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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Case in Point: John Nanni Is a Living Object Lesson for Polio Vaccination

John Nanni, as most people who contract polio do, got it as a baby, just one year before the vaccine became widely available. Although he recovered from the paralysis as a child and even played sports, John has been plagued in adulthood by Post Polio Syndrome.

John is an active polio fighter who nobly uses his own situation as a living object lesson for ending the horrific disease once and for all. On the back of his wheelchair, he keeps a sign that says, “64 Years Later: This is what a Polio looks like when a child is not vaccinated.”

His unsurpassed passion for eradicating the disease primarily benefits children in the developing world. Without intervention from Rotary with help from its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, hundreds of thousands of children would be crippled every year.

Still, polio is just a plane ride away. Every child in the world should be vaccinated.

Be sure to watch the video interview with John at the top of this article.

Interview with John Nanni, the District 7630 PolioPlus Chair and USA Coordinator of the “World’s Greatest Meal to Help End Polio” of Rotary International PolioPlus.

The following is the pre-interview with John Nanni. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: 501(c)3 Nonprofit

Revenue model: Rotary International’s PolioPlus program is one of five organizations in GPEI who’s goal is to raise money to fund the efforts to eradicate polio worldwide.

Scale: 1.2 million Rotarians in over 35,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

I first apply Rotary International’s Four-Way Test to anything I do.  I then do my best to inform and educate people on the need to eradicate polio worldwide and the need to help the existing 20 million polio survivors worldwide.

John sings:

More about Rotary International PolioPlus:



The goal of Rotary’s PolioPlus program which began officially in 1985 is the global certification of polio eradication. By eradication, we mean the interruption of the transmission of the wild poliovirus.

Rotary is working through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to ensure that no child will ever again know the crippling effects of polio.

By the time the world is certified polio-free, Rotary’s contributions will exceed US$1.2 billion to a program that is expected to total approximately US$10 billion in donor funds enabling the largest public health initiative the world has ever known.

More than one million Rotarians worldwide have contributed toward the success of the polio eradication effort to date.

Globally, the number of polio cases has fallen from 350,000 annually in the mid-1980s to 17 cases as of September 17, 2018, in the remaining 3 polio-endemic: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Nigeria being wild polio-free for over 2 years.

As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk. The stakes are that high.

John Nanni

John Nanni’s bio:

John is a Polio Survivor and suffers from severe Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS).

At the age of 10 months old in 1953, months before the Salk vaccine was distributed, John was paralyzed from his neck down for 6 months.  With the help of his family, John took his first steps a year later.

John grew up in Binghamton, New York and graduated from the State University of New York at Delhi with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant Management.

John worked in the Hospitality Industry for 20 years before starting a company, Paper And Ribbon Supply Company that sold products to the restaurant industry.  In 2000, John sold his business because Post-Polio Syndrome took a toll on his ability to run the business.

John is limited to fewer than a couple of hundred walking steps per day and uses a power wheelchair for most of his mobility to avoid overuse of polio-damaged muscles and to reduce his ever-present pain throughout his body.

He joined Polio Network of NJ (PNNJ) in 1992 to learn more about PPS.   September 2012, he was appointed to their Board of Directors and is also now their Liaison for Delaware.  PNNJ is a wonderful organization dedicated to helping polio survivors and their families deal with PPS.

John joined Rotary International in 2010 after being a guest lecturer at the Rotary Club of Hamilton Township (Mercer County, NJ).  He was appointed to the Rotary District 7510 PolioPlus Committee and was part of the Rotary PolioPlus Delegation to the UN General Assembly’s Special Session on September 27, 2012, with over 100 world leaders and Bill Gates meeting to “Unite Against Polio”  

John and his wife are professional singers who perform throughout the Northeast with their Cabaret Show, “Rhapsody in 2” singing mainly Broadway Showtunes and songs from the Great American Songbook at a variety of venues, including Nursing Homes, 55+ Communities and benefit concerts for Rotary Clubs.

John’s “Polio Goals” and “Accessibility Goals” are:

– To play a role in helping Rotary International + Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) eradicate Polio worldwide.  3 remaining countries with active cases of Wild Polio Virus: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
– To help other polio survivors and their families learn how to best deal with PPS.
– To help educate doctors and other medical personnel about PPS.
– To advocate for greater accessibility for the handicapped.

Other facts about John Nanni:

Rotary District 7630 PolioPlus Chair
USA Coordinator for the “World’s Greatest Meal to Help End Polio”
Rotary Club of Middletown-Odessa Club Secretary & Club President-Elect
Paul Harris Fellow +8
Rotary International Foundation Major Donor
Paul Harris Society Member
Polio Survivors Association Board Member – a Rotary Action Group
Advocate for Polio Eradication and Rehabilitation
Advocate for Handicap Accessibility
DE State Architectural Accessibility Board Member- DE Governor Appointed
Polio Network of NJ/DE (PNNJ) Board Member –
34 Gallon Platelet Donor (279 Donations) – Red Cross + Blood Bank of Delmarva
Father of 2 great kids, Allison and Adam, who were adopted from Korea when they were babies
Polio Survivor – “Class of 1953”
Post-Polio Syndrome – for rest of my life

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