'Purple Pinkies' raise awareness, funds
A program launched by the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley and co-sponsored by Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy has proven to be a great learning experience for Sonoma Valley elementary, middle and high school students.
Dubbed the Purple Pinkie Project, the program was designed to raise student awareness for the threat polio still poses for kids their age in other parts of the world.
Purple pinkies are the international symbol of the fight against polio, because when at-risk children are vaccinated against the disease, their little fingers are colored purple to prevent double dosing.
"We all tend to think of polio as a disease that has been eradicated," says Maite Iturri, principal of El Verano Elementary School. "This program sheds a light on the need that still exists."
"It has given our students an incredible opportunity to learn about global issues like polio," said Louann Carlomagno, superintendent of Sonoma Valley Unified School District. "The program has helped open their minds to a greater world beyond Sonoma."
As part of the learning experience, students were challenged to come up with creative ways to raise money to vaccinate children still at risk from polio.
Their fund raising ideas ranged from selling purple wrist band and purple necklaces to used book sales and popcorn sales. The common denominator was that all these activities engaged and energized their respective student bodies.
"Our Leadership students organized our Purple Pinkie events," said Karla Conroy, principal of Adele Harrison Middle School. "We had a contest to guess how many purple jelly beans were in the fish tank. We also sold purple cupcakes and had a purple dress-up day with games at lunch."
Altimira Middle School Principal Will Deeths said, "We devoted an entire week to the Purple Pinkie campaign. Every day, we had announcements explaining the issue of polio, and at every lunch period students went around collecting money in big jars. On the final day, we sold popcorn, and everyone who bought a bag got their little finger colored purple by Rotary volunteers."
Many schools tied their Purple Pinkie activities into other lesson plans. "We combined Purple Pinkie week with our Read Around the World activity," said Dunbar Principal Melanie Blake. "We also held a used book sale, and students who bought a book got their pinkies colored purple by rotary volunteers."
Rotarian Vickie Whiting, who oversaw the program for the club, said, "We were amazed how much the kids were able to collect. When we added up all the dimes, quarters and dollars, it came to over $2,500. That's enough to vaccinate 2,500 kids at risk."
All funds raised will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The rest of the community will get its chance to join the fight to wipe out polio at this year's Memorial Day celebrations. The Rotary Club of Sonoma will have a table at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building where people can make a modest donation and get their pinkie colored purple if they wish.
The coloring agent used is Gentian Violet, a harmless topical die. It is being donated by Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy.
"We believe this terrible disease, which cripples and destroys the lives of children around the world, can be wiped out for good in the near future," said Whiting. "It will take people working together, just like our own students in Sonoma Valley."