. We felt them deeply in our hearts this week. Rotary does make a difference.

And I’m sure that as I’m writing this this morning, our friends at Park City’s Sunrise Rotary Club are matching our own fundraising efforts for the good of our wonderful community.

Welcome to Rotary.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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Driving the Beartooth



Clouds over the Beartooth, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Red Lodge hadn’t been in our plan. Neither was the Beartooth. But as we left Teddy Roosevelt National Park for Custer Battlefield National Monument, my Facebook friends (yes, I was online) changed my mind. We headed to Red Lodge for the night and the trip over the Beartooth. Snow was not something we had in mind!

The Beartooth Highway is an amazing road. Charles Kuralt called it “America’s Most Beautiful Road.” It was not really on our radar. But it is now – one of the most breathtaking 62 miles we’ve ever driven.

Arriving in foggy Red Lodge at sunset, the Beartooth was bedecked in clouds. “Not sure it will be open,” said the front desk manager. Snow was falling in August and the plows were out. At the summit, a full mile above the Montana border village, heavy snow was falling.

We hit the Beartooth at 8 a.m., twisting and turning up the switchbacks. The sun was breaking in and out of clouds, just starting to light the tips of the peaks straddling the Wyoming-Montana line. It was cold – mid 30s – as we made our way to the summit.

Just as friends had said, it took forever – stopping for photographs at nearly every turn. Turn by turn it became more and more spectacular. The sun touched into mountain valleys, while starting to bathe the peaks in morning light.

It was the first light to touch the 4-6 inches of fresh snow, blanketing wildflowers and covering a moonscape of rock at the 10,947 foot West Summit.

Dropping over the summit to the Cooke City side, we encountered the first traffic from the west including motorcycles that had to scramble for lodging when snow kept them from the crossing the evening prior.

The descent into Yellowstone was bittersweet. The scenery turned from breaktaking above-the-treeline skyscapes to heavily forested mountainsides.

The small collection of buildings in Cooke City marked the end of the Beartooth and the beginning of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, with buffalo at every turn.

I imagine that every time you drive the Beartooth you are greeted with new scenes. And one thing’s for sure, once you drive it you’ll be counting the days to your next drive.

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Menacing Midwest Storm



Menacing Storm, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

One of the things we really miss about the Midwest are the storms. A few days ago I blogged about the amazing lightning storm in Hayward. On our I-94 drive across western Minnesota, we watched a mid-morning line of powerful thunderstorms form in front of our eyes for over a half-hour. We pulled over to document the massive clouds that had formed.

In this scene, taken along a corn field on I-94 east of Fergus Falls, we watched a series of parallel, horizontal lines of layered clouds suddenly come together in this huge mass of weather.

It almost looks like a massive tornado bearing down on this small farm nestled in the protection of a grove of trees. Soon, we were wrapped in the clouds with wind and rain before it passed to the southeast.

It’s A Boy!

Carole sat by her phone(s) all day Wednesday waiting for the call. It seemed like it took forever, but finally just before midnight we heard from Chris and Shannon in Kansas City. It’s a boy! Yes, son Chris and his wife Shannon have a happy, healthy baby boy. Kestan Sean Duh was born at 10:27 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at a hospital in Overland Park, KS. Click below to see pictures and check out Kestan’s own blog. Yah, the kid’s not even a week old and he has a blog, Kestan’s World.