April is Maternal and Child Health Month.  I will get to that later in this letter. A little over a week ago, I attended PETS where incoming club Presidents from our District, along with Presidents-Elect from five other Districts, met and learned about leading their clubs. We  were fortunate to hear Rotary International incoming President Gordan McInally  speak Friday evening along with our very own Rotary International Director Drew Kessler on Saturday.

As you might know by now, I am a big proponent of the concept of “your Rotary moment”. Those are the one (or more) “ah-ha events” that occur in one’s Rotary life where you “get” Rotary.  The “why” you belong. Or perhaps, the one instance where it all comes into place when you realize what a great organization we all belong to. If you have heard me speak, in person, at various functions or programs, I may very well gave one of my few Rotary moments. Well, I have added another one to my list due to my being a discussion leader during a Membership breakout session at PETS.  To put things into perspective, due to my involvement with ShelterBox, I have attended over 15 PETS. Mostly, as an exhibitor, but sometimes as a discussion leader, club president-elect or even DGE and DG.  But, in each of those times attending, I’ve never had a “moment”.

That changed at the year's PETS. That moment occurred when, while speaking during the breakout, I was giving some examples of small projects clubs could do: either by themselves, or perhaps in conjunction with an Interact Club.  I mentioned the “Buddy Bench” project to the group.  Only about two or three of the 18 people in the session had ever heard of the program.  For those of you that do not know what it is, it’s a lesson in empathy, usually in elementary schools. Somewhere on the school grounds, usually in a playground area, a bench is installed.  That bench has the words “Buddy Bench” stenciled or on a plaque or burned into or carved onto the seatback of the bench.  The purpose is for kids, that may not have friends, or are having a tough day, to sit there hoping they can acquire a "buddy".  The children, as a result of teachers explaining the concept of empathy, know if someone is sitting on the bench, they could use a friend.  As I was explaining the bench, I noticed a President-Elect tearing-up in the back of the room.  I decided this would be a good time to take our 10-minute break.  Later, at the end of the session, the gentleman came up to me with a TRF question, which I showed him on my laptop.  Once that was concluded, I asked him what I had said that had such a dramatic effect on him.  He told me that if the Buddy Bench was around when his, now, 27 year old daughter was in elementary school, she might not have been bullied, which had a drastic effect on her life and how she is now.  I gave him a hug and at that point he told me the he pledged that his club would put benches in his town’s elementary schools as his presidency project. You never know how sharing of something effects someone else in Rotary.

Now onto our monthly theme. April is Maternal and Child Health Month - a time for us to reflect on the importance of taking care of our most vulnerable population. This month, let's all take steps to ensure that mothers and children are protected from preventable illnesses, given the healthcare they deserve, and have access to resources that will help them lead healthier lives. We can make sure mothers receive quality pre-natal care, ensure children get vaccinated and screened for early detection of health issues, provide nutrition education for families, encourage physical activity in our communities, and so much more. By working together and making a commitment to maternal and child health this month, we can make an impactful difference in our community. Let's come together this month and ensure that our communities are healthy and strong. Let's make sure every mother and child have the opportunity to thrive!

If your club participates in food-drives , don’t forget, on your list of items needed, toiletries and feminine hygiene products.  These items are not covered by food stamps or SNAP, but are still a necessity for families.

Remember, April 29, 2023 at SUNY New Paltz will be our District Learning Assembly.  This event is open to all Rotarians and, in particular, club officers and committee chairs.

Lastly, don't forget Rotary Day of Service, May 20, 2023.  The Website sign-on pages are up and operational.