News & Events

Central Aroostook Rotary clubs, UMPI present 4th annual World Polio Day

The University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Presque Isle Rotary Club are joining forces to host their Fourth Annual World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project celebration and this year, with the help of the Rotary Clubs in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Limestone and Washburn, the celebration will once again spread throughout central Aroostook County. A slate of activities will take place between Oct. 17 and Oct. 25 to celebrate World Polio Day, which takes place Oct. 23. All activities are meant to raise awareness of Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide and to raise money — $1 at a time – to go toward that global effort.

On Oct. 22, and during several other times throughout the week, organizers and volunteers will “paint” the region purple when they present the Purple Pinkie Project. For $1, volunteers will color your pinkie purple to help raise money for polio eradication. A purple pinkie serves as a symbol for one polio immunization. Funds raised will go toward Rotary International’s End Polio Now efforts.

“We’re delighted to be presenting our 4th annual World Polio Day event for our community and helping people to be a part of Rotary’s worldwide efforts to end polio now,” Frank Bemis, Presque Isle Rotary Club President, said. “Our World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project events and activities have become something of a tradition for this area and something our local schools have really embraced, so we’re very much looking forward to seeing hundreds of people young and old sporting purple pinkies on and around Oct. 23 in support of our efforts.”

Activities kick off on Oct. 17 at 5 p.m. in the Fort Fairfield Community Center, when the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club hosts a Purple Pinkie table during its 2015 Cash Draw event. On Oct. 19 and 21, Purple Pinkie tables will be set up during the Presque Isle and Caribou Rotary Clubs’ respective weekly Noontime meetings. The Washburn Rotary Club will be collecting donations by placing donation jars at two local businesses—Trailside and Country Farms Market—and by going door to door in the community. Washburn Rotarians also will host Rodney and Barbara Leach to talk about their connection with the disease during their club meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Washburn Rec Center. Barbara Leach is a polio survivor. The public is invited to attend this presentation. Also in celebration of World Polio Day, Rotarians across central Aroostook County will be wearing purple polo “polio” shirts to spread awareness of Rotary’s End Polio Now efforts.

In addition, starting as early as 8 a.m. on Oct. 22, community members can take part in the Purple Pinkie Project. 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 purple dye used when Rotary International conducts polio immunizations. The estimated cost to immunize one child from polio is $1, and when each child gets immunized, Rotarians mark their pinkies with a topical purple dye to prevent double dosages.

Volunteers will be on hand to color the pinkies of anyone donating $1 toward Rotary International’s “End Polio Now” campaign (or get multiple digits painted for $1 each). Community members are encouraged to visit any of four Purple Pinkie stations that will be set up on Oct. 22:

  • At UMPI, in the Center for Innovative Learning (formerly the Library), from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • At NMCC, in the Akeley Student Center, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. UMPI and NMCC Education students will staff this table.
  • At TAMC, Main Entrance and cafeteria, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Members of UMPI’s BioMedical Club will staff these tables.
  • At UMPI’s Houlton Higher Education Center, at the front desk, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

Also on Oct. 22, Presque Isle Rotarians will be on hand in the morning when Presque Isle High School and Zippel Elementary School host Purple Pinkie stations, and in the afternoon when Presque Isle Middle School hosts one. A Purple Pinkie station will also be set up for employees at MMG Insurance (staffed by UMPI Business Club members).

Later in the week, the Limestone Rotary Club is partnering with the Maine School of Science and Mathematics to host a Purple Pinkie Station of their own. And on Oct. 23 in the evening, during the club’s 65th Annual Auction, Limestone Rotarians will shine a spotlight on World Polio Day. Club members will wear their purple polo polio shirts and take time during the auction—which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Limestone Community School/MSSM Auditorium—to raise awareness about Rotary International’s polio eradication efforts.

Activities cap-off with one last Purple Pinkie table, being hosted by the Caribou Rotary Club during the Caribou Craft Fair on Oct. 24-25 at Caribou High School. The club will host the table from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both days of the craft fair.

This year’s World Polio Day activities carry 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 about $2,600 and saw an even greater number of community members participate.

Polio has not been a problem in the U.S. for many years, but this is not the case in several developing countries. In 1985, Rotary International began raising funds in an effort to eliminate polio worldwide. By partnering with the World Health Organization and other government and private groups, Rotary International has achieved a 99 percent reduction of polio worldwide. However, there are still three countries that have not been declared polio-free—Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. To completely wipe out polio, Rotary International is raising funds and mobilizing volunteers to bring immunization projects to these areas.

“We’re delighted to be collaborating once more with Rotary clubs in central Aroostook County, and with several other organizations in our community, to create greater awareness about polio and the worldwide efforts to eradicate it,” UMPI President Linda Schott said. “We hope to see many community members taking part in this year’s World Polio Day activities and proudly painting their pinkies purple for such an important cause.”

This year’s event is being sponsored by TAMC, NMCC, and MMG Insurance. For more information, contact UMPI’s Community and Media Relations Office at 768-9452 or visit