Rotary’s ‘Purple Pinkie Project’ raises $1.2 million

Tom KingFarragut

Yesterday, the Rotary Club of Farragut and Knoxville’s five other clubs “celebrated” World Polio Day by selling and delivering Purple Pinkie donuts from Dunkin’ Donut locations in Knoxville, across Tennessee and into Alabama and Mississippi. In the three previous years more than $2 million has been raised just in East Tennessee alone. This year the goal was increased to $1 million at the behest of District 6780 Gov. Cindy Gammons.

The results: more than $1.2 million was raised in an early celebration of World Polio Day that is Sunday, Oct. 24.

A great deal of credit goes to Knoxvillian David Baumgartner, the franchise owner of the local stores. He also owns other outlets in Harriman, Crossville, Clinton and Lenoir City and was instrumental in expanding this throughout Tennessee and into Rotary districts in Mississippi and Alabama.

How does a $2.50 donut turn into more than $1 million in donations? Here’s how: For every $2.50 donated to End Polio Now! through the Purple Pinkie fundraiser, participants will receive a free Purple Pinkie Donut — a glazed donut stick, topped with a dab of purple icing — as a thank you. Through generous matching funds from Rotary districts and The Gates Foundation, each $2.50 donation becomes a total donation of $18.75 per box of 10 donuts to help eradicate polio.

The numbers this week, which do not include yesterday’s same-day sales at the stores, show Rotarians ordered a total of 6,119 boxes, and District 6780 accounted for 2,339 of those, highest among the participating districts in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

The question always comes up: Why are the donuts called “Purple Pinkies?” In countries where the threat of polio remains high, every child under age 5 receives polio vaccine by mouth twice per year during events called “National Immunization Days.” When vaccinating millions of children in a short period of time it is impossible to document which child has received the vaccine, so every child vaccinated has their little finger (pinkie) nail of their left hand painted purple with marker that doesn’t wash off for about a month. Local communities recognize that children with “purple pinkies” will never get polio.

Rotary International has been working to eradicate polio worldwide for more than 30 years. Today, polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The ongoing civil unrest and wars there are preventing volunteers from working in those countries, but it’s crucial to continue working to keep other countries polio-free. If all eradication efforts stopped today, within 10 years, polio could return and paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year, says the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

As of September, only two cases of wild polio have been reported in 2021, compared to 102 cases by September 2020. Thanks to the work Rotary has done, supported by generous donations from people like you, we WILL eradicate polio!

As our saying goes, “End Polio Now!”

To explore membership in the Rotary Club of Farragut, call 865-659-3562. Farragut Rotary meets each Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at Fox Den Country Club. Tom King, a past president of Farragut Rotary, has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers.

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