Sweet Success: The Central Pennsylvania Chapter Unites for a Cause

May 1, 2011

Editor’s note: Members of PRSA”s Central Pennsylvania Chapter contributed the following article.

PRSA’s Central Pennsylvania Chapter pulled together this past September, combining PR expertise and compassion to help a colleague in need with their “Kupkakes for Kris” campaign.

Their compassion for cancer-stricken Chapter member Kris Green, 41, inspired organizers to put their decades of PR experience to use.  Together, they raised more than $6,300 in less than 30 days to help cover Green’s medication and funeral expenses, as well as establish a foundation in her honor. 

Making a plan
A member of the Central Pennsylvania PR community, Green began experiencing back pain in October 2009.  An emergency room visit in January 2010 revealed the root problem of her pain: Stage IV lung cancer called adenocarcinoma.

Although Green underwent treatment for her cancer, it continued to spread. Green continued to fight her diagnosis with her husband Mike Williams.

In July, the couple received notification that the treatment had failed, and additional treatment wasn’t available.

Debra S.  Tingley,  APR, a past Chapter president, suggested a blood drive. She called Green and her husband on a Friday evening in August to extend the offer. Later that day, she received a call from Williams.

“Mike asked me if I meant what I had said earlier about helping. I said ‘yes,’” recalls Tingley.  “Then he said, with a great deal of emotion and a huge amount of bravery, that what they really needed was help to pay for Kris’s funeral or funds for medication.

“I was stunned by what I heard,” she says. “I promised I would get the job done.”

Tingley said she fretted all weekend, wondering what she could do to keep her promise.

Then it came to her: “Kupkakes for Kris.”

“I remember thinking, ‘Cupcakes.  Who doesn’t love them and have fond memories of making them or eating them?’” 

Tingley says. “It was lighthearted, exactly what was needed to deal with the difficult story of Green while also establishing a legacy in her honor.”

Tingley reached out to five PR professionals, who all immediately agreed to help.  Their first conference call on Aug. 25 ended with a plan to hold a fundraiser on Sept. 23. 

 “We literally mapped out a long-range PR strategy in about two hours.  We assigned research tactics, logistical tactics,” Tingley says. “A week later, we came back together with a plan to launch Kupkakes for Kris here in Central Pennsylvania and nationwide.”

Chapter members Linda Burkley,  APR, Chrisy Leo,  APR,  Jean Waverka,  APR, Nance McGown and Mandi Glantz said that they were on board.  Without a budget, the group had to seek donations to execute its plan.

Time was critical due to the severity of Green’s condition.  The group wanted her to experience the power of the Kupkake effort before she died.

So, in less than 30 days, the Kupkakes team managed to galvanize support and arrange all the logistics.

Leaving a legacy
The Chapter held the fundraiser at Hershey Farmers Market and Hershey Center for Applied Research, which is across the street from the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center where Green worked and had served as lead on the Medical Center’s Cancer Institute opening.

The PRSSA Messiah College Chapter sent students to help on the day of the event, issued press releases and arranged a live broadcast from the site so that Green — who was now too ill to attend — could participate.  The students also put together and hosted their own Kupkake event that raised $1,300.

“What they did for Kris, a woman they had never met, was an event that rivaled any that would have been done by a professional special events firm,” Williams says.  “What made it even more special was it was done purely out of love.”

As a lasting tribute to Green, the Kupkakes team organized a foundation to help cancer-stricken families who are unable to pay for funeral expenses.

They are applying for a 501(c)3 status and continue to accept donations at www.kupkakesforkris.com.  Tingley says that the group plans to appeal to all PRSA Chapters to adopt the charity and hold events in their areas.

Green passed away in early October.

“She was profoundly touched by what these women did and so very proud of the PR profession that she was blessed to be part of,” says Williams. “Kupkakes gave her joy and peace of mind in the final weeks of her life.

“It kept her going,” he continues. “There is no way to capture the importance and brilliance of what these women did in a few short weeks.”

In 30 days, Kupkakes for Kris team members came together and pooled their PR skills, contacts and energy to create a memorable and successful fundraiser. Their tactics included:

  • Reaching out to United Way and American Cancer Society for assistance and advice
  • Approaching a graphic designer to create a logo
  • Finding a location for the fundraiser
  • Securing the donation of 3,000 cupcakes from a local caterer and containers for takeout orders
  • Creating collateral materials
  • Developing a website with online donation functionality
  • Notifying PR groups in Central Pennsylvania such as IABC, the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society and the Pennsylvania Society of Association Executives to secure assistance
  • Placing media calls to share the Kupkake story and encourage widespread media support
  • Approaching PRSA Chapters to tell them about Kupkakes and ask for support.  (The Eastern Michigan and Chicago Chapters of PRSA also held local Kupkake events and sent the proceeds to Central Pennsylvania Chapter.)
  • Producing posters and other support materials for the event, with an eye for re-use in the future


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