Becky Mayes is the Chapter Manager at Uplifting Athletes. The 2012 Penn State graduate directly oversees all 25 Chapters in our network and works with them to coordinate all events and campaigns aimed at raising awareness of and research funds for rare diseases.
Through her position and duties, she spent most of this fall on the road preparing 12 Chapters to hold Touchdown Pledge Drives, and working with other current and perspective Chapters to lay the ground work for future events.
In the pursuit of a successful inaugural Touchdown Pledge Drive season Becky flew more than 13,000 miles through 14 different airports and drove more than 6,500 miles through 22 states.
Back home in Harrisburg, Pa. – the location of our national non-profit headquarters – for the Holiday Season, we sat down with Becky to review and recap a busy college football season on the road.
QUESTION 1: Share with us what your experiences were this fall working closely with the college football student-athletes during the season for the first time compared to the offseason?
MAYES: Time availability of college football players is drastically different over the spring and summer when most Chapters plan their Lift For Life event versus the fall.
This football season was a big test with most of our Chapters attempting to hold a campaign through the Touchdown Pledge Drive. I needed to make sure this campaign was as simple as possible to execute while still being attractive and engaging enough for their fans to want to participate.
From a campaign planning perspective, there were no operational logistics involved which was a huge help for the student athletes – no need for them to worry about event parking, ticket sales or permit registrations. They just needed to focus on two main things: marketing their Touchdown Pledge Drive before their selected game and scoring touchdowns.
Although this campaign has less moving parts, these student-athletes have very little time available to devote to preparing for it. For me, that meant needing to be much more flexible with my time. The players at the University of Washington can’t talk until after practice on Tuesday? That means I’ll be up until at least 11pm EST to make sure they know what their next steps are and how to execute them.
Since this was also the first time many of our Chapters held a Touchdown Pledge Drive, I had a lot of Chapter visits to make early in the year. I had meetings with not only with the student-athlete leadership team but also coaches and athletics staff making sure all bases were covered and everyone was comfortable and up to speed with this campaign every step of the way.
QUESTION 2: What surprised you the most about running a first-year fundraiser this fall for 9 of our 12 Chapters?
MAYES: I pretty much went into this fall with open eyes unsure of what to expect. We have had three Chapters hold Touchdown Pledge Drives before but none with the automated software we have now.
Colgate, Princeton and Florida State all kept track of pledges manually last year which was obviously very time consuming and something we needed to find a solution to this year which we did through Pldgit.com. Even with a bit of experience last year holding three Touchdown Pledge Drives, I was most surprised by the feedback we got from the Chapter supporters and Chapter leaders.
The fans loved knowing that with every touchdown celebration, they were part of raising rare disease research funds through their pledge. Similarly, the Chapter leaders relished every touchdown a bit more knowing that meant more research funds raised for a cause close to them.
It became more than just about six points on the scoreboard, and I could see the positive impact that had for both the players and their fans.
QUESTION 3: As luck would have it you were in the stadium for some of the biggest college football games this season. Give us the one that stands out the most to you and why?
MAYES: I’ve definitely been able to witness some great football games live this year, attending at least one from each of the five major conferences. Every team and university has its own traditions, which are all fantastic to experience in person.
However, a highlight this year would be visiting Baylor for their homecoming and Touchdown Pledge Drive game on November 1st against Kansas in Waco. It was my first game in the Bears’ new stadium – which is gorgeous with the big scoreboard overlooking the river that divides it from the rest of the campus.
For the first homecoming game in the new stadium, Baylor striped the stadium green and gold coordinated by section ahead of time. The weather was great, and the Bears had an explosive day on offensive – scoring six touchdowns and raising more than $6,000 for Cerebral Palsy research.
QUESTION 4: Now that Uplifting Athletes Chapters have two fundraising opportunities on a yearly basis, how does that change the landscape of carrying out their mission beyond the obvious chance to raise more dollars?
MAYES: One of the biggest things we’ve struggled with is how to enable and allow our Chapters to engage their fan base and support network during the college football season – when they have the most people tuned into their team and the least amount of time to focus on anything besides school and football.
Having our Chapters able to now hold Touchdown Pledge Drives during the fall opens up the biggest opportunity for them to raise awareness and research funds for a rare disease that hits home for them.
This campaign also creates a more active year-long conversation about what rare diseases are, how so many people have been impacted by them, and what can be done to help.
We are definitely a huge step closer to creating national awareness for the 30 Million Americans who currently suffer from any one of the more than 7,000 rare diseases where more than 95 percent of those currently have no FDA approved treatment option.
QUESTION 5: With all those miles traveled and cities visited on the road, share with us one travel experience you’d like to forget but won’t be able to forget?
MAYES: As with anyone who is used to life on the road, I’ve become somewhat unphased by travel mishaps, crazy weather and sleepless nights. Just this fall, I’ve opened up the Dallas airport at 3:30 a.m. to fly to Phoenix so I could then drive up to Flagstaff for a 1 p.m. meeting that day.
I’ve had multiple flights cancelled which meant landing at an airport different from where I left my car and needing to rent a car one day later to retrieve my car. I drove nearly three hours to the closest available hotel after a Clemson-Florida State game in Tallahassee that ended around midnight
I was completely unprepared with no coat for a surprise cold weather spell in the beginning of October at the Illinois Chapter Touchdown Pledge Drive game at Memorial Stadium against Purdue. I’ve been on the road for more than two-thirds of this football season and have tried to embrace every part of what that entails.
From these past three months, there are a lot of very special memories – many of them coming from curveballs thrown my way. Regardless of what city I wake up in or how often my watch is set in the wrong time zone, I feel so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to enable college football players to make an incredible impact in the rare disease community.
Helping them raise more than $36,000 this fall through their Touchdown Pledge Drives makes every part of this worth it.