The Collegian
Sunday, May 31, 2020

For class project, students raise money for Make-a-Wish Foundation

A business management class is applying class-learned skills to real-life fundraising by working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation this semester to help the wishes of sick children come true.

Management professor Violet Ho's Organizational Behavior class connected with the Virginia chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help raise the money needed to grant the wishes of children between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 who have life-threatening conditions, she said.

The money needed to grant each wish ranges from $5,000 to $12,000, and the students have until April 16 to raise as much money as they can. In the past, Ho said she had students write papers and reports, but after hearing about this project and its successes from professors at different schools, she decided to try it with her own class.

Some of the key concepts students discuss are teamwork and interpersonal skills such as negotiation, persuasion, power and influence, she said. All of these concepts are key when working in a group and also when trying to convince people to donate money to a cause, Ho said, so the Make-A-Wish project was ideal because it allowed students to use these concepts and do social good.

At the beginning of the semester, she broke the class up into 12 teams. Each team ranged in size from four to six students. The Make-A-Wish Foundation then assigned a specific "wish kid" to each team, Ho said.

The children's backgrounds and the nature of their illnesses vary across each team, Ho said, and few details about the children are released because of liability issues. The teams had the choice of raising money for a wish kid, or to do a similar consulting or fundraising project.

At first, 10 teams signed up for the Make-A-Wish project and two opted to work on a similar fundraising and consulting project, Ho said. But after Karen Webb, the president and CEO of the Virginia chapter of the foundation, spoke to the class about the foundation's goals, principles and work, the other two teams decided to do the Make-A-Wish project as well.

"I think some students find it stressful because it's not just writing a paper, but actually bringing money to the table," Ho said, "which is understandable, but that's the real world."

Junior Stephanie Hepp said that although the consulting project was an interesting option, it was externally based. The project for Make-a-Wish is more beneficial because it is done internally, and what is learned in class is put into practice, Hepp said.

The teams have done everything from tabling in the Commons to offering a bagel-in-bed delivery service to students in an effort to raise money. Ho said that because students didn't have any formal authority, she encouraged them to find other skills they could capitalize on.

Hepp and her team are working to raise $8,700 to send a child to Disney World. Her team has raised money through, a crowd funding website, and they have allowed people to sign a special Make-A-Wish star if they donated money. Her team has also created a shuttle service to take students to the train station or airport before spring break, the proceeds of which will go to their fundraiser, Hepp said.

"The biggest hurdle is the fact that there are multiple teams in the class," Hepp said. "We all have similar ideas, we're all on the same campus, we're all reaching out to the same restaurants; so in that sense it's a little difficult because we're competing for the same foundation."

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It was easy to start the semester with grandiose plans, junior Sammy Easby said, but part of the learning process was to make plans realistic and to together as a team to make the plans happen. Her team has created a donations website, that allows anyone with a credit card to donate, Easby said. She said that her team hoped the ease of online donations would help stop the, "Oh, I'll do it later" attitude that often comes with people interested in donating.

Her team's other main fundraising project is to hold a large raffle at a local restaurant, Easby said. She said her team was hoping to collect donations from local businesses, sell raffle tickets at a venue for a week and then raffle off the donations the next week. This would integrate the community into the project as well, Easby said.

The most daunting thing for her group, Easby said, was the $11,000 her team was trying to raise.

"I actually want to raise this amount of money," she said. "Even though we all, in the back of our heads, know we don't need to, and it's not going to reflect poorly on our grade."

Contact reporter Anika Kemp at

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