Five Years of Charterthon: Its Legacy and Future

Five Years of Charterthon: Its Legacy and Future

Author Grady McPeak

The official logo for Charterthon 2017. The event is being referred to as “Charterthon V” or “CHVRTERTHON” as a celebration of the event’s fifth anniversary. Logo courtesy of CSW Jefferson Awards Council.

The always much-anticipated annual CHARTERTHON dance will be returning for the fifth time on March 25th, 2017. Over the course of its lifetime, the event has raised over $100,000 for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, an organization that raises money both to fund childhood cancer treatment research as well as help the families of cancer patients pay their bills as they endure an undeniably difficult time in their lives. To find out more about the history of Charterthon, the impact it has made, and what makes this year’s incarnation of the event particularly special, I sat down with the leader of this year’s fundraising and the President of Jefferson Council, Chris Avila.

Grady McPeak: Over the past four years, Charterthon has raised over $100,000. Where does all that money go, and how does it benefit childhood cancer patients?

Chris Avila: All of the money that we raise goes directly to the B+ Foundation, which uses the money for two purposes: family assistance and funding research.  Even families of average means can be financially decimated by a pediatric cancer diagnosis.  Due to the relatively low level of competition in the drug markets and expensive synthesis processes, some drugs cost over $100,000 a year.  The B+ Foundation helps these families get by, paying utility bills, buying groceries, and funding travel expenses.  Although this aspect is very important, Mr. McDonough considers this to only be "bailing water from the boat, not plugging the gaping hole."  This analogy emphasizes the priority that the foundation places on finding cures for cancers.  Although the government spends billions of dollars funding cancer research, only 4% goes to pediatric cancer research.  The B+ Foundation fills this funding void and is the largest funder of pediatric cancer research in the US, supporting research teams at CHOP, AI DuPont, and Seattle Children's.

Speaking of Mr. McDonough, I once saw a quote from him which said, “My heroes are kids.” Since you’ve gotten to know him rather well through your involvement with Charterthon over the years, what does the money we raise personally mean to him and the families his organization supports?

 I will risk sounding cliche when I say: it means everything to these families.  The money we raise is the difference between whether the lights stay on or not at the home of a family with a child suffering from cancer.  The money we raise is the difference between whether a promising new study can reach kids that need its healing.  The money we raise is the difference between maintaining the status quo and changing the outcome for kids with cancer.  

Now, on the subject of meaning, why do you think this cause has become so important to Jefferson Council and to the school community as a whole over these past four years?

This cause has become so important to us because the alternative is impossible.  How can anyone hear the story of a kid with cancer and not feel a deep desire to help them?  Pediatric cancer threatens to steal a child's innocence and the boundless possibility of a young life. 

Can students expect anything new about this year’s Charterthon that’s different from years past?

This year's Charterthon is a reinvention of the event.  Although many elements of the event are still being planned, among the new additions: expect the event to go all night (10pm-6am), to feature live music, and to include competitive sports tournaments.  More exciting details to come!

With such a radically different event, does this mean that the bar is being raised even higher for the goals for this year’s event?

Our goal is to raise $35,000, more than we have ever before.  (The event raised $34,263 in 2015 and $29,528 in 2016).

What can the students of Charter do to help reach these goals?

 One of the core goals of this year's Charterthon is to include a broader segment of Charter's population.  In the past years, the event has relied on about 1/3 of the student body, and an even smaller fraction have been involved in the fundraising on the website beforehand.  By offering a revamped event, with diverse entertainment, our hope is that the event will be better attended.  With that being said, the bulk of funds raised come in via the website, and the financial success of the event will come being able to reach more potential donors with the compelling message of the B+ Foundation.  We have been holding sign-up drives in-school to great success.

What about the parents? What ways can the parents of Charter students get involved and help reach this year’s goal?

Beyond donating to their child's page and making sure that they are going to the event on 3/25, there is still a lot that parents can do.  Some suggestions include: posting their child's donation page link on Facebook and encouraging their employer to become a corporate sponsor (a $100 contribution will get the company's logo on the event banner, and a $200 contribution will get their logo on the event t-shirt and banner).

Lastly, what would it mean to you if we are able to reach the $35,000 goal?

To reach $35,000 would be a binary indication of literally 1000s of hours of work put into this event by myself and many others.  But, I am a proponent of process-oriented goal setting.  My greatest aspiration is broaden the base of the event to every Charter student.  I want Charterthon to mean as much as it does to me, to every one of my classmates.  I believe if they understand the magnitude of the problem and how easy it is to get involved in Charterthon, nothing will stand in their way.  I think if we can accomplish this, not only will the monetary goal be reached but we will have done something much more important: mobilized the Charter community to make a difference in the world.  As a believer in the power of people to create change, this is my greatest hope for this year's Charterthon.

The fifth annual Charterthon will be held on March 25th, 2017. Students can sign up to help join the fight against childhood cancer here: Families of students, you may make donations at any given time under your student’s page.

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