Bake sale, raffle, spaghetti dinner—all perfectly respectable ways to support your favorite charity.
But if you prefer something a little edgier, try gathering some friends for a man-versus-machine showdown against a 5,000 pound Humvee.
That’s exactly what dozens of college students did in April, in a high-energy Humvee pushing competition sponsored by the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore—all to raise money for the USO.
Event organizer Michael St. Germain, a 19-year-old international studies major and Army ROTC cadet, says his fraternity president had asked him to come up with fundraising ideas for the USO.
At the same time he heard about a Humvee push as part of an ROTC competition. In fact, the military frequently uses Humvee pushing as a training and team building exercise.
“It just kind of clicked,” says St. Germain, “To have people pay to push a Humvee.”
He devised a simple yet original fundraising plan to appeal to a college crowd.
Students entered the contest in teams of ten, with a minimum of three girls per team. The entry fee was $10 per person. Each group had to push the Humvee about 50 meters through a campus parking lot until they hit a mark, then turn around and push it back.
The campus ROTC leader helped secure a military Humvee, local restaurants donated gift cards for prizes, and on a cool, gray Saturday morning, about 150 students turned out to flex their muscles against three tons of camouflage-colored steel on wheels.
“As soon as we heard about the Humvee push, it caught everyone’s attention because it’s so unique and it sounded like a good challenge,” says Kale Sweeney, who belongs to another campus fraternity.
Sweeney’s team, composed entirely of varsity athletes from the men’s football and women’s soccer teams, took first place, completing the course in just 44.2 seconds.
With 13 teams competing, plus some extra donations, Fiji raised about $2,000 for the USO.
“It’s nothing to sneeze at for a grassroots effort by 19- and 20-year-olds who haven’t done this kind of thing before,” says Pamela Horton from the USO of Metropolitan Washington.
The USO and Fiji began a national partnership last year, and so far more than 20 Fiji chapters have held fundraisers.
At Johns Hopkins, St. Germain says the intra-fraternity council has struggled to schedule solid, on-campus events, and the Humvee push was so popular, they’ve asked him to plan it again in the fall.
“There’s only about 5,000 kids on campus, and especially for a first time event, getting 150 people is pretty good,” he says. “It provided a great opportunity to have fun on campus, but also raise money for an excellent charity.” – Malini Wilkes, USO Director of Story Development