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Creative UCF Students Raise $1.25M for the Kids

The University of Central Florida’s Knight-Thon student philanthropy group revealed Sunday it has raised $1.25 million in the past year for Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Central Florida’s Children’s Miracle Network hospital.

The record number of $1,250,961 is $249,283 more than last year’s total and was raised by teams of students led by Knight-Thon’s 150 student members. Knight-Thon is the largest student-run philanthropy group at UCF.

Students collected for a year leading up to Knight-Thon, where more than 1,000 students danced in the CFE Arena for 20 hours this past weekend to “stand for those kids who can’t,” said Alex Diaz, Knight-Thon’s communications manager. “There are kids in the hospital fighting for their lives who can’t physically stand with us, but they know we’re standing for them.”

Knight-Thon for 21 years has given UCF students an outlet to give back, but also to showcase their creativity.

Paige Wilson, for instance, combined her photography skills with her passion of helping children in need. Her friends at the end of the fall 2016 semester asked if she would take their graduation and professional headshot photos, and that’s when the idea came: She could use photography as a means to raise money for Knight-Thon.

Wilson began charging $5 for professional headshot photos, often used for student’s LinkedIn profiles, but due to the demand she was able to up the price to $15 to benefit the charitable campaign. She also began charging $20 for a graduation photo session, but increased it to $30.

“It just really took off through my photography Instagram account and through word of mouth,” she said.

Previously, Wilson sought donations by approaching people around campus. People would donate spare change and a few dollars, but she quickly found photography was a more effective way to fundraise. She took 40 headshot photos, graduation photos for four people and raised $700 through photography alone. In total, she raised $1,000 for Knight-Thon.

Bianca Ungerman, a senior studying hospitality who has a love of supernatural stories, channeled her former screenwriting studies to create a fictional ghost tour around campus at Halloween. One of the stories she told was of a late student who haunts every Spirit Splash because she never caught a UCF Homecoming rubber duck.

“I love going on ghost tours when I visit new places, and so I thought this would be a fun way to raise money,” Ungerman said. “I went on my first ghost tour in Key West as a kid and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Three ghost tours drew 130 attendees, raising about $150 for Ungerman’s Knight-Thon fundraising drive. She charged $1 for the tour, but some donated more.

Halloween wasn’t her only holiday-themed fundraising event. For Valentine’s Day, Ungerman offered $10 cakes and raised $100. These events helped her meet her personal fundraising goal of $1,000.

Freshman biomedical sciences student Eric Topolewski put his outgoing personality and hobby of performing to use for Knight-Thon. By wearing elaborate costumes like Marvel Comics’ Deadpool character, Topolewski raised $632 of his $1,532 total by simply asking for donations around campus.

“Costumes catch people’s eyes,” said Topolewski. “When you’re wearing a costume, people take the time to figure out what you’re doing. It shows people you’re really committed to whatever you’re advocating for.”

Plus, Topolewski is used to wearing costumes. He’s a Halloween Horror Nights scare actor at Universal Studios, and formerly was his high school’s mascot and participated in theater.

“All that experience just led to me wearing costumes again to benefit Knight-Thon,” he said.