On Sunday, October 22, the Public Relations Student Society of America’s Montclair State University chapter got a chance to develop an important public relations skill – fundraising – by taking on a disease that kills more than 40,000 women each year – breast cancer. The PRSSA held its first of what it hopes to be an annual charity event to raise money for the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. The inaugural event, “The 2k Walking Dead For Life” raised $1,000.
“As we got into planning the walk, we thought it would be pretty easy,” says MSU PRSSA chapter president, Sabrina Araullo. “But, just when we thought we had everything planned, something else popped up, and we had to scurry around to take care of it. There are just so many subsets of event planning, and if you overlook one little thing, it could be disastrous to the entire event.”
The October 22 event itself was a new play on the well known “Walk for Life” fundraisers – a “2k Walking Dead for Life.” The event operated as a typical walk for life, where participants would donate or be sponsored and stroll a large track to benefit the chosen charity, however, the PRSSA’s version had a unique twist. This charity had participants adorned in make-up and costumes simulating the horror movie staple – zombies. Post-walk, participants were judged by movie and theatre costume and make-up designers for best costume. This year judges included Linda Cho, a Tony Award-winning costume designer, and two costume designers for film, Carisa Kelly and Amit Gajwani. Other notables in attendance included Director for Development for the John Theurer Cancer Center, Nancy Kennedy, who came on to the event on behalf of the medical center, and Robert Jackson, Montclair’s mayor.
Araullo recalls all the business and public relations skills that were needed to make the event as successful as it was, from choosing a venue, budgeting, music, prizes, food, contracting workers, to spreading awareness of the event itself through traditional publicity, digital PR, and social media marketing. All of these skills needed to be developed by members to better prepare them for professional careers in public relations.
“These are important PR skills we learn in class, but in the case of the October event, we also learned them by doing, and the best thing of all is that we learned all those skills while helping something so important – raising money to help in the treatment of breast cancer,” recalls Araullo.
From her perch as the president of the PRSSA, Sabrina also wanted to provide the younger members with the opportunities and special skill sets “I wish I had been able to develop earlier in my college career.” Araullo feels their chapter needs to organize more events to really give the members an opportunity to learn and hone their skills. The timing for this event was apt, and Araullo hopes that more events will create a better sense of community for the university.
The MSU PRSSA is best known for its annual Autism New Jersey benefit in April of each year, but Sabrina is planning a full slate of events during the course of the academic year to give the chapter members a chance to polish their PR skills while also burnishing their PR bona fides.