News & Events

5th annual World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project a success

With the help of the Rotary Clubs in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Limestone, Mars Hill and Washburn, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Presque Isle Rotary Club have declared their 5th annual World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project celebration—which spread throughout central Aroostook County and was held between Oct. 22 and 29—an overwhelming success. All activities helped to raise awareness of Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide. Combined efforts among the clubs helped to raise more than $4,400 for that global effort—the most ever raised during the celebration.

“We are ecstatic about how World Polio Day activities have helped to raise so much awareness and funding for Rotary International’s End Polio Now efforts,” Presque Isle Rotary Club President Gina LeBlanc-Eggert said. “For five years, we’ve seen such an incredible outpouring of community support during World Polio Day celebrations and particularly our Purple Pinkie Project activities. Thousands of County people have participated in Purple Pinkie Project efforts over the last half-decade and we’d like to thank each and every one of them and our fellow Rotary Clubs for joining us in this important work.”

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 took place this year on Oct. 24.

“The Purple Pinkie Project was well received by the students and staff at Mars Hill’s schools,” Edward Wright, project lead for the Rotary Club of Mars Hill, said. “It was important that we explained what polio is, and how they could each help another child to be protected from this dreadful disease.  We gave them an opportunity to help, and that is what Rotary is all about.”

In celebration of World Polio Day, Rotary Clubs hosted 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. When Rotary International conducts polio immunizations, they color pinkies purple as a simple method to prevent double dosages. With much of the funds raised just $1 at a time, Rotary District 7810 Governor Ginny Joles said of this year’s celebration: “Together, we made a huge ‘fingerprint’ against Polio.”

Between Oct. 22 and 29, several World Polio Day activities were held:

  • On Oct. 22, the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club hosted a Purple Pinkie table during its 2016 Cash Draw event.
  • On Oct. 22 and 23, the Caribou Rotary Club collected donations during the Caribou Craft Fair.
  • On Oct. 24, Presque Isle Rotarians hosted Purple Pinkie stations at Presque Isle High School, Presque Isle Middle School, Zippel Elementary School, Pine Street Elementary School, Mapleton Elementary School, Easton Elementary School, and Easton Junior-Senior High School. UMPI Business Club members also hosted a Purple Pinkie station for employees at MMG Insurance.
  • 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.
  • In addition, on Oct. 24, the Mars Hill Rotary Club hosted Purple Pinkie stations at Fort Street Elementary School and Central Aroostook Junior/Senior High School, and the Limestone Rotary Club hosted a table at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics/Limestone Community School.
  • On the evening of Oct. 28, during the Limestone Rotary Club’s 66th Annual Auction, Limestone Rotarians helped to raise awareness about Rotary’s polio eradication efforts.
  • Activities capped-off with one last Purple Pinkie table on Oct. 29, hosted by the Washburn Rotary Club during its annual Hunters Breakfast at the Washburn Trail Runners Club.

At one of the schools visited on Oct. 24, Rotarians received a very special gift—a check for $250 from Mason Allen and his family. Mason’s grandfather, Kenny Allen, had polio as a child. The family explained that people don’t seem to be as familiar as they used to be with the disease, so when they heard about the Purple Pinkie Project, they wanted to help make an impact. They said their donation was their way of supporting the cause and helping to put an end to a disease that affected Mason’s pappy.

Similar sentiments could be felt across the region: “It was a joy to have Fort Fairfield able to bring the Purple Pinkie Project to our annual cash draw once again,” Lauren Kenneson, project lead for the Rotary Club of Fort Fairfield, said. “People were very responsive and curious to help the cause. We look forward to doing it again next year!”

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 more than $2,500 and saw an even greater number of community members participate.

“As Sergeant-at-Arms of the Rotary Club of Limestone and Instructor at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, I am particularly proud of our student collaboration in promoting our fundraiser,” Larry Berz said. “Both students from MSSM as well as the Limestone Community School showed ample energy and ongoing effort in soliciting contributions towards the eradication of polio globally.”

“The Rotary Club of Washburn held a Purple Pinkie event at our annual Hunter’s Breakfast, on October 29, with the hunters, families, and friends participating,” Cindy Richendollar, Foundation Chair for the Rotary Club of Washburn, said. “In this, our second year of club participation, we had a lot of fun and are grateful for the generosity toward polio eradication.”

Since Rotary International began the fight against polio in 1985, the 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. 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.

And so the fight continues: “The Caribou Rotary Club will continue with our drive year round instead of one hard push,” Steve Mazerolle, who oversees polio eradication efforts for the Caribou club, said. “We will keep the eradication of Polio on our minds, and the children in our hearts.”

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