Student athletes raise money for teen battling cancer

Media Credit: Courtesy of Julian Coltre

The 19-member team said they’ve raised $9,938 so far, nearly meeting their fundraising goal.

A group of students-athletes are raising money to take a teen battling cancer to the NBA All Star Weekend.

GW has formed its first collegiate Dream Team, focusing on raising funds to accomplish sports-themed dreams for children with life-threatening or life-altering conditions. The GWU Collegiate Dream Team, which was founded last November, is working alongside the Dream On 3 non-profit organization to raise funds to accomplish sports themed dreams for children with life-threatening or life-altering conditions.

The team is currently looking to raise $10,000 to take Ace Culpepper, a 17-year-old with high-risk B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, to the NBA All Star Weekend.

Junior baseball player Steve DiTomaso and sophomore tennis player Charlotte Bell, are spearheading the organization. The duo said they began work on the campaign, starting with a biweekly meeting with a representative from Dream On 3, where they would be taught how to use social media for the campaign and how to continue working on it.

The Dream Team is currently composed of 19 members who were chosen from a pool of students who responded to an interest email about the program. DiTomaso said the team currently allows all student-athletes who show interest to join, but are looking into new procedures like an interview process to admit new members if interest increases next year.

Bell said they made the majority of the $9,838 that they’ve raised so far through their own personal fundraising efforts over the summer, where members created their own personal fundraising page and set a goal. She said most of the funds came from the team members’ family and friends.

The team’s webpage also offers options for company sponsorship of Culpepper’s dream, including an option allowing the sponsor to attend and participate in a “VIP Sendoff” where they will be recognized for their donation.

DiTomaso said the COVID-19 pandemic heavily affected the fundraising efforts by the different teams in the university as sports were without any audience due to health guidelines. He said he participated in a fundraiser with the baseball team called Ks For Kids last season, where donors pledged a certain amount of money per strikeout the rest of the season.

He said the team expects more participation now that the GW community is back on campus, making in-person fundraising a more viable option.

The Dream Team gifted Culpepper tickets Wednesday to the Wizards vs. Celtics game the following day and tickets to the NBA All Star Weekend in Cleveland in February. Bell said the reveal was emotional and exciting for everyone as they finally had the chance to meet Culpepper in person.

DiTomaso said they had talked with Culpepper’s mother for a long time, so while they didn’t know Culpepper, they had developed a connection with him and with what they were trying to accomplish.

Bell said the team will continue working on achieving their goal of $10,000 by focusing on fundraising events with the GW community. She said they expect to continue getting to know Culpepper in the following weeks and sending him Christmas presents for the holiday season, as well as trying to put him in touch with Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.

“To finally put the dream reveal into the moment and actually see him walk through the doors, it was pretty amazing,” DiTomaso said. “And he’s such, such an awesome kid. There’s no one that deserves something like this more.”

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