When the Rotary Club of Buckhead decided who to honor at its Rotary Foundation Ball, it found someone who exemplifies its “service above self” motto.

At the event March 30 at Flourish in Buckhead, the club lauded Dave Fitzgerald, founder and chair of Fitzco, a west Midtown-based advertising and marketing agency formerly called Fitzgerald + Co., for his service to Atlanta and beyond.

“I’m honored to be honored by a group like Rotary that is all about service,” said Fitzgerald, a member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta, which meets downtown. “Everyone in this room is doing stuff that is beyond what normal people do. They give all of their time, their treasure, their talent to make this world a better place.

“You get some issues that have been thrown on our doorstep, what I call front-porch issues that happen in Atlanta, but they’ve also managed to, by the way, cure polio globally. There were 14 (worldwide) cases of polio last year, and when they started the initiative in 1988, there were a thousand cases a day. Now it’s 14 cases a year, limited to Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. This is the power of people working together to do great things.”

Polio is a disease that causes paralysis and even death and has infected millions of individuals worldwide, mostly children, since it was discovered over 100 years ago. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, in 1988 there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries worldwide. In the 1940s and 1950s, there was an average of 35,000 polio cases annually in the United States, peaking at 58,000 in 1952.

“We’re all here to raise money for great front-porch issues, not (just) global issues,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve got to do what we can do. … It’s kind of daunting to think of all the issues that we are confronting globally, but folks at Rotary do the day-to-day stuff that gets things done locally but also manages the ones globally like curing polio.”

On a local level, the Buckhead club also supports the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities, Open Hand and an initiative to end human trafficking.

Fitzgerald was honored for his involvement with several local and national organizations. He is board chair of St. Joseph’s Health System, incoming board chair of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and past board chair of the Buckhead Coalition, all Atlanta organizations. Fitzgerald also is a board member of the coalition, the Atlanta Speech School and the National Advertising Review Board.

He previously served as president of the Atlanta Ad Club and chair and board member of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Atlanta Council. Fitzgerald is chair of the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Parade and has been selected as one of the Top 100 Irish-American Business People by the Irish Times each year since 2004.

“I just think everything he’s done for the community was the right fit for us,” club President Brent Adams said of Fitzgerald being selected as this year’s ball honoree. “We’re all about giving back to the community. I think he exemplifies that for us.”

Of Rotary’s efforts to end polio worldwide, Adams said, “There’s two people in the room tonight who had polio as children and you wouldn’t know it. I think it speaks volumes for what’s happened over the years but also what Rotary has done worldwide in helping to eradicate polio. I think there’s only been three cases this year.”

Club Treasurer Mark Johnson, who has known Fitzgerald for more than 35 years, said choosing him as the honoree was easy.

“What I’m going to say in my introduction is I hope I could be Dave Fitzgerald when I grow up,” Johnson said. “He is one of the nicest, smartest people I know. He has done amazing things for the community. He built a fabulous advertising agency, and there’s no telling what’s next.”

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