Causes Leader Monica Simo believes everyone should have the opportunity to participate in summer camps. She also understands that camps aren’t financially feasible for some families. “Camps can cost as much as $300 a week, and some families just can’t afford that.” Searching for a place to volunteer and make a difference, Monica talked to her brother-in-law who works at PlaySmart, a nonprofit organization raising funds to send low-income middle schoolers to one week or two week summer camps. Monica realized she could help and in a matter of weeks, she created a fundraising campaign on Causes.com that raised enough money to send 30 low-income middle schoolers to a summer camp in Oklahoma for a week.
Equipped with information about the latest summer camp in Oklahoma City, Monica decided a fundraising campaign would be a great way for people to give back. “I helped my brother-in-law look over the budget and thought I could create a social media campaign to help raise funds.” She searched online for community organizing tools and found Causes.com. “The integration with social media sites like Facebook got me really excited. I have 1,000 friends and I knew I could reach them easily.”
The PlaySmart Academy focuses on fitness through a variety of fun sports, educational workshops about nutrition, and mentoring. The kids play basketball, soccer, and football, but are also encouraged to learn new, more off-the-beaten-path, sports like lacrosse. “That’s a sport that a lot of inner-city kids don’t have the chance to play because it’s more expensive.” Swimming is also a priority for PlaySmart. Monica said, “Swimming is not only a fun activity, but it can save your life.”
Studies have shown that low-income children are more prone to obesity and diabetes simply because of where they live and the founders of PlaySmart wanted to change that. Monica notes, ““Nearly half of young people from ages 12-21 don’t participate in any vigorous physical activity on a regular basis.” The local park you go to every week to play soccer is unlikely to exist for a child living in poverty.
Monica crafted her fundraising campaign by focusing on the amount necessary to send at least one student to a camp: $30 would send one child to camp for a day; $150 would send one child to camp for a week. Monica knew the donation amounts were critical to the fundraiser, but even she was pleasantly surprised by her strategy. “My friend told me that he never gives less than $20, so when it came time to donate, he gave $30 since it was the option.” Slowly, the donations began to trickle in. With each transaction, one more child would have the opportunity to meet new friends, play new sports, and encounter a new crop of mentors. More importantly, the summer camp is the foundation for a longterm plan to create a versatile community for low-income children. “[PlaySmart is] trying to make it more of a recurring program. They are trying to get quarterly meetups on the weekends to get people together and check in, and see how they are doing.”
As of this week, Monica has raised $5,500 for The PlaySmart Academy. “We are at a point where we have funded the entire cost of the camp. [PlaySmart] can now send an additional 30 kids somewhere because they have these funds.” More summer fun in the sun for kids? We can get down with that.