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Sport Management students raise $25,000 for Hilinski’s Hope

Group photo of the students
Members of the sport management 489 team (from left to right) Bettina Beverly, Andrew Cooper, Barbora Michalkova, Jaycob Kuhman, Nathaniel Collier, and Jillian Ohlemeier.

By Katie Merrick, College of Education

The numbers are in and WSU sport management students raised a grand total of $25,000 for the Hilinski’s Hope foundation this past year as part of their capstone courses.

Clinical assistant professor Chris Lebens helped five-member teams of students in sport management 489 build charity events for the foundation from scratch. The students hosted two fundraising events last spring and four in the fall.

The goal was to raise enough money for Hilinski’s Hope in order to start a $25,000 endowed scholarship specifically for quarterbacks at WSU. Before his death, Tyler Hilinski was the heir apparent at WSU quarterback and the inspiration for the Hilinski’s Hope foundation.

Hilinski planned to major in sport management, making the foundation a suitable choice for his WSU peers to raise money.

The fundraising began with two events in spring 2018, a Liv3 Lov3 Lif3 concert that raised $3,000 and a Cougar Sports Trivia & Auction that raised $2,500.

In fall 2018, the students hosted another Cougar Sports Trivia & Auction that raised almost $8,000. This event was followed by the Watch Party with Tyler, which raised a little more than $3,000; the Run for 3, three-mile fundraising run, which raised more than $4,500; and another Liv3 Lov3 Lif3 concert, which raised almost $2,000.

“The goal of this capstone course is to integrate all the aspects they’ve learned in sport management, by planning, executing, and evaluating a sporting event as a philanthropic venture,” Lebens said. “The students are allowed to pick their philanthropy, it is not directed by me or the sport management program.”

Students also had the opportunity to work closely with Kym Hilinski, Tyler’s mother, while putting together and hosting the fundraising events.

“Chris asked us to come and speak with the classes,” Hilinski said.  “That was a really emotional experience because I sat there, and I was looking at these beautiful students and their eyes were so big and they’re so young and so sweet and they were just so driven to help and do good things. That was so touching.”

Lebens also noted the impact the experience has had on the Hilinski family.

“It’s been a lot of fun because they got to see the academic side,” Lebens said. “It meant a lot to them to see the students because they are Tyler’s classmates and they are different from his teammates.”

The foundation’s goal is to raise $2 million to be able to send practical tools to universities that request them.

Lebens said his hope is the spring 2019 semester will be the most successful to date in terms of raising money for Hilinksi’s Hope because it is the semester Tyler would have taken sport management 489.

“The goal of the class this semester is to raise the same two million dollars,” he said. “If our goal is their goal, no matter what we can’t fail.”

Sport management 489 students will plan and execute three events for Hilinski’s Hope this semester. These events will be a mom’s weekend bowling event, a breakfast bingo bonanza, and an attempt at a viral challenge.

“I think we have been very successful so far. If we compare the data from the ice bucket challenge, we are further ahead,” said Barbora Michalkova, lead of the viral challenge team. “In the first week, we made over $4,000 and gained 1,840,766 impressions. Currently, we have raised around $7,000.”

The viral challenge launched March 3 and the students will continue maintaining control through WSU’s Mom’s Weekend. After that, the students plan to give the project to Kym Hilinski and the Hilinski’s Hope foundation so they can continue the project.

Nate Collier, social media coordinator for the student team said, “I think the idea behind it was really unique because there are no instructions for a viral challenge.”

The mission of Hilinski’s Hope is to raise awareness of the stigma of mental health in athletics, but the unspoken mission is to keep Tyler’s name alive and that is what these students are doing.

Hilinski said her son’s story and what the foundation is trying to do has touched many people.

“Coug nation, current students, the alumni, many professors and so many organizations at the school have been unbelievable,” she said. “They have been so kind and so supportive, including the sport management classes.”

Because the sport management capstone class is about process rather than any individual philanthropy, this semester will likely be the last for Hilinski’s Hope.

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