PULLMAN, Wash. – John Wong was wowed when his Washington State University students raised $7,957 for charities as they completed a sport management course requirement.
What wowed his students was how much they learned by organizing seven fund-raising events this spring. Among other things, they experienced the power of doing good.
“If you’re benefiting a noble cause, people will want to be involved,” said Colin Maher, whose group, Wong’s Walkers, put together the Palouse Walk to raise money for diabetes research.
Putting concepts into practice
Wong used to require his Sport Management 489 students to plan a hypothetical sport or sport-related event. But since fall 2009, he has asked them to plan, execute and evaluate a real charity fund-raising event. That includes creating a budget, soliciting sponsorships and paying bills.
“I grade them on how well they take the concepts they learn from their sport management classes and put them into practice,” said Wong, an assistant professor in the WSU College of Education. “This is where the rubber meets the road.”
The students were organized into seven groups. The charities that benefited from their efforts were: Hearts in Motion, $794; St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, $362; Pullman Humane Society, $1,859; Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation, $1,314; Sport Management Club, $328; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, $2,673, and Jim Noland Foundation, $334.
Learning to adjust
“We learned to adapt, to work around things that didn’t go our way,” said student Brian Bickford. His group organized a soccer tournament that helped the Jim Noland Foundation, which provides scholarships to students whose parents died of cancer.
“We created multiple brackets and time schedules for our event, but had to change our plans and adapt because two teams did not show up,” Bickford said.
 
Students in Chelsea Stocks’ group also learned flexibility and persistence when they organized a fun run. The event, which coincided with WSU’s Mom’s Weekend, raised money for breast cancer awareness.
“It was very important for us to just keep going, no matter what happened,” she said.
 
Students want to do more
Bri Thomas agreed. Her group organized a darts tournament at the My Office bar to raise money for the Pullman animal shelter.
“People were very willing to help us when they learned what our cause was,” she said. “Jeff and Heather Packer, owners of My Office, especially made the event special.
“My biggest regret was that we do not have the ability to make these events annual,” she said.
Other students heard the same refrain: Too bad this can’t be an annual event. But Wong will be teaching the same course come fall, sending other students out into the community to learn new skills and help good causes.