Spring 2021 bloomed with several signs of “normal” celebrations and that included a Purple Week to raise awareness and funds for Van Andel Institute for cancer and Parkinson’s Disease research. With VAI’s Purple Community fundraisers, 100% of funds raised go directly into the research labs, making a difference in biomedical research and medical breakthroughs and discoveries.
“I thought that our new spring purple week was such an amazing way to spread awareness for Van Andel Institute. It was really awesome to see both our community and student body rally together to stand behind this cause,” says Ali Janke, a Purple Committee leader.
The OHS Purple Community Committee worked to get as many people involved as possible, planning the first 5K Color Run/Walk around our main campus. This first-time event drew 137 registrants and dozens of volunteers to cheer them on. “I think my favorite part was at the beginning of the 5K when everyone threw the purple powder in the air, it was just a really huge statement to why we were there and what our community was coming together to fight for.”
Usually held in the fall, Purple Week includes our sports teams who “go purple” with special purple jerseys and names on the backs of them of loved ones battling cancer or Parkinson’s. This year, our spring sports were able to participate in that way, making it extra special. Janke is an outfielder on the varsity softball team. Before the game, the crowd heard more about the cause, then each player was introduced and the person honored was also called out.
In addition, Purple Week drew almost 20 local businesses and organizations to join us as sponsors and the committee sold Purple event apparel for supporters to show their purple pride. OHS students also planned a powerful spirit week, designating dress up days to recognize different types of cancer. They held a pink, orange, grey and gold day and shared facts on breast cancer, Leukemia, brain cancer and pediatric cancer. Friday was purple day in honor of the event and the chosen color by Van Andel to recognize survivors and hope. “Knowing that circumstances were different for families and businesses, the committee set a goal of awareness and participation as their priority, knowing that those who can give will donate,” said Holly McCaw, OPS Director of Communications and Purple Week Coordinator, “I'm overwhelmed with the generosity shown to this cause by our sponsors and community partners as well as the kids, families and supporters who also added donations to the cause. It looks like we are on track to raise about $18,000.”
The 5K run ended with more events near Bulldog Stadium. Participants ran through the goal posts and could then participate in games like cornhole, 9 square and try their hand at the dunk tank where teachers and even Supt. Haase braved the chilly water for a good cause.
“It was so cool to see our plans go from pencil and paper come together into such a successful event for the purple community,” Janke adds.
The students on this year’s committee have been visiting Van Andel Institute for years for their annual purple community events geared toward schools. Their passion for helping others continues to grow and they were excited to be able to plan an event. “I really loved being a part of such an amazing group that put together this purple week. Even with the uncertainties about putting on an event during covid, this group came out very strong with lots of ideas on how to raise money and awareness for VAI,” said Janke.
Purple Weeks in the past have raised anywhere from $10,000 to $28,000 per event; Otsego has held five of them and surpassed $100,000 in total giving after their 2018 fall event.