More than just a dinner meeting…

My husband and I went to a veterinarian dinner meeting last Tuesday night.   The company was entertaining, the food was excellent.  I’d expected that, but I sure hadn’t expected the emotional impact of the second speaker’s presentation.

I was in awe and in near tears, listening to Dr. Darrow, a veterinarian from a small town in rural Iowa.  He spoke about his college years at Iowa State, where he was on the track team.  At a recent track team reunion, he learned of a tragedy:  a Kenyan member of the team had lost his little girl, Sharon, to rabies after she was bitten by a rabid dog.  Unbelievable though it seems, 24,000 people die of rabies in Africa every year.  Mostly children, mostly bitten by the domesticated dogs which wander freely in the villages.

The news about Sharon affected Dr. Darrow so deeply that he began planning a mission trip to Kenya.  His goal was to find  some helpers and donations of rabies vaccine, and then vaccinate as many dogs, cats and donkeys for rabies as they could.  And last January, it happened.  Named  Sharon’s Project, after that little girl,  he and his helpers vaccinated 14,997 dogs, almost 2000 cats and 600 donkeys in areas where no one has enough money for their own health care, much less vet care for their animals.  People in remote villages swarmed to the vaccination sites with their pets and any strays they could gather, for rabies deaths in that country are far too common.

For Dr. Darrow’s second trip, coming up in January, Merck Labs has already promised to  donate 90,000 doses of rabies vaccine.  And now, he dreams of finding a way to fund and set up a medical clinic for the villagers in the area.  Isn’t it wild how a chance encounter in  life can lead to so much more?

When I got home, I wondered if there might be anything on YouTube about the project, and sure enough there is, at  Do watch the video….the first couple minutes are of Sharon’s grieving parents and are a little hard to understand, but the statistics and images in the video just took my breath away.

This isn’t some major group spearheading this effort–in fact, the video just had 104 views at the time I am writing this post.   Just one man asked himself why even one child had to die from rabies in that country…and the fact that he followed through on his concern is now making such a difference.

Goes to show that when someone says, “I’m just one person–there’s nothing I can do”   he is sooooo wrong!

Roxanne Rustand

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7 Responses to More than just a dinner meeting…

  1. Kylie Brant says:

    Wow, talk about making a difference! What a wonderful idea…incredible man.

  2. Isn’t he? He said he’s bringing his two daughter to help him in January. What an experience for them, in seeing what can happen when one individual gets motivated and pursues something at personal cost to make a huge difference. He said that the Kenyans in this area are so poor that if a rabid dog infects several children, the family cannot pay to treat them all…maybe one of them, if that. Can you imagine having to make a choice as to which of your children would have a chance to live? With my next royalty check, I’ll be donating to this project.

  3. Lois Greiman says:

    What a beautiful and tragic story, Rox. Our local equine vets send a contingency of staff to Afghanistan to help educate and treat the horses there. I think the lesson here is that we can all do ‘something’. I just haven’t figured out what my ‘something’ is yet.

  4. Cindy Gerard says:

    Wow, Rox. Talk about American spirit and humanity and generosity. This is a wonderful story and a wonderful man. From an acorn a mighty oak will grow. There are thousands of stories like SEAL of My Dreams, for example, initiated by our own Christie has raised over $110,000 for our Veteran’s medical research project. We can make a difference. Everyone can. And this man made a big one!

  5. So true, Cindy. And what a wonderful mission, Lois!

    One more thing that was interesting about the Kenya rabies project is that apparently this had been tried previously, but was not well received and it didn’t go over well. But because of the chance connection between Sharon’s father and this veterinarian via the Iowa State track team, there was a local contact that made a huge difference. And with that, there was a lot of pre-notification about the dates and vaccination sites….and local interest, as you can see in the video with the banner and all of the local people who gathered.

  6. Linda says:

    It is a very good thing! Rabies is a horrible disease and most Americans have no idea because it is under control in the US. World Rabies day is this Friday, there is a website for it . Imagine just how much we can do as individuals. Love my profession!

  7. Christie Ridgway says:

    That’s wonderful, Roxanne! What a great cause and what a great man to go forward with it!

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