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Central Aroostook Rotary clubs, UMPI present 5th Annual World Polio Day

The University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Presque Isle Rotary Club are joining forces to host their Fifth Annual World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project celebration and this year, with the help of the Rotary Clubs in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Limestone, Mars Hill and Washburn, the celebration will once again spread throughout central Aroostook County. A slate of activities will take place from Oct. 22 to 29 to celebrate World Polio Day, which takes place Oct. 24. 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. 24, and during several other times, organizers and volunteers will “paint” the region purple when they present the Purple Pinkie Project. Similar 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. At each local Purple Pinkie station, 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).

“We are so pleased to be presenting our 5th Annual World Polio Day event in Aroostook County and joining with people across the community to be a part of Rotary’s worldwide efforts to end polio now,” Gina LeBlanc-Eggert, Presque Isle Rotary Club President, said. “The Purple Pinkie Project has become a tradition for local Rotarians and it’s been embraced by everyone from local school kids to area business leaders, so we can’t wait for this year’s event. A purple pinkie serves as a symbol for one polio immunization, so we hope to see many, many purple pinkies this year in support of our efforts.”

Between Oct. 22 and 29, and 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. Activities kick off on Oct. 22—the Caribou Rotary Club will host a Purple Pinkie table during the Caribou Craft Fair on Oct. 22 and 23 at Caribou High School. The club will host the table from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both days of the craft fair. Also on Oct. 22, at 5 p.m. in the Fort Fairfield Community Center, the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club will host a Purple Pinkie table during its 2016 Cash Draw event.

On Oct. 24, the Purple Pinkie Project comes to more than a dozen sites in the area. Community members are encouraged to visit any of four Purple Pinkie stations that will be set up for the public on Oct. 24:

  • At UMPI, in the Center for Innovative Learning (formerly the Library), from 8 a.m.-4:30 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, at the A.R. Gould cafeteria, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Members of UMPI’s BioMedical Club will staff this table.
  • At UMPI’s Houlton Higher Education Center, at the front desk, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

Also on Oct. 24, Presque Isle Rotarians will be on hand in the morning when Presque Isle High School, Zippel Elementary School, Pine Street Elementary School, Mapleton Elementary School, and Easton Elementary School host Purple Pinkie stations, and in the afternoon when Presque Isle Middle School and Easton Junior-Senior High School host stations. A Purple Pinkie station will also be set up for employees at MMG Insurance (staffed by UMPI Business Club members). In addition, the Mars Hill Rotary Club will visit Fort Street Elementary School and Central Aroostook Junior/Senior High School in Mars Hill.

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. 28 in the evening, during the club’s 66th 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.

One final Purple Pinkie station will be held on Oct. 29, when the Washburn Rotary Club hosts its Hunters Breakfast at the Washburn Trail Runners clubhouse from 4:30-8 a.m.

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.

“The University of Maine at Presque Isle is very pleased to be partnering with our area Rotary Clubs and many other organizations and local schools to instill a deeper awareness of polio and the work that is being done worldwide to eradicate it,” UMPI Interim President Ray Rice said. “We look forward to another successful year and hope to see many participate in such an important and worthwhile cause.”

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