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Sixth annual Purple Pinkie Project a success

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With the help of Rotary Clubs throughout central Aroostook, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Presque Isle Rotary Club have declared their sixth annual Purple Pinkie Project a success. This year’s event — which was three months in the making and spread throughout northern Maine and into Canada — raised more than $3,000 to go toward Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide.

“Our club is delighted with how the Purple Pinkie Project has been embraced by our region, and now by our fellow Rotarians in New Brunswick, and how all of this work has helped to raise so much awareness in our community — especially with our local kids — dabout polio and Rotary’s work to eradicate it,” Presque Isle Rotary Club President Mandy Hall said. “We’re overwhelmed by the generosity of our community with the funds raised this year and we thank everyone for helping us in our work to End Polio Now.”

This year’s 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.

“We approached our Purple Pinkie Project with energy and a sense of cooperation and it really became an event embraced by the whole community,” Larry Berz with the Limestone Club said of the event held at MSSM. “We saw a lot of engagement, a willingness to contribute, and an understanding of the need to contribute. And we want to continue that momentum until we reach total eradication of polio and no more children in this world affected by this disease.”

The Presque Isle club normally hosts its Purple Pinkie Project during World Polio Day on Oct. 24, but when it had to shift its date to February, organizers decided to make it a longer term celebration over the course of the school year. Activities kicked off with the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club hosting a Purple Pinkie table during its 2017 Cash Draw event on Oct. 21. The Washburn Rotary Club hosted a Purple Pinkie Table during its Hunters Breakfast on Oct. 28. The Limestone Rotary Club partnered with the Maine School of Science and Mathematics to host a Purple Pinkie Station of their own on Nov. 6. Taking the event international, the Woodstock Rotary Club in New Brunswick held Purple Pinkie Project events at two Woodstock schools in late October and early November.

“For our club, perhaps the most important aspect of Purple Pinkie is that it helps youngsters realize the importance of helping other children who are in need, so that they will be able to walk, run and play like normal kids,” Terry Thomas with the Woodstock Club, said. “We were fortunate this year to have a polio survivor, Sally Little, speak to the students. Her talk really brought home to the kids the horrible effects of this crippling disease.”

Round two of the region’s Purple Pinkie efforts got underway on Feb. 7, with the Project coming to more than a dozen sites in the area, including at UMPI, Northern Maine Community College, TAMC, and UMPI’s Houlton Higher Education Center. Presque Isle Rotarians also hosted Purple Pinkie stations at Easton Elementary School, Easton Junior-Senior High 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 Mars Hill Rotary Club will visit Fort Street Elementary School and Central Aroostook Junior/Senior High School in Mars Hill later this spring.

At one of the schools visited on Feb. 7, 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 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 a record $4,400 and saw an even greater number of community members participate.

“The Purple Pinkie Project has been a great way for our club to share about the work Rotary International is accomplishing around the world,” Cindy Richendollar, Foundation Chair for the Rotary Club of Washburn, said. “We’ve appreciated the support we’ve received–these generous donations will be used to eliminate the polio virus, and promote health and goodwill to those in need.”

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 8 cases by the end of 2017. 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: “Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for many years and the Purple Pinkie Project is one way to keep this issue in people’s minds,” Wayne Troicke with the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club said. “We are proud to do our part.”

This year’s event was 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.

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