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7th Annual Purple Pinkie Project a success

The University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Presque Isle Rotary Club have declared their 7th Annual Purple Pinkie Project, held on Friday, Nov. 9, a success. With the help of the Rotary Clubs in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Limestone, Mars Hill, and Washburn, the celebration spread throughout central Aroostook County and, for the third time, into Canada. Combined efforts helped to raise nearly $3,000 to go toward Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide.

Purple Pinkie Project activities helped area Rotary Clubs to increase awareness for Rotary International’s worldwide fight to end polio and to raise funding, $1 at a time, to ensure that thousands of children receive their polio immunizations. As happens each year, at each Purple Pinkie station, volunteers encouraged people to donate $1 to have their pinkies marked with purple ink, with money going to the End Polio Now campaign and the resulting purple pinkie symbolizing one child’s life saved from the crippling disease. The estimated cost to immunize one child from polio is $1, and when each child gets immunized, Rotarians mark their pinkies with purple ink to prevent double dosages.

Between Oct. 23 and Nov. 9, and in celebration of World Polio Day on Oct. 24, Rotarians across central Aroostook County wore purple polo “polio” shirts to spread awareness of Rotary’s End Polio Now efforts. Activities kicked off on Oct. 23 with the Mars Hill Rotary Club hosting Purple Pinkie activities at Fort Street School and Central Aroostook Junior/Senior High School. On Oct. 24, and in the week leading up to World Polio Day, the Woodstock Rotary Club in New Brunswick, held Purple Pinkie Project events at three Woodstock community schools—Meduxnekeag Consolidated School, Townsview School, and Woodstock High School. The Washburn Rotary Club hosted its first-ever Purple Pinkie Project at schools in Washburn on Oct. 24 and also offered a Purple Pinkie table during its Hunters Breakfast on Oct. 27. In addition, the Presque Isle Rotary Club hosted a Purple Pinkie station at Easton Junior-Senior High School on Nov. 6.

Another round of Purple Pinkie efforts were underway on Nov. 9, with the Project coming to more than a dozen sites in the area, including at UMPI, Northern Maine Community College, Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital, UMPI’s Houlton Higher Education Center, and the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library. Presque Isle Rotarians also hosted Purple Pinkie stations at Easton Elementary School, Mapleton Elementary School, Pine Street Elementary School, Presque Isle High School, Presque Isle Middle School, and Zippel Elementary School. UMPI Business Club members also hosted a Purple Pinkie station for employees at MMG Insurance. In addition, the Caribou Rotary Club will continue with its drive to support awareness of polio eradication efforts year round with club fundraising at each club meeting, and the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club and Limestone Rotary Club had plans to host Purple Pinkie events later in the school year.

At one of the schools visited on Nov. 9, Rotarians received a special gift with a unique connection—student Mason Allen and his family donated a check for $200 because of their personal connection with polio. Mason’s grandfather, Kenny Allen, had the disease as a child. They see their donation as a way of supporting an important cause and helping to rid the world of a disease that no other child should have to endure.

This year’s 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 more than $3,000 and saw an even greater number of community members participate. In total since 2012, the efforts have raised more than $19,600.

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 just 33 cases by the end of 2018. 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.

This year’s event was co-presented by UMPI and the Rotary Clubs of Central Aroostook, and sponsored by Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital, NMCC, and MMG Insurance. For more information, contact UMPI’s Community and Media Relations Office at 768-9452 or visit www.umpi.edu/worldpolioday.