UCSF Challenge for the Children highly successful, breaks $1 million

By Kate Vidinsky

The UCSF Challenge for the Children, a social media-based fundraising contest that won the support of prominent Silicon Valley companies, tech industry executives and other celebrities, concluded yesterday (Dec. 16, 2010), raising more than $1 million for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Nearly 165,000 people donated to the highly successful campaign, which kicked off on Oct. 26 with an initial fundraising goal of $100,000. “The fact that we have surpassed our goal tenfold is truly astounding, and I can’t thank our incredible family of supporters enough,” said Mark Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

“I am inspired by the compassion of all those who support UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, one of the foremost pediatric healing centers in the world. Your generosity will help us build new, world-class facilities, enabling us to make an even greater impact on children’s health care.”

Using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, the Challenge, a collaboration with the online fundraising platform Causes.com, recruited individual contributors and team leaders who then drafted groups of supporters through their personal networks. Throughout the eight-week contest, more than 50 teams signed up to compete for various incentive prizes, with the top two teams earning the grand prize of naming a prominent space in the new UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, currently under construction in the Mission Bay neighborhood south of downtown San Francisco.

Because the campaign’s primary goal has been to increase community engagement with the future hospital at Mission Bay, the winning teams were determined by the largest number of individual donations, rather than the highest total donated.

Coming in first place is team Zynga, which raised $817,375 through 162,544 individual donations. The social gaming company built a special integration into its wildly popular game FarmVille, in which players purchased candy cane seeds for their virtual farms, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Challenge for the Children. The second place team was led by 12-year-old Paddy O’Brien, a patient at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital treated successfully for bone cancer and now in remission. O’Brien and his team co-captain Mark Laret inspired 425 donations totaling $12,305. Both the Zynga team and Paddy O’Brien’s team will have the honor of naming a dedicated space in the new children’s hospital.

“All of the teams did a remarkable job. Zynga's candy cane seed initiative was incredibly innovative, and having one of our own patients dedicate himself to this cause and play an integral role in shaping the future of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital is particularly meaningful,” Laret said. “I can think of no two challengers more deserving of naming a space in our new hospital.”

Funds raised through the Challenge will go toward the future 183-bed UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital at Mission Bay, which will set a new standard for patient- and family-centered health care, safety, sustainability and translational medicine upon completion in 2014. Designed for children and their families, the facility will offer urgent and emergency care, primary care, specialty outpatient services, and an on-site helipad. In addition, the proximity of the hospital site to UCSF’s biomedical research campus will speed the application of laboratory discoveries to the treatment of patients worldwide.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.