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Berwick’s Pieter Koeleman is passionate about polio eradication, and thinks you should be too

Support annual End Polio Now fundraiser at Campbell River’s Berwick by the Sea Oct. 24
Berwick by the Sea resident Pieter Koeleman and his son Mark helped distribute polio vaccine in Africa in 2015. On Oct. 24, Berwick by the Sea is hosting a fundraiser to support End Polio Now.

Pieter Koeleman first saw the serious impacts of polio while studying to be a physiotherapist in the Netherlands and working at a rehabilitation centre.

“I saw little kids with braces on their legs, wearing corsets, with slings for their arms, walking with crutches,” recalls Koeleman, who now lives at Berwick by the Sea in Campbell River. The retirement community supports many Passion Projects led by residents and staff, including Koeleman’s work to end polio.

A few years after first seeing the effects of polio, Koeleman had another memorable experience while working in the physiotherapy department at a psychiatric hospital in the Netherlands. He met a milk man who had muscle loss due to nerve damage caused by the polio virus. The man came from a remote village where many people had refused the polio vaccine on religious grounds, and as the milk man, he had inadvertently spread the virus as he delivered door to door.

“The virus mainly affects children under the age of five, but it can affect adults as well,” Koeleman explains.

When Koeleman immigrated to Campbell River in 1985, he became a member of the Rotary Club of Campbell River. Just a few years later the Rotary decided to become a leader in the effort to eradicate polio, and Koeleman stepped up to help lead the local effort. Since 1988, Rotary has reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent. When they started, polio was endemic in 125 countries; now there are only two countries left, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The flooding in Pakistan and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan have made the vaccination effort more difficult, and slowed the end-phase of the End Polio Now program.”

Earlier this year there was a polio outbreak in Malawi, traced to a traveller from Pakistan.

“That’s why we say polio is just a plane ride away. No child anywhere is safe until we’ve vaccinated every child.”

Berwick by the Sea marks World Polio Awareness Day Oct. 24

To mark World Polio Awareness Day and raise funds for the campaign to End Polio Now, Berwick by the Sea, Koeleman and the Campbell River Rotary Club are hosting a Candy Apple Fall Fundraiser!

The drive-through event takes place at 2 p.m. on Oct. 24 at Berwick by the Sea, 1353 16 Ave. In addition to selling candy apples for the fundraiser, residents and staff will be handing out candy to all the kids.

“I brought the idea to Berwick, and have received big support from the Active Living and Marketing departments — together, we’ve got a lot on the go,” Koeleman says. He’ll host a polio presentation for residents in the Berwick Theatre on Oct. 19, and proceeds from Berwick’s weekly 50/50 draw will also go to End Polio Now.

Berwick by the Sea is also giving away ten free tickets to the annual Pumpkins for Polio fundraiser Oct. 25 at Riptide Pub. The beer and burger fundraiser features pumpkins decorated by local artists, which are available for auction. Email for a chance to win!

Koeleman will be at every event, and if you’re lucky you’ll even hear him sing the ‘end polio’ song he wrote to the tune of Rigoletto La Donna è mobile (you’ll recognize the melody even if you’re not an opera fan)!

Can’t make it in person, but still want to contribute to the cause? Donations to End Polio Now can be made directly via email, to Learn more at

Berwick Retirement Communities are both locally and family owned offering flexible, upscale and affordable senior living options in a caring community. All inclusive studio suites start at $2985 per month*. Staff and residents of Berwick by the Sea are always happy and proud to show off their home. To learn more or book a tour, call Callinda John at 250-914-8055 or email Follow Berwick on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates!

*Subject to change. Contact Berwick by the Sea for details.

To mark World Polio Awareness Day and raise funds for the campaign to End Polio Now, Berwick by the Sea, Pieter Koeleman and the Campbell River Rotary Club are hosting a Candy Apple Fall Fundraiser on Oct. 24.

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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