Challenge for the Children Fundraising Competition Heats Up

Marc Benioff

By Juliana Bunim

UCSF’s innovative social media-based fundraising campaign Challenge for the Children is thriving, as the competition between team leaders heats up with a new announcement from team Zynga.

The eight-week contest that launched Oct. 26 encourages individuals to contribute via social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, or become team leaders who will then recruit more supporters from their personal networks.

Teams are competing for prizes throughout the contest leading up to the grand prize, the right to name “The Link” at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, a multi-level atrium with a roof-top garden.

So far, more than $75,000 has been raised from more than 875 donors through the Challenge that will go toward the 183-bed children’s hospital, part of $1.5 billion UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, a state-of-the-art and sustainable hospital complex at Mission Bay that promises to transform care for women, children and cancer patients when it is completed in 2014.

The first-of-its-kind competition at UCSF has generated a significant amount of notable support from team leaders, including actor and producer Ashton Kutcher, Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, and Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of

Now Zynga is stepping up the competition with a new integration into its social media-based game Farmville to launch on Wednesday, Dec. 1. 

“Zynga is thrilled to be giving FarmVille players a chance to make children’s visits to the hospitals sweeter this December – with a new Candy Cane crop,” said Team Zynga. “By purchasing the seeds for the red and white peppermint sticks, players are not only donating 100% proceeds to the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital – but will also receive a teddy bear to place on their farm.”

Benioff, whose gift with his wife Lynne contributed $100 million to the hospital that now bears their name, continues to top the Challenge for the Children leaderboard. On his heels are Ashton Kutcher and Paddy O’Brien, a young cancer patient who was treated at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Rise to the Challenge

Individuals and teams can register and donate online to Challenge for the Children to benefit UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital at, or

Cindy Lima, executive director of the UCSF Mission Bay Hospitals Project, is in fourth place with the Mission Bay Hospitals Team, generating more than 50 donations.

“If we weren’t so busy getting ready for construction of the new hospitals we’d be way ahead of Marc and Ashton!” said Lima. “I do hope the rest of my 10,000 friends at UCSF will donate even $10 to support the challenge and my team.”

But Kutcher isn’t about to give up his spot near the top, posting on his blog “The UCSF Medical Center is building a new children’s hospital in San Francisco that will offer world-class care for children and their families…We’re in 2nd place, but I play to win. If you can spare $10, please visit my page on Facebook and donate to this great cause.”

Because the campaign’s number one goal is to increase community involvement at Mission Bay, the winning team will have the greatest number of individual donations rather than the largest total sum donated. 

Teams are inching towards breaking the 100 donor mark and the first team to break it – other than Benioff and Kutcher who are not eligible – will win a Luxury Suite at a 49ers Game for 10 people.

While the competition focuses on prizes and friendly rivalry, it also strikes a personal chord with many of the fundraisers.

“Raising money for the UCSF children’s hospital is close to my heart – the UCSF medical teams fought hard to save the life of my young nephew Maverick, who died just before his first birthday in 2006 due to a heart condition,” said Brandee Barker, team leader of Team Randi & Brandee, currently in 16th place. “Once I blast out our message, we’re in the game! Look out Zynga, Ashton, Techcrunch/AOL and all those big players. The Randi and Brandee team is a force with purpose!”

Related Links:

UCSF launches social media fundraising campaign for Benioff Children’s Hospital 

UCSF Breaks Ground on State-of-the-Art Mission Bay Medical Center

UCSF Children’s Hospital receives $100 million gift to build new hospital