The Fight Against Polio
As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), polio, or poliomyelitis, is a “disabling and life-threatening disease” caused by the poliovirus. Once contracted, polio can be easily spread from person to person as it is highly contagious — particularly among children under the age of five. While a majority of people who contract polio have no symptoms, a small proportion will develop other, more serious symptoms affecting the brain and spinal cord. Such symptoms include paresthesia (the feeling of pins and needles in your legs), meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain), and paralysis (an inability to move parts of the body). Around one in every 200 people who contract the virus feels some sort of weakness or paralysis.
After battling two major polio outbreaks in 1916 and 1952, totaling 57,528 infections and 3,145 deaths, the US distributed a vaccine and has been polio-free since 1979. While most of the world followed suit, three countries never managed to stop transmission of the virus: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. These countries continue to suffer due to the, as previously mentioned, extremely infectious nature of polio, which means, in the words of the World Health Organization: “As long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease.”
What Dunkin’ Is Doin’
For the past three years, Dunkin’ has designated fighting polio as a core corporate mission, joining Rotary, a global network of 1.2 million that works to combat major social issues. Rotary is one of several organizations that has been working to eradicate polio for decades.
“As a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we’ve reduced polio cases by [99.9%] since our first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979,” explains Rotary’s website, which notes that the organization has raised more than $2.1 billion in this effort. “It’s crucial to continue to keep other countries polio-free. If all eradication efforts stopped today, within [ten] years, polio could paralyze as many as 200,000 children each year.”
A significant chunk of the Rotary’s fundraising comes from Dunkin’, which has pulled in millions from its now-signature Purple Pinkie Day fundraiser. If you haven’t wondered upon one of the chain’s restaurants participating in this one-day fundraiser, hosted on World Polio Day, it consists of the stores giving away delicious — and unique — Purple Pinkie Donuts in exchange for a $2 donation to the Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign. This year, the Rotary donated an additional $4 for every guest donation, which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation matched with $12, meaning each $2 donation actually amounts to $12.
The fact that these donuts are “purple pinkie” (in color and in name) is also significant — in countries where there is still a threat of polio, vaccines are administered through drops in the mouth instead of injections. While this allows for faster speeds (as wanted), it can make it difficult to keep track of which kids have and haven’t had the vaccine. As a result, children who have been vaccinated are marked on the pinkie fingernail of their left hand, which is painted with a purple marker.
This program launched in 2018 in 30 Dunkin’ restaurants throughout Tennessee. “We started this project because I wanted our company to have a greater purpose than just retail sales,” said Dave Baumgartner, the president of Dunkin’ Franchisee Network and Bluemont Group LLC (which along with Catalano Group Bakeries and Dunkin’ restaurants donated over 60,000 Purple Pinkie Donuts this year).
Since then, the Purple Pinkie fundraiser has expanded to 125 locations across Alabama and Tennessee. That’s a 316.7% expansion. In total, this annual promotion has raised $1.8 million to benefit End Polio Now. Over $1.2 million of that was raised this year, showing the action’s growth and continued success.
"On behalf of everyone at Dunkin', we were honored to have the opportunity to once again partner with our friends at Rotary to help eradicate polio worldwide,” said Baumgartner in a recent news release from the company, reflecting on the October 20 fundraiser. “It was truly amazing to see so many groups come together paired with the immense generosity from our local communities to surpass our goal of raising $1 million. This is such an important cause, and we are proud to say we are one step closer toward ridding the world from the threat of this disease.”
About the Author
Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.