One funny Norwegian polio fundraiser

Ottar Weel, president of the Rotary Club of Gamlebyen-Fredrikstad, and his son enjoy a laugh reading Humørleksikonet Skrattkammeret, a book full of short stories. Photo courtesy Rotary Club of Gamlebyen-Fredrikstad

Norwegian club uses humor to raise money for Rotary’s challenge

Norwegians love to tell stories, especially funny ones, writes Arnold R. Grahl for Rotary International News.

So when the Rotary Club of Gamlebyen-Fredrikstad came up with the idea of producing a book full of jokes and humorous tales to raise money for Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge, it didn’t take long for the idea to catch on.

“We told clubs to get together and swap stories, and send us the best,” says past club president Jan A. Vatn, who oversaw the project. “The response was incredible.”

“Norwegians are known as serious and hard working, but they do have a funny side,” adds Evy Alsaker, a past president of the Rotary Club of Chicago and a Norwegian-American who is helping to promote the book in the United States.

Humørleksikonet Skrattkammeret, which means “Room of Laughter,” contains 1,201 stories compiled from the 330 Rotary clubs in Norway and has sold 1,500 copies in its first few weeks in print. For every book sold, $12 of the $50 cover price goes to Rotary’s challenge. To order a copy, e-mail .

Start to finish, the project took about a year. The book was published with help from Kolbjørn Eggen, a member of the Rotary Club of Fredrikstad Glemmen who owns Eggen Press. “This project represented a tremendous amount of teamwork,” says Alsaker. “It’s an outstanding example of how you can get Rotarians to come together and work on a single project that will have worldwide implications.”

Initial copies of the book were given to district governors to promote during club visits. Vatn says the original target was to raise $72,000 for the challenge by getting every other Norwegian Rotarian to buy a copy. “But a lot of people are buying six to eight books, for themselves or as gifts,” Vatn says. “Our goal now is to have all 330 clubs in Norway collectively contribute $100,000. If more clubs outside Norway raise money with it, all the better.” Clubs receive the credit for each copy sold, Vatn says, so that when Rotarians buy or sell a book, it adds $12 to the amount their club has raised for the challenge.

And while there are no plans to translate the book, Vatn and Alsaker see a wider market than just Norway. Alsaker notes that the first copy of the book was sold to a Norwegian-American in the United States. Any Rotarian who knows a Norwegian anywhere in the world could purchase a copy as a gift, she says, and help Rotary end polio. Vatn would like to see Rotarians in other countries make their own humor books. “The idea isn’t trademarked,” he says. “We can tell them a lot about how to market it.”

Copies can also be ordered from: Gamlebyen/Fredrikstad Rotary Club V/Eddie R. Sjøborg, Bellevue 20, 1606 Fredrikstad, Norway

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.