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I'm grateful beyond words…

On Saturday I was honored and humbled to receive the Rotary Service Above Self Award, the highest award a Rotarian can receive. It was presented at our District Conference by Past Rotary International Director David Stovall.

Past Rotary International Director David Stovall, Ray Sanford, District Governor Dan Ouweleen.

The award was recognition for the number and variety of matching grants and service projects I've helped organize since I joined Rotary some twenty years ago.

There is no way I could have done any of the projects, much less all of them, alone. There were scores of volunteers involved in each project. Here's just some of people who helped make them possible:

Sandy Sanford, my Dad, who joined Rotary when I was four and taught his kids Rotary values (and some pretty lame "Rotary jokes"). He fostered in us the idea of "Service Above Self."

My sister, Nancy Sanford Hughes, who also received the Service Above Self Award for her work starting StoveTeam International, building and delivering fuel-efficient stoves in Central America to alleviate medical and environmental issues. Her efforts have, to date, produced more than 81,000 stoves, improving the lives of more than 650,000 people and preventing nearly one million tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. She sets a high bar.

Dr. Charles "Chuck" Tozzer, who founded Dental Care for Children more than 31 years ago to help disadvantaged children receive free dental care. A decade before I joined Rotary, Chuck and I would pack up some cobbled-together portable equipment in the back of his car and head off to an orphanage or church in Ensenada. It was a great adventure and it's how "Will work for tacos" became their volunteer slogan.

To date, they've held more than 331 clinics for 30,500 patients in 10 countries involving 2,000+ volunteers and 10 dental schools. Overall they've provided more than $13 million in free services. Chuck's concept of taking the equipment to where it was needed allows us to take over an elementary school in Ensenada and fix all of the kids teeth in one day. He uses the same model for clinics in Orange County. If you or your club want the opportunity to be involved, let me know.

Cisca Stellhorn, who has volunteered for EVERY Rotary Dental Clinic since we started in 2004. Cisca put her own stamp on the project by enlisting her brother, Fred Stellhorn, an optometrist and Rotarian in the Manteca Rotary Club, to bring his diagnostic equipment and 1,000 pairs of glasses each trip so we can check the kids AND their parents, providing them with needed free glasses. Because of Cisca, we were able to add "Vision" to the dental clinics – it's now the Rotary Dental & Vision Clinic.

Adriana Lanting, my District Governor partner and cheerleader, who taught me to use the word "opportunity" when describing our goals. Adriana is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors of Malaria Partners International and has provided the "opportunity" to help alleviate the disease that kills so many young children each year. Their concept of training volunteer Community Health Workers in Africa is based on Rotary's model for addressing Polio.

Johrita Solari, past Rotary International Director from our District, who encourage me to look beyond my club by saying "By getting involved in the District, you have the "opportunity" to meet more people in Rotary so you can achieve bigger things."

And, of course, all the Rotarians I've met and worked with over the past 20 years. Irvine Rotary, San Juan Capistrano Rotary and all of the clubs in our District and others around the world that helped us achieve our project goals and added so much meaning to my life.



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