Better World Wednesday: Boosterthon

We have noticed that there are many incredible socially-minded businesses out there that share our philosophy of capitalism – that capitalism is not just about a single, financial bottom-line, that business can and should also change our world for the better. We share lots of stories about how our book donors, customers, staff, partners and advocates make a difference every time they interact with Better World Books. Now, we’d also like to begin sharing how like-minded organizations are making a difference as well.

So, without further ado, Meet Boosterthon.

BWB:  Tell us about the Boosterthon Fun Run.  How did it get started and what do you do?

The Boosterthon Fun Run is a nine day Fitness, Leadership, and Character-based elementary school fundraiser that offers a healthy alternative to traditional product sale fundraisers. Our founder and president, Chris Carneal, started Boosterthon while attending Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Chris started a sports tutoring company that helped local students improve their baseball skills, and because Chris was also interested in impacting kids in other ways than just sports, he added a character lesson to each sports tutoring session. When he was approached by one of his kids to buy a product to raise money for a school, Chris thought there could be a better way to resource schools. From there, Boosterthon was started to help resource schools in a fun, hassle-free way. Students don’t have to sell anything. They just gather pledges from friends and family as they prepare for the Boosterthon Fun Run event.


BWB: The Boosterthon Fun Run program lasts for nine days, what do those days look like?

One of our most distinguishing features is that members of our team are on each school campus for two weeks, opening doors at morning carpool, eating lunch with the students and teachers, and serving at afternoon dismissal and bus line in addition to running the program. The number one word our schools use to describe our team members is “enthusiastic.” So, with our enthusiastic team on campus for two weeks, each day of the program is fun and has a lot of energy.

During the 9 days, our program moves through phases. The first day on campus kicks off with a high-energy pep rally that informs students what the Boosterthon program is about and how they can participate and help their school. For the next six days, our team members visit every classroom each day teaching character lessons that correspond to an annual theme—this year’s character theme is Epic Adventure. Team members also award students with fitness rewards for the pledges they received for the Boosterthon Fun Run event. The time in the classroom is educational, team building, and most importantly, fun! All of the days build momentum toward the culminating event—the Boosterthon Fun Run—when students join their classmates as they run around the Boosterthon Speedway to raise money for their school.

BWB:  One of the great things about this program is you are able to get the community involved – how does that happen?

Everyone in the school community is invited to attend the Boosterthon Fun Run event. Whether you are a student’s sponsor, family member, or next-door neighbor, we ask students to extend an invitation to their family and friends to cheer them on as they run laps. We’ll have hundreds of parents and supporters at each event waving signs, dancing, and encouraging the students. It’s a pretty amazing sight.


BWB: On average, how much money does a school raise from the program and what are the costs associated with it?

On average our program raises schools 70% more than a school’s best previous product sale. We absorb all the costs associated with the Boosterthon. We provide the most inclusive, hassle-free fundraiser available that incorporates every student in the school, whether they give financially or not. The Boosterthon Fun Run provides t-shirts for every student and teacher, all the prizes, equipment, character-curriculum, online pledging system, our team on campus for two weeks, communication, and much more.

BWB: We really appreciate that your emphasis is not just on fitness but on character, how do you incorporate that into your program?

Since the start of Boosterthon, Chris incorporated character traits into every school he served, but within the past 5 years, we’ve formalized our character campaign to include a theme that helps students get even more excited about building character.  Over the years, we’ve gradually expanded our character program. Our curriculum now contains classroom presentations, a children’s book, a short movie, and music. We always want to improve our program year after year, so we are excited to offer such a wide variety of character resources to our students and schools. We’re already working on next year’s curriculum and it’s going to be the best yet.

BWB: Tell us about the fair-trade prize this year?

Over the past two years, we’ve merged our heart to give back to others by integrating a giveback initiative into our program. This year, if students reach a certain prize level, they receive a hand-stitched cloth frisbee made by Guatemalan women. Not only do we get the opportunity to support a fair-trade company, but when a student reaches this prize level, Boosterthon makes a donation to build a playground for an underprivileged school in Guatemala. Our goal is to donate $25,000 and build three playgrounds during the summer of 2012. You can learn more about our giveback initiative “Operation Playground” here: http://vimeo.com/26350232

BWB: What motivates you on days that you want to give up?

Over ten years serving schools, we’ve had quite a few success stories—school-wide successes and individual successes. I’ll share two from last year:

With the economy in its current state, one of our schools in Atlanta, Georgia, always wanted to have a Spanish program, but could never afford it. Their goal was to raise enough money with the Boosterthon to fund a Spanish teacher’s salary for one year. They ended up raising enough for two years! When some teachers are losing their jobs, this school was able to add a teacher and a new subject.

A school counselor told us another great story. Apparently, one of her students came to her upset that he wasn’t a “leader.” She asked why and the boy said that he couldn’t be a leader because he was being a bully to another student. That year’s character theme was “Leader Launch.” One of the character traits spoke on how “Leaders are Not Bullies.”)Needless to say, we were blown away that our character program would have that kind of impact on our students. With the recent increase in bullying in America, even one student changing his or her behavior is a big win.

BWB:  Final question – where do you operate and how can a school get in touch with you?

We have teams that serve schools all over the country, but we’re located primarily in the Southeast and Midwest. Our Home Office is in Atlanta. Schools can find us online at www.boosterthon.com.

Does your child’s school or the school where you teach have Boosterthon? How has it served your students and community? Please tell your story below.

Are you interested in having BWB feature you and your organization on our blog one Better World Wednesday? Share a bit of your story in the comments below and we’ll get back with you.

3 Comments

  1. Jatalo is a company that sells backpacks and bracelets to provide textbooks for children in developing countries. For every bracelet they sell, they donate a textbook to a child in need, and for ever backpack they sell, they donate an entire year’s worth of textbooks to a child in need.

    Jatalo’s founder visited India and saw how many children both needed and wanted an education that they could not afford. He created a line of ethnically-inspired backpacks and a one-for-one donation model to raise money for those children’s textbooks. By communicating directly with rural schools, Jatalo has been able to directly meet the needs of eager schoolchildren.

    Texas’s channel 33 did a piece on Jatalo here – http://www.the33tv.com/about/station/newsteam/kdaf-north-texas-teenager-creates-company-to-help-children-in-india-20110930,0,6134333.story – as well.

  2. You might want to Google Boosterthon and see what others are saying about it…also..I have not confirmed this but many people are stating that they charge $2000 and take 48% of the pledges the school brings in. The prizes are crappy and they basically disrupt classes for 9 days.

  3. The Boosterthon was fun at the beginning but is now becoming a pain. They come into your room for 10 minutes during your lesson, pumps the kids up, distracts other classes by the cheering, and hands off prizes for the kids. After they leave, I am spent dealing with active kids who can’t settle down after that.

    I understand that they are there to help out the schools, but I am sure there are better options than this. With our state’s testing coming up in 2 weeks, it’s distracting the teachers and the students. It’s really all about the prizes for the kids and for them to hassle their parents for it. I am over it.

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