Due to the novel coronavirus, a group of sport management students kept their annual fundraiser alive by going virtual, and ended up raising $2,247 for the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

The group, as part of the Sport Management 489 capstone class, turned their planned 5K run into a “virtual 5K.” Each of the 69 participants tracked their runs on the UA MapMyRun mobile app between April 4-11. All money gathered by the project team was from runner entrance fees and a corresponding auction.

“Since everyone has been social distancing or in quarantine, we thought we could market this event as a way for people to get outside and exercise, while also supporting a great organization and cause,” said Claire Smith, a student in the class and one of the group leaders. “We also encouraged our participants to follow CDC guidelines while completing their 5Ks.”

Each year, hosting a fundraiser is a fundamental component of the Sport Management 489 capstone class. The students use all the management, marketing, legal, communication, and operations skills they’ve learned about over the course of their time in the program and put that to the test through some sort of event.

“We simply choose to do charity events because it’s who we are and it furthers the philanthropic mission of the university and our college,” clinical assistant professor Chris Lebens said.

Lebens said students can pick their philanthropy; it’s not chosen by the faculty. This year, the group chose the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, which supports charitable work in areas of campus safety, amateur athletics, and animal welfare. They called the event the McCluskey Virtual Run for Campus Safety.

Closeup of Jill and Kylie Lensegrav
Jill and Kylie Lensegrav post a picture of their run for the McCluskey Virtual Run for Campus Safety.

“We decided on the McCluskey Foundation because Lauren was a Pullman resident and star track athlete,” Smith said. “We also felt strongly about the Campus Safety portion in the foundation, since that is becoming increasingly important around the country. The McCluskey family was very open to us doing what we wanted to and supported all of our ideas.”

Lauren McCluskey was murdered on the University of Utah campus on October 22, 2018. As stated on the foundation website: “A worldwide outpouring of grief testified to the light she brought during her life. The Lauren McCluskey Foundation was established to ensure that her light will live on.”

Lauren McCluskey’s mom Jill said her family and the foundation has received a lot of support from WSU students.

“I thought it was wonderful that the students wanted to make a difference,” she said. “We have received so much support from WSU students.  They have made such a difference.”

Lauren’s dad, Matthew, said he was “delighted” the students contacted the family.

“Their event was a huge success, especially considering the short amount of time and the COVID-19 situation,” he said. “I’m amazed and very grateful.”

Desiree Stinger, one of the project leads, said it was unfortunate that COVID-19 thwarted some of the substantial time and efforts that the team had already put in. Yet she said she was proud of the way the group adapted and still helped the event come to fruition.

“It initially was disappointing to be so close and yet so far,” she said. “Other groups had to cancel their events completely, but we were lucky that we were able to transition our event to a virtual one.”

Traditionally, the sport management fundraisers have included successful bowling tournaments, Easter Egg hunts, water balloon events, baseball speed pitch competitions, and fun runs.

Last year, with a combination of concerts and sports trivia and auction events, the students raised $25,000 for the Hilinski’s Hope foundation.

For those interested in supporting the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, donations can be accepted at www.laurenmccluskey.org or by buying on Amazon through https://smile.amazon.com/. For quick news on events and other initiatives, the foundation now has social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Those interested in volunteering can contact Matt McCluskey at mattmcc@laurenmccluskey.org