UI students create on-campus 'Tree of Hope'

URBANA – Some University of Illinois students hope to encourage more campus dwellers to engage in community giving through a mini "Tree of Hope."

Four student organizations are sponsoring the effort to tie in with Developmental Services Center's annual Tree of Hope campaign, the agency's biggest fundraiser of the year.

At the 7 p.m. kickoff Wednesday evening, students will unveil the Campus Tree of Hope on the UI Quad, modeled after DSC's tree at the corner of Prospect and Anthony drives in Champaign.

They will encourage students and faculty to donate $5 to DSC's campaign by texting "DSC" to 20222, and each donation will illuminate a light on the Campus Tree of Hope. Donations will also be accepted by cash or check.

DSC's 2010 spokesfamily – Theo Malekin, Beth Rempe and their daughter Hazel Rempe-Malekin, who has Down syndrome – will talk at the event about the difference that DSC has made in their family's life.

Several restaurant gift cards and items from the Chicago Bears will also be raffled, including mini-helmets autographed by Brian Urlacher and Chris Williams and an authentic football autographed by Matt Forte. Each $5 text or donation is good for one raffle ticket.

The campaign, which runs through Dec. 9, is sponsored by Students Consulting with Non-Profit Organizations, a new student group, along with several campus fraternities – Delta Sigma Pi, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Phi Delta Theta .

The driving force was UI senior Grant McNamara, president of the student consulting group, who interned at DSC as part of a class on nonprofit communication management. He said his group was looking for a client, and he realized that DSC didn't have a strong connection to campus.

"I feel that any nonprofit in the area should try to be involved with campus somehow, because there's so many different opportunities to raise money or raise awareness for their cause," he said. "We brainstormed and decided to take the Tree of Hope and bring that to campus."

He hopes the effort will raise $5,000 to $7,500 for DSC this year. He launched a Facebook group for the event on Monday, and by Tuesday 40 people had already texted to donate.

Volunteers will be stationed at tables by the Campus Tree of Hope through Dec. 9 to collect donations, he said.

DSC spokeswoman Janice McAteer said it's the first time a university group has worked so closely with Tree of Hope.

"It's very exciting," she said. "There are a lot of disability-related organizations on campus, and I think it's really good for them to see what's going on in the community and link those two."

McAteer said it's too soon to say how the overall fundraising campaign will go this year, althoughe she said totals have risen the last two years.

"We're hoping that is the case again," she said, noting that the state owes the agency $2.95 million for services already provided.

"Fundraisers like this really help make a difference," she said.

For information or to donate, you can visit DSC's website or the Campus Tree of Hope Facebook page.

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