Handshake nets a windfall for polio fight

Oct 31, 2018

By Carol Toomey
President | Action Unlimited, Smart Shopper
The National Newspaper Association has a tradition of encouraging shaking hands. It’s a way of getting to know people and welcome newcomers. The association is 133 years old. A contest of shaking hands is an annual tradition at NNA’s conventions.
This year at the association’s 132nd conference, the 132nd handshake of a person selected to be the secret handshaker resulted in winning the prize of $132. This secret handshaker keeps count of the hands shaken throughout the conference. None of the attendees knows who it is, and so everyone continues to be friendly. This year, that secret hand-shaker was me.
By Friday night, I had counted 126 handshakes. The Extravaganza dinner was aboard the Spirit of Norfolk, a tourist ship that cruises the bay. I sat with my friend, Sabrina, at a table of eight. Four people joined us at our table. I shook their hands. My new count was 130. They got up to leave. They apologized for leaving because the air conditioning was blowing on them. Two new people arrived and filled their seats—131 and 132.
“I just shook the 132nd hand! He’s won!” I said.
I handed the winner an envelope with $132.
“I don’t want the money. I never take the money when I win it,” said J. Louie Mullen, publisher for Black Bird LLC and NNA Region 7 director.
So, I asked him what he wanted to do with the money?
“I’ll buy everyone a drink,” he said.
“You can’t do that. It’s open bar.” I answered.
“But I don’t want the money,” he said
“Well, do you want to give it to charity?” I asked.
He said sure, but he wanted to know what charity would be getting the winnings.
I said: “How about polio? We’re trying to eradicate polio from the world. It’s only a plane ride away because so many people in the U.S. don’t inoculate their kids.”
“My wife is a doctor, and that’s a pet peeve of ours,” Mullen said. “The hospital she works at will not treat children who are not vaccinated. It’s a danger to the other patients in the hospital. I’ll donate the money to polio.”
I was impressed enough with his generosity that I decided to match the donation, making it $264.
Mullen then pulled out his wallet and handed me a $100 bill.
“Here’s another $100.”
OK. The new total was $364. I decided to match that, as well. And I told him that Bill Gates would triple the donation, bringing the donation to $1,392.
“He will?” Mullen asked. His wallet came out and another $100 was put in my hands.
“Actually, we should aim for $2,000,” I said. “That would buy a lot of vaccinations. He pulled his wallet out again and hands me two $20s. That makes $372 from Mullen. I doubled that and Gates will triple it. We are now at $2,232.
I thanked him and said he should be a Rotarian.
“I was, but I travel so much I couldn’t make the meetings,” he said.
I told him that they’ve changed the rules. You don’t have to go to every meeting any more. I told him to go back and join again.
“I will,” Mullen said.
October was polio month. If you have an interest in the eradication of polio, send a check made out to “The Rotary Foundation,” care of MerrimacPlus. Polio will be history soon with your help. © Carol Toomey 2018

Carol Toomey can be reached at carolaction@aol.com.