Fuel Our Heroes, a student-run campaign that fundraises for frontline medical professionals, launched its Penn-specific branch on May 11 to support Penn Medicine employees during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Penn initiative is directly partnered with Penn Medicine, and has raised over $7,000 with a team of 10 student ambassadors. The international organization has an ambassador network of around 80 undergraduate students, and has raised over $200,000 total in donations.
Fuel Our Heroes Penn has a goal of raising $50,000.
“Our mission is to raise donations to support members of Penn Medicine who are experiencing financial distress right now,” rising College junior and Penn Fuel Our Heroes ambassador Olivia Schwartz said. “That includes providing housing for them, childcare, food and groceries, and the [personal protective equipment] that they need.”
Fuel Our Heroes Penn is the first university-based, rather than city-based, initiative, rising College junior and ambassador Oceania Eshraghi said. While teams from other cities consist of people from different campuses, Fuel Our Heroes' partnership with Penn Medicine is an entirely university-based initiative.
“We are not working with an entire city, so part of the challenge is engaging people in the greater Philadelphia area for a Penn kind of fundraiser,” Eshraghi said.
Despite these difficulties, Penn Fuel Our Heroes has already seen community engagement and support in the form of donations and social media posts. After raising awareness of their organization’s presence on Facebook and Instagram, the Penn team emailed family and friends asking them to spread the word and donate if possible. They have since focused on social media marketing and creating other opportunities for student engagement.
“We are super dynamic with our fundraising strategies,” rising College sophomore and ambassador Larissa Borys said. “We’re trying to do different Instagram challenges, different activities like yoga Zoom classes, and a little bit of apparel fundraising.”
Fuel Our Heroes was founded by students from Dartmouth University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Tulane University on April 4 in Los Angeles, where the students went to high school together.
“We thought there was something we could do for the community since we were kind of standing idly by at home and we saw that our medical professionals were in need,” rising Vanderbilt junior and Fuel Our Heroes co-founder Simon Pompan said.
After partnering with UCLA Health to raise money for its workers, the founders decided to spread their efforts to the East Coast, which was battling high numbers of COVID-19 cases in the spring as well.
“We definitely saw the potential with college students and the importance of rallying communities around the cause,” Pompan said. “As we started to gain traction in Los Angeles, a lot of our friends from all over the country were reaching out to us wanting to get involved.”
Since its founding, Fuel Our Heroes has launched 14 active initiatives in 14 cities across the world, including New York City, Nashville, Boston, Atlanta, Hartford, Orlando, and Toronto. Each city partners with a local hospital to raise money to pay for workers' PPE and meet other needs of local hospitals.
“We thought that it was most important to engage college students, mobilize the youth, and empower students to make an impact during a time when there’s not much we can do,” Pompan said. “A lot of our parents and grandparents had to fight in wars. This is kind of our war, and we have to do our part to make a difference."