Young, Fun, and Successful: HOSA and JDRF create an effective fundraising partnership

by Talley Henning Brown

What do you get when you infuse the boundless energy of thousands of teenagers into a nationwide fundraising drive? In the case of JDRF and the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA)—over $150,000.

One of the largest student organizations in the country, HOSA was established in 1976 to promote career opportunities in the healthcare industry. Every two years, as part of its mission, HOSA offers a National Service Project to instill leadership skills in its 135,000 members. The organization partners with a different healthcare-oriented nonprofit organization, and HOSA chapters lead volunteer and fundraising efforts on its behalf. JDRF was nominated in 2010 by HOSA chapters with personal connections to JDRF, either through the Walk to Cure Diabetes or through members with type 1 diabetes (T1D). The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and JDRF won the organization-wide vote by a landslide.

The first year of the partnership—the first of its kind for JDRF—was a resounding success. HOSA students organized Walks, car washes, bake sales, and a long list of other creative endeavors. HOSA chapters from 34 states participated this year, and HOSA is recognizing the year’s top-earning state—Tennessee—and top-earning chapter—the East Valley Institute of Technology, in Mesa, AZ.

Twenty Tennessee schools led the way to raise $22,479 for JDRF. At Houston High School in Memphis, TN, which has a strict dress code, students made donations to wear scrubs on Fridays, walking reminders of the seriousness of their cause—T1D is a devastating disease that strikes children and adults suddenly and lasts a lifetime. Several schools waged Penny Wars: classes competed to see who could add the most pennies to a jar; when one class took the lead, students from another class could come in and take the rival’s pennies, replace them with dollar bills, and bring the pennies back to their own class jar. When time was called, the class with the most pennies won the game (and a class party), and all the money in the jars went toward the fundraising total.

“HOSA students are unusually talented at grassroots campaigns like this,” says Sheila Carlton, RN, HOSA state advisor for the Tennessee Department of Education, “and our Tennessee students pushed their creativity to the max.”

The 940 students of East Valley Institute of Technology—where students receive specialized, career-oriented education in addition to their normal high school curriculum—poured all their efforts into a JDRF Walk that took place March 7, 2011. Their efforts netted $12,491 for JDRF. “The students did a great job collecting pledges, but everyone pitched in on the Walk—setting up water stations, getting the kids where they were supposed to go, collecting pledges at the end. This is a highly motivated group, and they really pulled together,” says Jon Howell, HOSA Arizona state chairman.

The new school year—year two of the JDRF-HOSA partnership—is promising to be another great success. Many HOSA chapters have completed or are deep into planning their fall Walks and are brainstorming more creative fundraising ideas. They’re charged to break their own $150,000 record. Stay tuned!