C.A.R.E.S Walk offers direct impact


Mike Harrington

Tyler Pizzico ’17, Michael Harrington ’19

Choices to support smaller organizations guide Christian Service’s vision for on-campus fundraising.

Some may be surprised to hear that Malvern participated in another walk prior to the C.A.R.E.S Walk – the annual Philadelphia AIDS Walk. Perhaps ‘participated’ is not the right word. Malvern excelled in this organized event, racking up awards for best high school participant many years in a row.

So why did Malvern switch despite all of this success? Why did we start our own walk?

“It bothered me greatly that 25% of the money that was raised went directly to the AIDS Walk Foundation,” Director of Christian Service Mr. Larry Legner said. “That means that a fourth of the money never reached any organizations that truly had the resources to help those in need.”

Malvern students – many of whom will someday be lucky enough to be in a position to direct philanthropy – should learn to look critically at the organizations they are funding, and how they use financial support. It is important to ensure that money is being spent in a way that actually makes an impact in the surrounding community or society as a whole.

Legner envisioned a walk at Malvern that would be completely self-sufficient, giving every cent of donated money to organizations capable of helping those in need.

Recent data shows corruption in many prominent charities in America today.

A 2014 collaborative study between the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that out of the total money raised by 48 of the worst charities in America, $935.6 million was paid to solicitors and only $348.2 million was paid to charities with $43.9 million spent on direct cash aid to families.

Some of these “charities” collect money from donors and use it to benefit themselves and their employees, rather than following their stated mission statements. For example, the Kids Wish Network had $137.9 million raised by solicitors in the last decade, towards a stated mission of “granting wishes to children suffering with life-threatening conditions.” $115.9 million, just over 84% of money raised, went straight into the solicitors’ pockets.

According to the Times and CIR report, eight of these 48 worst charities name cancer in their titles.

Malvern students – many of whom will someday be lucky enough to be in a position to direct philanthropy – should learn to look critically at the organizations they are funding, and how they use financial support. It is important to ensure that money is being spent in a way that actually makes an impact in the surrounding community or society as a whole.

With this vision in mind, Legner started the C.A.R.E.S walk sixteen years ago. He sought out four organizations that would each receive a quarter of the donations.

“I had to get permission from the Borough and got some input from the surrounding community,” Legner said. “But after that everything just happened. Things fell into place and we had ourselves a walk.”

The 5-mile walk around the campus and the Malvern borough is now is an annual event, scheduled in early October.

In order to remain completely autonomous and non-profit, Legner has organized corporate sponsors over the years. For example, Wawa has been supplying food and drinks since the beginning so that all donations went directly to the organizations rather than into fueling the actual event itself.

Currently, the four organizations Malvern’s proceeds help are Siloam, The Cancer Support Community, Bringing Hope Home, and Evanfest.

C.A.R.E.S Walk used to benefit the American Cancer Society, but Legner dropped this organization because of its size. “The four thousand dollars we were giving them was not making as great of an impact as it could with these smaller organizations,” he said.

The organizations picked must meet two criteria. They must have a Malvern connection, and they must be related to cancer or AIDS, since C.A.R.E.S stands for “Cancer and AIDS Reaches Everyone Somehow.” According to Legner, these strong connections make for great partnerships.

One such connection is that between Evanfest and Malvern.

Even before his organization became involved, Bill Brady, one of the leaders of Evanfest and father of Evan Brady, has been a part of the C.A.R.E.S walk since its advent in 2001.

Mr. Brady is astonished by the longevity and success of the Evanfest organization, which he is proud to say was started by Malvern parents and students affected by Evan’s passing.

Like the C.A.R.E.S Walk, Evanfest has a charitable event at Malvern that has raised a significant amount of funding for a great cause. According to the organization’s website, grants from Evanfest help families to defray unforeseen expenses and diminish some of the stress and burden they experience when their child is stricken with a life threatening illness.

This year alone, Evanfest has raised in the ballpark of $1 million, according to Legner. The organization will host its tenth annual event on Malvern’s campus this April.

Evan Brady, a former Malvern student and victim of osteosarcoma, is the catalyst that brought this organization into existence. His parents and other members of the Malvern community have been part of the Evanfest board and have been doing this for 10 years, raising more funds each year.

“The money raised goes to help people whose children are suffering from some kind of cancer… Evanfest helps families,” Legner said.

The families that are given donations must first apply and be recommended to the organization.

Like many of the children suffering in the families aided by Evanfest, Evan had to deal with pain and intense treatment while attending school at the same time, according to his mother Patrice Brady.

“He was on chemotherapy his whole freshman year. He was in remission his sophomore and junior year, and it recurred the summer of his junior year going into his senior year,” Mrs. Brady said. “We were the first people to get into the cancer center and the last people to leave. He was weak and tired and exhausted, and there were many times when we left the hospital and took him to a lacrosse game because as his father said, that was his best medecine.”

Evan was an avid lover of lacrosse, and when he was on the field he felt like a “normal kid,” according to his mother.

Evan loved Malvern, especially its lacrosse community, and all of Malvern was deeply saddened to see him pass away on September 21, 2005.

Even though many CARES-Walk-Donationspeople were sad because of Evan’s passing, Evanfest is not a sad time. “I enjoy the friendships, the unity that we have together,” Mrs. Brady said. “Being surrounded by these wonderful people who are Malvern parents, alumni who are good souls and have so much goodness to share with people.”

Mr. Brady stressed the fact that any donation is valued and can help impact the community around us.

“One of the best thing that happens every year is Malvern does a dress down day,” Mr. Brady said. “That’s a one or two dollar donation by everyone there, and that has been awesome. It may not seem like much, but that two dollars helps a struggling family’s electric bill, and it allows them to hold on that much longer.”

Mr. Brady knows just how important these donations are. His personal connection to his organization’s cause enables him to empathize with those struggling today.

“Through my personal experience, I know just how hard it can be dealing with a life threatening illness like cancer,” Mrs. Brady said. “I am so grateful for Malvern’s involvement and I know the community is as well.”