By Donovan Baltich
Mark never imagined himself sitting across the table from a CEO and executives of a major corporation — at least, not until after he graduated from high school.
But that’s just how far the 17-year-old from Irvine, California was willing to go to raise money and awareness for Operation Underground Railroad’s mission. Mark Tenney’s campaign, “Ride the Railroad,” has been in development for a year and will kick off this July. With a goal of raising $250,000, it is well on its way with $96,000 pledged thus far.
Mark and his brother met O.U.R. founder Tim Ballard when he came to the Tenney’s house for dinner and to share O.U.R.’s mission. “My brother and I were just so impressed — what a self-less job, rescuing kids. We wanted to help out by telling all our friends about it,” Mark said. “We always thought about how we could raise money for this organization, but I’m not in a position to donate a large sum of money myself.”
The Tenneys are a family of cyclists — and living in Irvine, they know many other cyclists. Mark came up with the idea to have a 450-mile bicycle race down the coast of California, from Santa Cruz to Laguna, during the week of July 26–30.
But individual contributions wouldn’t be enough to reach a quarter-of-a-million in funds for rescuing kids, so Mark reached out to corporations for sponsorships.
“The first time I met with a potential corporate sponsor, it was with Golden State Foods, and I was really intimidated sitting across from the CEO and other executives, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you become,” he said.
“Ride the Railroad” won’t start for another two months, hopefully allowing the campaign to pick up its final contributions to reach its goal, which would fund five separate missions at $50,000 a piece.
“It will all be worth it — all the hard work and time we’ve done — is all worth it, and I’m excited to see it happen,” Mark said.
Mark’s mother, Elizabeth Tenney, estimates her family has put in more than 1,000 hours preparing for the “Ride the Railroad” campaign, and Mark alone, five–ten hours a week. O.U.R.’s mission has affected every member of the Tenney family. “The people involved in O.U.R. are so special. They’re not just good people; they’re exceptionally good people,” Elizabeth said.
Anyone can make a difference; Mark is proof of that. You can follow his lead by starting your own campaign or supporting someone else’s. Since September 2014, 92 abolitionists have created campaigns, and they’ve raised $299,020.73 through YourRescue.org.
Raising money for Operation Underground Railroad has never been easier with the launch of YourRescue.org site. On the page, you can start your own campaign or browse dozens of others to get involved in.
The possibilities for your own campaign are endless: from dance parties at Cal State Fullerton to collecting donations at your band’s shows. One community in Bountiful, Utah hosted a silent auction, a race and an event night with Tim Ballard, raising more than $100,000.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN YOURrescue CAMPAIGN
Whether big or small, follow these eight tips to create an impactful YOURrescue Campaign.
1. Make the first donation. Listen: you can get the momentum going before you’ve even written your first fund request. Donate to the cause you believe in to get the ball rolling.
2. Send out emails. Your friends are dying to get something more meaningful in their inbox. They are good people who are happy to help. Send out personalized emails to the people you know before reaching out to the people you don’t. Just take two paragraphs to explain your cause, your goals and how they can donate to your campaign. Link to O.U.R. pages and stories that moved you. Don’t be afraid to follow up, and make sure to say thank you for every donation.
3. Announce your campaign via social media. We love social media! Let everyone on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram know what you’re doing and how they can help. Here are 140 characters to help you get started: Children all over the world are ensnared in the horrors of human trafficking. We can change that. Join my campaign: (link to your campaign here.)
4. Reach out to your inner circle. Call, email and send notes to your mom, dad, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and that kindergarten teacher you’ve kept in touch with for three decades. They are interested in your cause and will want to help you make a difference.
5. Utilize grassroots marketing. Call your local newspaper, local news station and local radio shows. Ask them how you can work together to raise awareness.
6. Do giveaways. Approach local businesses to see if they will donate to your campaign.
For example, do you know someone who makes the most amazing holiday wreaths? Ask them to give one wreath to every person who donates more than $50. Your giveaways will publicize the products of the participating business while also giving incentives for more donations.
7 Have fun. Your campaign can be a blast! Hold fundraising events that you’d want to be a part of even if you weren’t involved in planning them; get your friends involved, hold bake sales, or sell vintage clothing in pop-up shops. Use this as an opportunity to get creative while making a difference.
8 Remember, no matter how much you raise – from $5 to $50,000 – you are using your time to help children. We are grateful and they are grateful and you’ve made a meaningful difference.