Last semester, I had the opportunity to write four stories about IlliniThon, the people who organize it, and the people who are influenced by it. Interviewing these people and seeing their passion for the event and the children it helps was tons of fun and truly inspiring. In one month I will be participating in the event with my 4-H House sisters, so in the weeks leading up to it, I will be sharing the news stories I wrote. Enjoy!
Worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes. A group of college students want to give some of those kids a little bit of hope.
IlliniThon is part of a nationwide initiative across college campuses to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. IlliniThon specifically is an annual event that raises money for St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill. This year’s event will be on April 23, 2016, at the Illini Union. Participants will be on their feet, without sitting down, from 9:00 pm t0 9:00 am to show their support and raise money for the miracle families.
The event is organized and run by a group of about 27 students who are on the Executive Board. Serving under them are about 100 more committee members.
“The best part is being able to work so closely with friends,” said Caroline Eichelberger, the internal fundraising director. “And seeing that I’m not the only one who’s so passionate about it.”
Eichelberger is a junior studying pre-nursing. “My mom is a neonatal ICU nurse. I’ve grown up visiting her in the NICU and seeing the little babies that are literally the size of your hand,” said Eichelberger. “It’s unbelievable. That’s a really big reason why I changed my major to nursing and decided that this is what I need to be doing.”
As the internal fundraising director, Eichelberger’s job is to make sure every participant raises at least $250. She does this by organizing canning outside bars and football games, teaching people how to write fundraising letters, and helping them reach out to potential donors.
IlliniThon’s Executive Dancer Recruitment Director, Frankie Fridman, has her own reason for being passionate about the event.
“In high school I had a really bad stomach problem and I spent a lot of time at Lurie’s Children’s hospital in downtown Chicago, which is a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital,” explained Fridman, a sophomore studying choral music education. “What I went through is a fraction of what these kids have gone through. Seeing them be so optimistic and so happy is an inspiration to anyone who looks at them.”
Fridman’s responsibilities include getting dancers and teams signed up for the event. She also works to keep them engaged throughout the year. She helps them get more people signed up and encourages them to reach their fundraising goals.
“These kids are alive because we raise money for their chemo or other procedures,” Fridman said.
Fridman doesn’t have to recruit all the dancers on her own.
“Everyone on the board is in charge of recruiting because it’s all about who you know,” said Mike Golden, the Vice President of Dancer Recruitment.
Golden is a senior studying to be a doctor. He volunteers at Carle Hospital and is considering being a pediatric oncologist.
“Every kid should be able to grow up and that’s something that really hits home to me,” Golden said.
As the Vice President of Dancer Recruitment, Golden oversees a group of executive members, including Fridman, and makes sure they are staying on track. Golden found out about IlliniThon and got involved through one of his fraternity brothers. Golden also explained that the Greek community on campus is one of the places IlliniThon finds its biggest supporters.
“One of our big focuses this year to is reach out to people who aren’t in Greek life,” Fridman said as she explained how they are trying to get more of the campus involved. “My highlight is when we get a new team signed up because that means we have more people interested in helping these kids and wanting to make this event even bigger and better than it’s been before.”
That is the executive team’s goal, to make this year the best one yet. They are setting big goals for themselves and are working hard to reach them. They are planning ahead to give themselves and the participants more time to fundraise. The fundraising chairs are also planning events for this semester, including Trick-or-Treat For the Kids and restaurant fundraisers.
“A lot of what we’re doing right now is figuring out how we can get people motivated to fundraise,” said Fridman.
But the entire executive team is keeping their end goal in mind.
“Actually meeting the families and seeing these kids at the event, that’s the reason why I’m doing this, that’s why I’m here,” said Eichelberger.
Fridman agreed. “We need you at the event. You can raise the money and that’s great but the kids are going to be at the event and that’s what matters.”
If you want to join me in supporting IlliniThon, make a donation.