How it can be done!
by PUW Staff member, Valentina Trepatschko
Six years ago, Ryan Elliott started raising dollars for Parkinson’s research through the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. When he founded the team, Ryan called it the “Union Square Yokels,” named after many of the team members’ apartment on 17th Street and Broadway. That year, the team raised nearly $2000. Now in 2007, they are a top 10 fundraising team and have raised over $21,000.
Two years ago, the “Union Square Yokels” renamed themselves “Team Heartland Brewery.” Ryan offers a great example on how his team has accomplished their fundraising goal!
Ryan became involved with the Walk after his Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. In her early 50’s, his Mom noticed that her symptoms were similar to those of her stepfather, who had Parkinson’s. After the initial shock, Ryan and a few of his friends wanted to do something and that’s when they heard about Parkinson’s Unity Walk.
They formed a team and raised funds for the Walk. Afterwards the small team visited one of their favorite establishments, the nearby Heartland Brewery in Union Square. The next year, the team went to Heartland Brewery again, and soon it became a tradition. By 2006, the team’s patronage of this establishment sparked an idea.
They approached the management of Heartland Brewery and said, “all we want is a few t-shirts and we will bring our post party to you and spend some money. And you’ll be supporting a great cause while generating some positive publicity.” Heartland Brewery took it to heart and sponsored their team. Ceri Dowson at Heartland even threw in the idea of offering prizes like a dinner for two at the Heartland Chop House, their steak house in Times Square. And this is how Team Heartland Brewery came to be.
In 2007, Team Heartland Brewery had nearly forty competitive participants, spreading the word mainly through phone calls and emails. In prior years, everyone had so much fun at the event and the post party that they recruited their friends and their friends’ friends. For example, while in business school in Charlottesville, VA, Ryan mentioned the event to one of his friends, Rob Jenkins, whose mother also had Parkinson’s. Rob joined the walk one week later, along with his fiancée and sister. The next year, many of Rob’s friends joined the team, adding to the numbers, fun and fundraising.
Almost by accident, the top fundraisers got into a friendly competition among themselves by trying to outdo each other with their fundraising efforts. Ryan loved this, and started to egg them on, offering more prizes for top fundraisers. But Ryan says, “it is all in good fun and light hearted.” One teammate in particular, Christian Bateson, has taken the top fundraising prize three straight years, raising well over $6000 in 2007.
Ryan and his team love being involved. “It brings a lot of happiness to so many people,” noted Ryan. “In addition, we know that we are doing something positive for the cause. It is wonderful to see people support the cause and be so generous with their time and money. While we are a part of it because of the cause, we make it fun and everyone knows my mother and they want to support her.”
Ryan’s parents just moved to Charlottesville, VA, and they drove to attend the event. “This year my Mom got to the Walk early and was able to speak to a doctor. A third party opinion was great and provided her with some great pointers and advice,” noted
“This year’s Walk was also very special for me personally. It was a week before my wedding and we all attended the Walk---we wouldn’t miss it!” said Ryan.