Member Sally Hart Petersen: My Y in Rotary

I first became aware of Rotary at the age of 6. My Dad, an Episcopal Priest, joined Rotary shortly after we moved to North Attleboro, MA in 1970. At this tender age I was taught “the Rotary song” which went something like this:

R-O-T,

A-R-Y,

That spells ROTARY

Rotary (genuflect)

Rotary (genuflect)

That spells ROTARY

My Mom led the chorus of four dutiful daughters as we ushered my Dad out the door on Monday nights at 5:30pm. And yes, we were taught to genuflect.

Forty plus years later, my introduction to Ann Arbor Rotary came courtesy Agnes Reading and Collyer Smith who each invited me as a guest on separate occasions. On both visits I recognized many well-known community leaders. “So this is where Ann Arbor’s glitterati congregate for lunch on Wednesday afternoons”, I thought.

I decided to join Rotary in 2014 and was soon asked thereafter to chair the Membership Development Committee. The responsibility to re-engineer the new member development experience kept me quite busy, but I was keenly aware of and intrigued by the development of the Universal Access Playground. I am Chair of the Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues, and along with other Commissioners, we sought opportunities to provide input on the design, location, and access to the UAP.

My interest in this project has also been a very personal one. My older sister Betsy has developmental disabilities. While she was diagnosed at an early age with significant cognitive impairment, her joie de vivre, creative spirit and outgoing personality has thrived into her adulthood. The world has always been her stage. When Betsy was very young she won a “playground pixie” award. I recall being amazed that it was possible for Betsy to ever win anything given her impairment. Since that time, Betsy has been a winner on several fronts, including the Special Olympics. But I still chuckle to myself about my early naivety about her potential.

For this reason, I’ve donated funds in Betsy’s honor to the UAP project. Helping to bring this project to completion has enabled my own Rotary experience to very literally come full circle. From the early days of singing my Dad out the door, to the reality of one day being able to enjoy the UAP with my own playground pixie Betsy, I am grateful for Rotary’s continued and positive impact in making this world of ours’ go round.