Group hopes to raise $100,000 for children’s hospital
CHAMPAIGN – Members of the nonprofit club IlliniThon are planning a slew of events to reach their fundraising goal of one hundred thousand dollars by April.
And that’s not even the best they can do, said Vice President of finance Linnea O’Brien.
As the university’s branch of the national Miracle Network Dance Marathon, she said they used to donate nearly double the amount to St. John’s Children Hospital in Springfield, Illinois.
But as they build back up in the wake of COVID-19, O’Brien said she is thrilled with every donation they can get.
“Even though a dollar doesn't seem like a lot, when you add it all up with everyone else, it actually does do something,” she said.
Moving into the new year, she said she’s confident the club can surpass last year’s donation of eighty thousand dollars and hopes they can reach six-figures once again.
She attributed the influx of this year’s donations to the early events they held in the fall.
Sometimes donors don’t get to meet families until the spring dance-a-thon, but this year they held a tailgate at a football game where members could hang out with three patients and their families.
“Right away people got to be like, ‘Hey, this is what I'm doing this for. These are the kids that I'm helping’ and that set us up for the rest of the year,” she said.
Recruitment director Jacey Mertel said that those kinds of events are vital for showing the donors where their money is actually going.
“Everybody thinks that our organization is getting money for this, and it's not coming to us at all,” Mertel said. “Trying to get people to believe that—it's kind of difficult.”
Both members ensured that all donations go directly to the hospital while club activities are funded by grants from their alumni network and partnerships with local businesses.
To reassure skeptics, Mertel said she carries a pamphlet from the hospital with her showing the breakdown of exactly where the money goes.
The pamphlet shows a large portion of the funds go toward items aimed to make the children's experiences in the hospital more comfortable. It ranges from larger items like beds and walkers, to smaller items like chapstick.
For Mertel, it wasn’t until she spoke with the families that she realized how important some of these things are. Last year, they donated several Kangaroo chairs, designed to help mothers safely hold newborns and encourage skin-to-skin contact.
“These chairs helped them so much mentally by getting that physical touch with their baby for like the first time—I don’t know, It’s just crazy,” she said.
Both members said they hope upcoming events will encourage new people to donate and get further involved in the club.