A 5-kilometer road race and fun walk will be held at 2 p.m. April 29 at the University of Maine to benefit a student-run organization’s cause: helping school children in Uganda.
The race will begin outside the New Balance Student Recreation Center, with a registration fee of $10 for students and $15 for non-students.
The road race is part of the ongoing efforts of a few college students who created a nonprofit organization called Sponsorship of New Grace. SONG’s mission is to provide the approximately 700 students at the New Grace Orphanage and Primary School in Iganga, Uganda, with a better education and school supplies. About half of the Ugandan students are orphans.
UMaine students Ben Brennan and Dee Wilbur, and Green Mountain College student Chris Pederson, founded the organization in 2010.
Wilbur spent three months working with the same school in 2009 in Uganda, and wanted to continue helping. The three came up with the idea while discussing her trip. Brennan said Wilbur was upset that money intended to help the children was funneled to administrative costs as well.
The process of becoming a nonprofit organization is not as simple as they first thought, according to Brennan, who said he worked for over two months filling out applications for approval.
“Three weeks ago the application for tax exempt [status] was sent in,” he said, and SONG’s current status as an organization is “claiming tax exempt status with application pending.”
The members of SONG plan to travel to Uganda during the last week of May to begin helping out with the New Grace School.
“We’ve already raised enough money to cover our overhead cost,” but much more needs to be raised, Brennan said.
Two and a half million children in Uganda have lost at least one parent — many to AIDS or malaria, according to SONG’s website — and 60 percent of the population is under the age of 20, so need is great.
SONG is hoping to get approval from the company Fly for Good, which helps volunteers in various organizations fly for a discounted price or for free, for transportation for the three to Uganda.
It would be “huge if [SONG] got accepted into that program,” Brennan said.
Brennan is taking additional actions to save money for the organization by paying for his own vaccinations and food, which he said can be expensive.
“Literally all the money that is being donated from here on out is going directly to the school,” Brennan said.
Many fundraisers for the program have already taken place, including another road race held last year that did not turn up as much money as hoped. But Brennan said road races are a hobby of his, so he is trying it again this year.
Other fundraisers were held at Texas Roadhouse in Bangor, where a percentage of customers’ checks was donated to SONG. They also have an account at Burby and Bates liquor store in Orono, which will accept donated returnables to help fund the nonprofit. The group is still looking for support from businesses and hopes to hold raffles before the trip to raise more money.
SONG is working with the Foster Student Innovation Center to record a documentary and video blog of their time in Uganda.
“We are planning on documenting every single delivery of resources,” Brennan said. “Donors will be able to go on our website and visually see [us] take that money they donated and purchase a desk and give it to the children.”
He said this will help donors “have more of a relationship with the people they are helping out.”
University of Maine’s student radio station, WMEB 91.9 FM, will help advertise the organization’s cause.
“I’m going to try and use social networking to raise as much money as possible,” Brennan said.
SONG’s website, mainesong.org, provides information about Uganda and upcoming events, and is an easy way to donate money or sign up for the 5K. Donors can use credit cards or PayPal accounts to donate online.
SONG is currently hoping to raise an additional $3,500. As a “last-case scenario,” Brennan said, they plan to raise money through a telethon.