Two sophomores at Cardinal Gibbons High raise nearly $12,000 for hunger

vbridges@newsobserver.comApril 27, 2014 

  • Do it yourself

    Advice from Cooper Meyer and Austin Sealey on putting together a charity event:

    • Potential sponsors and others will turn you down, but don’t give up on your idea.

    • Don’t be afraid to talk people into attending your event by letting them know how much fun it’s going to be and the good it will do.

    • Be open to ideas and suggestions from anyone about your event.

    • Add touches that you enjoy.

    • Have fun with whatever you decide to do.

After volunteering at the Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen in Raleigh, Austin Sealey and Cooper Meyer decided they wanted to do more.

So the two 16-year-old sophomores at Cardinal Gibbons High in Raleigh decided to put together a day of fun and exercise and ended up raising nearly $12,000 in four hours to feed the hungry in the Triangle.

Cooper was also a regular participant in the annual Raleigh Orthopaedic 24-hour Bike Challenge, which raises money to assist youth organizations through an event that requires teams to have at least one member riding a stationary bike during a 24-hour period.

“He had told me about it, and that was what really what got the idea started,” Austin said.

In September, Cooper and Austin started discussing combining physical activity, a gathering for family and friends and raising money for the hungry.

They dubbed the event “LIFT,” as the effort sought to lift people up wherever they were, Cooper said.

The funds were donated to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, a hunger-relief organization serving seven counties in and around the Triangle, and Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen, which serves a free lunch to anyone who walks through its doors.

Austin and Cooper put together a presentation explaining their planned event, which centered on raising money through sponsorships of teams running miles.

After striking out twice in a quest for a host venue, Austin and Cooper reached out in January to Jaime Holt, a Raleigh Orthopaedic sports physical therapist who helped organized the 24-hour Bike Challenge.

“He was probably like the biggest help out of anybody,” Austin said.

Holt talked to Raleigh Orthopaedic, which agreed to have the event at their building on Edwards Mill Road.

Austin and Cooper worked with Holt to hone their mission, created a website and designed T-shirts to raise additional money.

“After we had created all that, the main focus on our minds was to be able to get people to sign up for our event and be able to make it successful,” Cooper said.

They reached out to their friends, their parents’ friends and others.

About a week before the April 5 event, about 25 teams, or 100 people total, signed up, but nearly twice as many people actually attended.

“We ended up having 44 teams show up,” Cooper said. “Almost 200 people were there.”

Real estate company Coldwell Banker Howard Perry and Walston, one of the event’s sponsors, donated $250 for every mile a team completed.

Other funds were raised through direct donations and T-shirt sales.

Cooper and Austin said they walked away from the event with a newfound confidence to make good things happen and a rich happiness that followed.

“It just felt good,” Austin said.

Don Walston, owner of Howard Perry and Walston, said he was impressed that the boys were smart enough to start small to work out the kinks but still ended up raising a lot of money.

When Walston was Cooper and Austin’s age, he said, he was more prone to thinking about getting into trouble instead of doing good for people in need.

“If we had a bunch of kids like that in the world, it would be better,” he said.

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