PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Dr. Roger Pelli became one of a number of physicians and other medical providers from The Aroostook Medical Center incarcerated Thursday amidst a police roundup in the city.
Fortunately for the detainees, the crackdown was part of a 24-hour fundraiser to secure money to improve the quality of care for cancer patients and garner more funds for research.
The hospital and Cumulus Broadcasting radio stations in Aroostook County launched the inaugural “Rally on the Roof” at 9 a.m. Thursday. The event will run until 9 a.m. Friday. Initially, organizers had hoped to raise more than $5,000 to benefit Cancer Care Services at TAMC and the Aroostook County Relay for Life.
Just after noon, however, the goal already had been met. They had surpassed $7,000 by 3 p.m.
“We were quite surprised we reached our goal as quickly as we did,” Kerri Watson-Blaisdell, communications specialist at TAMC, said Thursday afternoon. “Everyone has really gotten into this. There is always a fear about how a fundraiser will go over, especially since this is the first time we have ever done it, but this has been fantastic.”
As part of the fundraising effort, community members were encouraged to pay to have a “rooftop warrant” issued for the “arrest” of someone they wanted to see spend some time on the roof.
For $150, a donor could have someone “arrested” and taken away in a decommissioned Crown Ambulance that served as the paddy wagon. Upon arrival at the hospital the accused went before a mock court to be sentenced to serve time on the roof. While on the roof, it was the person’s responsibility to raise an average of $300 bail by calling friends and family.
Jason Parent, director of advancement for TAMC, and Lisa Miles, general manager for Cumulus Broadcasting in Presque Isle, began camping out on the TAMC roof Thursday morning and will remain there until the event ends. The two were broadcasting on the radio throughout the day, encouraging listeners to donate and providing updates to the community on their progress. The roof rally also is being broadcast live on the TAMC website at www.tamc.org/rooftop.
Watson-Blaisdell said about half of the detainees had come from within the hospital and its board of directors, while the other half were community members. Employees from Northeast Publishing Co., The County Federal Credit Union, Coca-Cola and TD Banknorth were just some of those forced to stay on the roof until they secured bail.
Some employees raised more than their required bail for the cause.
It took Pelli a little more than an hour to raise the $350 bail he needed. Lowe’s of Presque Isle sponsored a rooftop deck, complete with patio furniture, and Tompkins Plumbing and Heating of Presque Isle donated an upscale portable toilet for use during the event.
Despite the amenities, a whipping wind had detainees dialing quickly to get out of the elements.
“It hasn’t always been easy for people to find bail, especially around lunch when people were not at their desks or answering their phones,” said Watson-Blaisdell. “But they just kept trying.”
Parent said that he and Miles were pleased with the success of the event thus far and Miles was hoping to see the rally raise $10,000 by the time it wraps up Friday.
“Who doesn’t know someone who has been touched by cancer in some way?” she said. “I think that this touches a lot of people.”
The last detainees will be brought to the roof at 6 p.m.
To add to the festivities, TAMC’s team, “Raise of Hope,” which will participate in the Aroostook County Relay for Life on June 1 and 2, held a block party and barbecue at the hospital Thursday evening. Proceeds from the barbecue were to benefit Relay for Life, which is a major fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.