News & Events

3rd annual World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project a success

With the help of the Rotary Clubs in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Limestone and Washburn, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Presque Isle Rotary Club are declaring their 3rd annual World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project celebration—which spread throughout central Aroostook County and was held between Oct. 18 and 25—a big success. All activities helped to raise awareness of Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide. Combined efforts among the clubs helped to raise an estimated $2,600 for that global effort.

“We are absolutely delighted to have our joint World Polio Day activities bring so much awareness and raise so much funding for Rotary International’s End Polio Now efforts,” Presque Isle Rotary Club President Scott Violette said. “We’ve seen an outpouring of community support every year when we host our World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project celebration, and this year was no exception. We’re estimating that about 2,000 people took part in this year’s Purple Pinkie Project. We’d especially like to thank our fellow Rotary Clubs for joining us, and the Caribou Rotary Club in particular for raising about half of this year’s funds.”

“Our club members stepped up to the plate to make the project the success it was. We had a total of 10 helpers, who helped in different ways—some worked at the booth and supplied equipment, while others set up the tents outside to protect us from the weather,” said Steve Mazerolle, co-chairperson for Caribou’s Purple Pinkie Project with Mark Draper. “It was a cold and rainy day, but no complaints were heard from any of the Rotarians. A special kudo to Cary Medical Center who allowed us to use one of their vehicles to pick up and drop off the iron lung we borrowed from Eastern Maine Medical Center to display. We are truly blessed to live in such a giving community and I am proud to be a member of the Caribou Rotary Club and Chapter #7810.”

This year’s World Polio Day activities helped the area Rotary clubs to significantly increase local awareness about Rotary’s worldwide fight to end polio and raise enough funding to ensure that thousands of children receive polio immunizations. World Polio Day takes place every year on Oct. 24.

One of the big ways the Rotary clubs celebrated the occasion was to host several Purple Pinkie Project stations around the region. Volunteers were on hand to color the pinkies of anyone willing to donate $1 toward Rotary International’s “End Polio Now” campaign; $1 is the estimated cost to immunize one child from polio, so a purple pinkie serves as a symbol for one polio immunization. Similar Purple Pinkie projects have been held by Rotary Clubs around the country, with people donating $1 to have their pinkies marked with the same topical purple dye Rotary International uses when it conducts polio immunizations. The dye is used to prevent double dosages.

Between Oct. 18 and 25, several World Polio Day activities were held:

  • On Oct. 18, the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club hosted a Purple Pinkie table during its 2014 Cash Draw event.
  • On Oct. 20 and 22, Purple Pinkie tables were set up during the Presque Isle and Caribou Rotary Clubs’ respective weekly Noontime meetings.
  • On Oct. 23, Presque Isle Rotarians hosted Purple Pinkie stations at Presque Isle High School and Presque Isle Middle School. UMPI Business Club members also hosted a Purple Pinkie station for employees at MMG Insurance.
  • On Oct. 24, Rotarians across central Aroostook County wore purple polo “polio” shirts to spread awareness of Rotary’s End Polio Now efforts. Some of the funds from the shirts go directly to End Polio Now efforts.
  • Also on Oct. 24, community members were able to take part in the Purple Pinkie Project at stations set up at UMPI, Northern Maine Community College, TAMC, and UMPI’s Houlton Higher Education Center.
  • On the evening of Oct. 24, during the Limestone Rotary Club’s 64th Annual Auction, Limestone Rotarians shone a spotlight on World Polio Day. Club members wore their purple polo polio shirts and took time during the auction to raise awareness about Rotary International’s polio eradication efforts.
  • Activities capped-off with one last Purple Pinkie table on Oct. 25, hosted by the Caribou Rotary Club during the Caribou Craft Fair. The club was able to display an iron lung on loan from Eastern Maine Medical Center at that event.
  • The Washburn Rotary Club hosted a World Polio Day fundraiser earlier in the month—a “Skip-A-Meal” activity, with proceeds going to the Purple Pinkie Project. Washburn Rotarians also will be hosting Rodney and Barbara Leach at an upcoming meeting to talk about their connection with the disease—Barbara Leach is a polio survivor. Rodney Leach shared the couple’s story during last year’s 2nd annual World Polio Day celebration.

“I’m pleased that the central Aroostook clubs came together to raise awareness and funding for this important project,” Carl Young, Fort Fairfield Rotary Club President, said. “This was the first year for the Purple Pinkie Project table at our annual Cash Draw fundraiser and guests had a great time while supporting Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign.”

This year’s World Polio Day activities carried on a tradition of raising many local dollars for, and even more awareness about, Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio. The first annual World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project event, held in October 2012, saw an estimated 1,000 people in the community participate and initially raised $1,250. An anonymous donation of $1,000, however, pushed the fundraising total to well above $2,000. Last year’s event raised another $1,775 and saw an even greater number of community members participate.

“The Limestone Rotary Club was excited to help raise awareness of how close Rotary International is to eliminating polio during our 64th annual Limestone Rotary Auction,” Luke Shorty, the Limestone Rotarian who led up World Polio Day efforts for the club, said of this year’s activities. “Many of us were sporting both the Rotary Blue and Eradicate Polio purple polo’s to help make sure we were doing our part to raise awareness and funds to finally eradicate this devastating disease.”

Since Rotary International began the fight against polio in 1985, the crippling disease has been reduced by more than 99 percent—from more than 350,000 people, mostly children, in 125 countries, to less than 300 cases so far this year. Attention is focused on three countries—Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan—which are still polio-endemic. By partnering with the World Health Organization and other government and private groups, Rotary International is working harder than ever to end polio: experts say that if the job isn’t finished, the disease could rebound to 10 million cases in the next 40 years.

“Our Club was happy to be able to participate and looks forward to having more opportunities to contribute to the project,” Cindy Richendollar, President of the Rotary Club of Washburn, said of this year’s World Polio Day activities. “It’s our privilege to be a part of such an important and worldwide effort.”

This year’s event was sponsored by TAMC, NMCC, and MMG Insurance. To learn more about the event, please visitwww.umpi.edu/worldpolioday.