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 are declaring their 4th annual World Polio Day and Purple Pinkie Project celebration—which spread throughout central Aroostook County and was held between Oct. 17 and 25—a big success. All activities helped to raise awareness of Rotary International’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide. Combined efforts among the clubs helped to raise $2,600 for that global effort.

“We couldn’t be more pleased about how our 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 Frank Bemis said. “Every year, we’ve seen an outpouring of community support during our World Polio Day celebrations and during our Purple Pinkie Project activities in particular. Thousands of people have participated in our Purple Pinkie Project efforts over the last four years and we’d like to thank all 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. 23.
“Once again, the Rotary clubs in the County showed their giving nature by sponsoring the Purple Pinkie Project,” said Steve Mazerolle, co-chairperson for Caribou’s Purple Pinkie Project. “For the Caribou club, the Caribou Craft Fair was a great platform for exposure to this wonderful program. The Caribou club will continue to support this great cause for years to come.”
One of the big ways the Rotary clubs celebrated the occasion was to host 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, with people donating $1 to have their pinkies marked with the same topical purple dye Rotary International uses when it conducts polio immunizations. The dye is used to prevent double dosages.
Between Oct. 17 and 25, several World Polio Day activities were held:
  • On Oct. 17, the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club hosted a Purple Pinkie table during its 2015 Cash Draw event.
  • On Oct. 19 and 20, Purple Pinkie tables were set up during the Presque Isle and Mars Hill Rotary Clubs’ respective weekly meetings.
  • On Oct. 21, the Washburn Rotary Club hosted Rodney and Barbara Leach for a polio talk during a regular club meeting. Club members also collected End Polio Now donations at Trailside and Country Farms Market, and by going door to door in the community.
  • On Oct. 22, Presque Isle Rotarians hosted Purple Pinkie stations at Zippel Elementary School, Presque Isle High School and Presque Isle Middle School. UMPI Business Club members also hosted a Purple Pinkie station for employees at MMG Insurance.
  • Also on Oct. 22, 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.
  • On the evening of Oct. 23, during the Limestone Rotary Club’s 65th Annual Auction, Limestone Rotarians helped to raise awareness about Rotary’s polio eradication efforts. Club members also collaborated with the Maine School of Science and Mathematics to host a Purple Pinkie Project table in early November during school hours.
  • Activities capped-off with one last Purple Pinkie table on Oct. 24-25, hosted by the Caribou Rotary Club during the Caribou Craft Fair.
Several other sites, including Loring Job Corps Center, Hampton Inn of Presque Isle, and Emera Maine participated in Purple Pinkie efforts during the week.
“This was the second year that the club has had a Purple Pinkie Project table at our annual Cash Draw fundraiser. It was a joy to see our supporters lined up waiting to participate as this year’s support level increased significantly,” said Carl Young, Fort Fairfield Rotary Club President. “We want to thank those who participated as the dollars they provided while enjoying Purple Pinkie high-fives will triple when matched by the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation in Rotary’s continuing fight to “End Polio Now.”
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.
“The PPP Day solicitation in Limestone underscored the collaborative spirit between both the Community School and The Maine School of Science and Mathematics,” said Larry Berz of the Limestone Rotary Club. “We successfully communicated the urgency and importance of addressing the eradication of polio from this planet and the ability to meet the challenge in a way that added to our community's sense of participation and pride. In 2015, we know firsthand that American youth make a difference to becoming a part of the permanent global solution rather than prolonging of social suffering.”
“I'm very proud of our Mars Hill Rotarians,” Edward Wright of the Mars Hill Rotary Club said in commenting on northern Maine’s World Polio Day celebration. “This year is the 30th Year of Rotary International's efforts to eradicate polio worldwide, and our members answered the call to contribute $30 each toward the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation matching program. Every dollar makes a difference, and we will gladly continue the fight to rid the world of this crippling disease.”
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.
“Our Club was happy to be able to participate and looks forward to having more opportunities to contribute to the project,” Cindy Richendollar, President of the Rotary Club of Washburn, said of this year’s World Polio Day activities. “It’s our privilege to be a part of such an important and worldwide effort.”
This year’s event was sponsored by TAMC, NMCC, and MMG Insurance. For even more details about the event, please visit www.umpi.edu/worldpolioday.