The students at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) are unstoppable. With more than a dozen spirit groups on campus, over 60 Greek Letter Organizations, and countless student activities, there is never a dull moment. It’s no surprise then that so many volunteered their time to make the 2nd Annual Longhorn Pancakes for Parkinson’s event a success.
The results truly speak for themselves: over 100 student volunteers, 3,000 in attendance, and nearly $20,000 raised for Parkinson’s research. In its second year, Longhorn Pancakes again honored longtime and beloved faculty member Dr. James Vick. To show his appreciation and support, Dr. Vick—accompanied by his wife, Niki, and daughter, Stuart—mingled with students, fellow faculty members and friends for the entire duration of the event. Clearly Longhorn Pancakes will carry on a tradition of raising funds and awareness for PD that was started years ago at the University of Virginia.
We caught up with two of the volunteers who were instrumental in making the event happen, Katie Koehler and Rhonda Cox. Katie, a fourth-year at UT getting her masters in accounting, co-chaired the event, while Rhonda, the assistant director of membership and guest services at UT’s Division of Recreational Sports, served as the faculty adviser to Katie and the rest of the student volunteers. They shared their thoughts on how this year compared the last, and what they hope for the future of Longhorn Pancakes.
Team Fox: This was the second Longhorn Pancakes for Parkinson’s Event. How did it live up to your expectations?
Katie Koehler and Rhonda Cox: Our second Longhorn Pancakes for Parkinson’s (Longhorn P4P) went great! We did not raise as much money as we did last year, but that wasn’t our goal. Our true goal this year was to increase awareness and student attendance, which we did by approximately 50%!
TF: From the planning and fundraising to the actual event, did you do anything differently this year? Did you keep anything the same?
KK and RC: This year was different in that the entire event was planned and run by the students. In our first year, we received help from the Vick family and other former faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin who were invested in the cause. They assisted us by getting the word out about the event and encouraging their networks to donate. This year, our ‘steering committee’ was still there for support and advice, but we did not rely on them as much as last year. Our planning was also much more organized between the different spirit groups on campus and everyone had a different task. We also emphasized awareness through our promotional efforts and during the event with flyers, fun fact sheets, and a Team Fox representative.
TF: What was the easiest part of putting the event together? The most difficult?
KK and RC: The easiest part of the event was putting the whole thing together. We are lucky to have a huge support system and so many invested in the cause. Within our student community, at least 30 students came together to help plan and organize the event, 100 students helped during the event and over 3,000 students actually attended. The faculty and staff also showed their support by making donations to the Foundation and attending the event. We also saw support from the Austin community and the local businesses who generously donated items for our door prize. Further, the University Co-op, Student Government and Texas Parents all provided sponsorship that helped make the event possible. Batter Blaster donated 300 cans of batter for our pancake making and American Party Rental gave us a discount on our griddle rentals. All in all, our event was possible because of the kindness of everyone involved.
The most difficult part of putting the event together was promoting it, because you can never do enough. Outside of utilizing social media, we found it difficult to retrieve news coverage and other PR. This is a big aspect of the event that we will work hard to improve next year.
TF: What did you learn the most this year? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
KK and RC: This year I think we all learned or rather witnessed the power of people. It is incredible what we can do when we all come together with a common purpose. In my book, Longhorn P4P will always be successful no matter how much money is raised, because it brings together so many students who would otherwise never work together, and unite us in one cause.
There is not anything I wish I would have done differently, but there are areas going forward that I know we can improve upon. Those will be our focus as we start planning our 3rd annual Pancakes for Parkinson’s in August.