By Libby Rosequist
This year has been full of unexpected difficulties, and that is especially true for the family of Aidan Zaphiris Mack who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in September.
He is the son of Dr. Thomas Mack of North East Chiropractic and Dr. Anne Zaphiris, director of Organizational Leadership at Mercyhurst University.
Four students at Mercyhurst, Gianna Zacherl, Ahmad Powell, Kofi Osei and Mia Burns, were tasked with a project in a social media marketing class intended to benefit the community using social media platforms.
“We knew exactly who we wanted to help; we thought that we could make a difference through raising awareness for Aidan and money for the cause,” Zacherl said. “The family requested that all of the proceeds be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”
With the pandemic still in full effect, the team had to brainstorm just how they were going to create a fundraiser without generating a crowd and still representing Aidan and his interests.
Aidan attends Mercyhurst Prep and is an avid soccer player and soccer enthusiast.
“Due to COVID-19, our team quickly came up with an idea to get people excited about,” Zacherl said. “We wanted to show Aidan support through coming together and staying active while maintaining social distance by hosting a virtual 3K race.”
The team organized the details of the race, contacted businesses for door prizes, and began accepting registrations for the race and donations through Eventbrite.
Donors included the Bel-Aire Hotel, Lucky Crane Studio, Rustic and Refined, Hairphenalia, Seamless Nights Boutique, Cab Bar & Grill, Erie Art Museum, Mercyhurst University Fashion Merchandising Program, and Sandbar Suds.
Instagram and Facebook were the core social media platforms used to promote the race. The team also reached out on these platforms to organizations who knew Aidan and asked if they would share the race.
Registrants chose the location of their 3K and tracked their distance using Fitbit, Apple Watch, or another app of their choice. Registrants were encouraged to share their photos on social media to maintain momentum during the Nov. 6-13 event.
With a goal of raising $2,000, the students were able to well surpass this and double the amount by raising $4,000 to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“We were unsure of our goal to raise $2,000, but we stayed hopeful that we would get enough support,” Zacherl said. “Fundraising during a pandemic had its challenges, but it didn’t stop our team from trying our best.
“We were blown away by the amount of support we received, as we didn’t expect to exceed our fundraising goal by so much. We are so grateful that we were able to raise that much money in a short amount of time for such a great cause through the use of social media.
“I believe this project is an ideal representation how even during a pandemic, people were able to come together to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
Aidan’s family members were also surprised by the amount of love and support received during this time.
“Zacherl is my work-study student and has met Aidan several times, but we were overwhelmed by their generosity and thinking of us during such a difficult time,” Anne said. “Aidan, Tom and I are truly thankful for the students putting this together and the community helping us support and raise that much money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”
Currently, Aidan is receiving treatment at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and is continuing his journey to health.