Water balloons for your heart

Kelly Knaubert, our group leader, emceed the race.

What student would pass up an opportunity to pelt water balloons at their teachers? I wouldn’t, and I hoped others shared my view. Let’s keep our minds open—it was for the American Heart Association, after all.

This year was Union Colleges tenth anniversary of supporting the American Heart Association by hosting an alternate day for the Heart Walk and raising funds. In the past, the money was raised simply by distributing pledge envelopes to employees. This year, LuAnn Davis, vice president for Advancement, decided to use the opportunity for her Institutional Development students to experience live, hands-on fundraising. I was one of those lucky students.

We divided into groups and chose an audience to focus on. The groups included Union College faculty, staff and students, the Mid-America Union Conference, George Stone Elementary School, Helen Hyatt Elementary School, College View Academy and Christian Record Services.

My group chose Union College. With the end of the year fast approaching, we decided to entice people to donate through lighthearted competition. We began organizing a 50-yard race for which the participants would be selected through how much money was “voted” for them. Ten of our beloved faculty and staff agreed—some more hesitantly than others—to race on May 1.

During the week, daily updates via email and on a wall near the elevator in the Dick Administration Building built up excitement and a sense of friendly competition. By the end of the week, the winners were Vener Cabana, professor of biology; Malcolm Gaskin, associate professor of accounting; and our teacher, LuAnn Davis.

The race was far from ordinary. Riding children’s foot scooters, the contestants raced around the circular sidewalk between the Dick Building and clock tower while being pelted by water balloons. Luckily, the participants wore bicycle helmets and goggles for safety. The 25-cent balloons were an additional fundraiser that encouraged audience participation, though the audience was not alone. Malcolm Gaskin purchased several balloons to return fire on the students eagerly waiting for him to zoom by.

Meanwhile, my classmates in other groups had planned and implemented their own fundraising strategies for the American Heart Association. Offerings during worships, donation boxes in prominent places and even a goat-kissing finale (courtesy of College View Academy principal Mr. Branum) all came together to exceed our dollar goal.

While we more than met our objective, all the creativity and effort we poured into the project didn’t have a significant impact on the dollars raised compared to previous years. However, I believe it far surpassed the former method in achieving Union’s goal of educating, both us as student organizers and the campus in general about America’s number one killer, heart disease. The principles we learned in class came alive as we worked for a worthy cause, and honestly, what could be better than the combination of teachers, scooters and water balloons?