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Apple Pickers Foundation donates $100,000 to URI to support public education about Lyme disease prevention

October 2007

A private charitable foundation based in Westerly has made a $100,000 contribution to the University of Rhode Island's Center for Vector-Borne Disease in support of the Center's public health education program for preventing tick bites and Lyme disease.

Apple Pickers Foundation

The Apple Pickers Foundation, established by Michael and John Warburg of Westerly, made the contribution after meeting with URI Entomology Professor Thomas Mather, director of the Center, and learning about his numerous outreach programs aimed at reducing the risk of contracting Lyme disease.

"I am so pleased with the very generous support from the Warburgs and the Apple Pickers Foundation," said Mather. "It will greatly advance our efforts to raise people's consciousness about avoiding tick bites-to encourage people to take just a few simple actions to prevent tick bites and disease. Tick transmitted diseases can be devastating and so often people think it won't happen to them. But in Rhode Island, Lyme or another tick infection probably has already struck someone they know. The Warburgs' support will truly make a difference to the health of Rhode Islanders."

According to Michael Warburg, the Foundation aims to fund "expertly planned projects for enterprising worthy causes" and focuses in particular on projects that may fall below the radar screen of larger foundations or may have limited appeal to other funding agencies.

"We've been keenly interested in the Lyme disease field and have been looking for ways to help address this serious public health problem," he said. "We observed that there is significant funding available for research, but that there is a critical lack of focus on awareness and education. It was with this in mind that Dr. Mather's work became a compelling proposition for us."

The only sure way to avoid Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites, a message that needs to be clearly conveyed to those at risk.

- Michael Warburg

The funds provided by the Foundation will be used to expand and improve Mather's tick education website,, including development of on-line animations to illustrate appropriate tick bite prevention strategies as well as a tool to calculate an individual's tick bite risk. Some of the funds will be used to help complete a documentary film about ticks and Lyme disease that is currently in production and which will be posted to YouTube and used in numerous outreach programs.

"The only sure way to avoid Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites - a message that needs to be clearly conveyed to those at risk," said Warburg, who earned a Master's of Business Administration from URI. "Dr. Mather is sparing no effort to get this message across to the general public and is passionately committed to Lyme disease education and prevention."

The Apple Pickers Foundation gift is part of URI's Making a Difference campaign, which seeks $100 million to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance the student-centered campus experience, provide undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, and fund cutting-edge academic and research initiatives. Make a Gift Today