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By Claire Horne, UNC Health Foundation

Crowdfunding uses the power of social networking and the internet to impact causes that people care about. For the UNC wrestling team, helping patients and families who get treatment at UNC Children’s is a cause they care about, with crowdfunding providing a financial lifeline to families at a time of great need.

Since 2018, the Carolina wrestling program has partnered with UNC Children’s to raise funds for a variety of needs. The team is currently leading a crowdfunding campaign throughout their 2021-22 schedule to raise money for The FARM Fund for Patient and Family Assistance. Their goal is to raise $8,000 for the fund and present a check to UNC Children’s at the end of the season.

Tylor Morris shows off his signed t-shirt.
UNC wrestling’s honorary “Kid Captain” Tylor Morris, from Carthage, NC, wears a shirt signed by members of the team.

In addition to the fundraiser, the Tar Heels will name an honorary kids captain from the hospital for every home dual. Each captain will be invited to attend the duals and join the team captains for the opening coin flip.

The FARM Fund for Patient and Family Assistance helps families whose children are receiving care at the hospital cover critical expenses such as food, transportation, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and more. As the COVID-19 pandemic enters a third year, this program is a lifeline for many patients and families.

UNC wrestling associate head coach Tony Ramos explained why giving back is important to him personally and to his team:

“We’re a blue-collar sport. A lot of our athletes – and I know myself, I was a first-generation college student – don’t come from money. And if something like being hospitalized had happened to us when we were younger, I imagine our parents and our families would have needed some help too. We want to help any way we can with parents who might be missing work or can’t afford their rent or food, or whatever it might be, because they’re at the hospital with their child at one of the most important times of their life.”

UNC Children’s supported 162 families in 2020-21 through their aid program and is on pace to exceed that this fiscal year, with 107 families helped so far. Any assistance provided must be connected to the patient’s medical care and goes to families who have a demonstrated need.

“We come from a sport where on a daily basis you’re competing against someone,” Ramos said. “It’s a struggle, it’s a fight. And we wanted to show our athletes what real struggles and real fights might look like and what people go through.”

Kathryn Hunter, Director of Development at UNC Health Foundation, has worked with Coach Ramos through the years to help channel the team’s goals for giving back.

“When the wrestling team asked, ‘what can we do to partner with you,’ we spoke about driving dollars through the door as the most impactful thing they can do right now, because there is just so much need that comes about in the Children’s hospital,” says Hunter.

Having flexible funding available is ‘like gold,’ says Hunter. Flexible funding can directly deliver resources to patients and families that other funding sometimes can’t.

Team members have shared the crowdfunding story and link with family, friends and networks through emails and social posts. Several former team members have also gotten involved and made donations.

UNC wrestling’s strong record of partnership with UNC Children’s helps patients and families, but also teaches team members about the benefits of helping others, through their philanthropy and through visits with children at the hospital.

“It’s helped them to learn that it’s not all about them,” Ramos said. “You’ve got to give back too.”

You can find more about UNC wrestling’s crowdfunding campaign here.

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