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Big Sky Rotary Club fills the gaps

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By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer

BIG SKY – For the projects that need to be done, but haven’t been tackled, the Rotary Club of Big Sky has stepped up to the plate, logging an impressive track record in the Big Sky area and around the world.

The club’s 2017/2018 accomplishments stack high, including installing solar-powered 911 emergency call boxes in the Gallatin Canyon; funding a new kayak launch at Moose Creek Campground; providing 18 LeapPads, three bulletin boards and two projectors to Morningstar Learning Center; funding recycle bins for the Music in the Mountains concerts; leading local high school students to Nepal on a mission trip; and funding new digital library books for Ophir Elementary.

A recent project of note is the playground in the new Town Center plaza. Along with the Simkins family and the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation, the Rotary Club raised approximately $90,000 to build a playground in front of the Wilson Hotel. In the spring, they will install rubberized safety surfacing.

“This is a wonderful thing for our community because it’s not only for tourists and visitors, but local children will use it,” Rotary Club president Sam Lightbody said, adding that it will be a relief for parents browsing stands at the summer farmers market or enjoying outdoor concerts.

For a club of approximately 30 members, “We’re getting a lot of work done in our community and we’ve started to do a lot of work internationally,” member Jessie Wiese said.

Beyond U.S. borders, Rotary International has effectively worked to counteract diseases such as Polio. According to Big Sky’s chairman of the Polio Plus campaign, Kathy Bouchard, every dollar raised locally is matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, resulting in a big impact. She said there are less than two dozen cases of polio left in the world, largely thanks to Rotary’s involvement.

“We’re so close to eradicating this,” Bouchard said. “Once we conquer [Polio]—and we think it might happen in a year or so—we’ll move on to the next disease.”

With roots that are over 100 years old, the Rotary Club aims to unite individuals from diverse professional backgrounds to build relationships and give back to their own communities. Today, the organization includes 1.2 million members and more than 35,000 clubs worldwide.

The club’s Big Sky chapter began in 2004 when Barbara Maves, a part-time resident actively involved in her Rotary Club in Indiana, decided the mountain town would be a great location for a club. She rallied several locals, including Kirk Dige, a real estate agent and the club’s charter president.

“We’ve come a long way,” Dige said. “We now have funds raised and lots of projects.”

One of the club’s heartwarming initiatives, Rotary Giving Tree, furnishes Christmas gifts to children whose parents who can’t afford them; and provides a Christmas meal. The yearly funds for many of the organization’s local projects come from the annual Gold Raffle and Auction, where they raffle off $2,500 in pure gold. This year’s event will be held on Jan. 25.

The club meets weekly for a tight one-hour meeting in which members socialize, work on projects and listen to various speakers offering educational content. Although interested individuals must be sponsored by a current member in order to join, Dige said they would be able to find a sponsor for appropriate individuals who want to give back to the community. With Big Sky’s transient population, the club is always looking for more members.

Email Rotary Club of Big Sky’s membership chair Laura Seyfang at to inquire about membership.

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