With HuskyTHON only two weeks away, the lesser known JonaTHON program has been working hard to raise money and awareness for Connecticut Children’s, Bhavana Gunda, 2021 JonaTHON co-director and sixth-semester physiology and neurobiology and global health double major, said.
The JonaTHON program is a subset of HuskyTHON that allows Connecticut elementary, middle and high schools to fundraise toward the final HuskyTHON total, Gunda said.
“Our JonaTHONs are such an integral part of HuskyTHON, with so many passionate students that all come together across the state to be for the kids,” Gunda said. “Each of our schools gets paired with one of our wonderful captains to support them one-on-one with everything from planning to fundraising.”
All of the money raised goes directly to Connecticut Children’s, the local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Rachel Violette, 2021 JonaTHON co-director and sixth-semester actuarial science major, said.
“[The] money then goes to the Greatest Need Children’s Fund at Connecticut Children’s, which is spent on different things that the hospital needs the most at any given time,” Violette said. “In the past, this money has been used for things like PPE, and the HuskyTHON Center of Procedural Excellence at Connecticut Children’s.”
The program started in 2015 and has grown every year, Gunda said. The 2020 program included 10 Connecticut schools that raised over $36,000 toward the 2020 HuskyTHON final total.
“HuskyTHON would not be what it is without our JonaTHONs,” Gunda said.
It is up to each participating school on how they want to be involved in the program, Violette said.
Some of the high school JonaTHON programs are run as clubs, meaning that anyone can sign up to join, fundraise or help in any way, she said. Some of the elementary schools are run by either a student council or a specific class.
“There are so many different ways to get involved and we are open to working with all students/teachers,” Violette said.
Gunda said the events can be as big or as small as the students want.
“JonaTHONs can be anywhere from a spirit day to a mini-marathon, or anything in between, Gunda said. “Some events our programs have put on in the past include selling food in the mornings, game and movie nights, raffles and so much more. It is ultimately up to the students how involved they want to be and what types of fundraisers they want to host.”
One of the common events is the mini-marathon, Violette said. It closely mimics the HuskyTHON dance marathon, but on a much smaller scale. Each school plans the event differently.
“Our JonaTHON programs that put on mini marathons typically fundraise all year long in a variety of ways, and celebrate their fundraising efforts with a four to five hour dance marathon with dancing, food, games and much more.” Violette said.
Gunda said there is no fundraising minimum or maximum that the schools need to achieve.
“Schools can fundraise as little or as much as they are interested in and everything they raise goes towards the hospital,” Gunda said. “Any amount is so helpful and Connecticut Children’s appreciates all of it.”
Due to COVID-19, the majority of the 2021 JonaTHON program has been virtual in order to follow safety precautions. Violette said the switch to virtual fundraising and events has been a challenge for the participating schools, but they have still been quite successful.
“But nonetheless they have persevered and have been raising money all year,” Violette said. “Our schools have been working so hard and we have been amazed by what they have accomplished this year. We are so excited to reveal the 2021 JonaTHONs total on March 20.”
Any school in the Connecticut Children’s region can be part of the JonaTHON program, Gunda said. If a school is interested in joining the program, all they have to do is email email@example.com to be paired with an official captain who will help support planning.
“Along with a sense of community, this is a great opportunity for students to develop essential leadership skills, such as event planning, organizing, communication, money management and so much more … Lastly, it’s a fantastic way for students to be a part of something bigger than themselves”Rachel Violette, 2021 JonaTHON co-director and sixth-semester actuarial science major
“You just need some passionate students that want to make a difference in the lives of the kids and families at Connecticut Children’s, a faculty advisor and permission from your school,” Gunda said.
It is never too late to sign up for the JonaTHON program, Gunda said. Any fundraising made before March 20, this year’s Night-Of, will go toward the 2021 HuskyTHON total. Any funds raised after will go towards the 2022 total.
“Any fundraising that schools do before HuskyTHON’s Night-Of goes toward that year’s total but schools can continue to fundraise after that until the end of their school year – that money just goes towards next year’s total,” Gunda said. “There is definitely still so much time for schools to sign up for HuskyTHON 2021.”
Violette said schools should join the JonaTHON program because it extends the UConn community and the fight for Connecticut Children’s across the state.
“Along with a sense of community, this is a great opportunity for students to develop essential leadership skills, such as event planning, organizing, communication, money management and so much more,” Violette said. “Lastly, it’s a fantastic way for students to be a part of something bigger than themselves; the kids of Connecticut Children are so inspiring and our cause is super important.”
Gunda said the feedback from participating students has always been positive.
“The students we’ve worked with have all been huge fans,” Gunda said. “The HuskyTHON energy is infectious and all of our students love meeting the kids and hearing their stories, planning and hosting these fun events, and they’re proud to be part of the HuskyTHON community. Our JonaTHON participants always have wonderful things to say about their experience.”