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Raising Money for a Cause: Nothing But Nets
by Linda Bloom



NEW YORK (UMNS) - At the age of 5, Katherine Commale learned how to inspire people and raise money for a good cause.

By this past Christmas - with the help of her mother, church and community - she had collected more than $10,000 for the purchase of insecticide-treated bed nets to protect people in Africa from mosquitoes that spread malaria.

She and her family, who are members of Hopewell United Methodist Church in Downingtown, Pa., were among the denominational representatives at the Jan. 4 launch of the Nothing But Nets campaign at the NBA Store in Manhattan.

Katherine also celebrated her sixth birthday that day - an occasion that was marked with a cake during the launch event.

Two agencies of The United Methodist Church are partnering with NBA Cares, Sports Illustrated, the United Nations Foundation, the Measles Initiative and others in the campaign to prevent malaria by raising funds to purchase and distribute mosquito bed nets in Africa. Other partners represented at the launch included the Mark J. Gordon Foundation and VH-1.

The United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist Communications are coordinating the church's participation.

Bishop Thomas Bickerton, president of United Methodist Communications, heralded the partnership and "the passion that exists among all the agencies" for Nothing But Nets. "This is a tremendously exciting day for us," he said. "We won't stop until the job is done."

A family effort
Katherine has been raising funds for bed nets with her mother, Lynda, since last September. "It's really been a family project for us from the start," Lynda Commale said.

They made their first presentation over Labor Day weekend at the Hopewell church, led by the Rev. Steven Morton, and raised $1,500 in less than 24 hours.

To educate children in the congregation about how the disease strikes African children, mother and daughter displayed bed nets, performed skits, made bookmarks and used a handmade diorama constructed by Katherine and her 3-year-old brother, Joseph, to show how a net covers a sleeping family in their home.

Additional funds were raised through a holiday gift certificate project. More than 500 certificates were sold, honoring a friend, teacher or family member. "We decorated them," Katherine explained during the launch. "Our friends decorated them."

The Nothing But Nets campaign got its start after Rick Reilly, a Sports Illustrated columnist, issued a plea for readers to send in donations of $10 per bed net to help prevent malaria in Africa, combining his efforts with the United Nations Foundation.

Reilly said he didn't think his appeal would raise more than $100,000, but so far around $2 million has been collected. Traveling to Nigeria in November to meet some of the people who had received the 150,000 nets distributed so far "was one of the greatest experiences of my life," he said.

$3 million challenge grant
Kathy Bushkin, executive vice president of the United Nations Foundation, announced a $3 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the Nothing But Nets campaign. The grant will match contributions for bed nets, dollar to dollar, up to $3 million.

The foundation became involved in malaria work through its involvement with the Measles Initiative, according to Bushkin. By integrating the measles vaccine with other health measures, such as malaria prevention, "you can really save lives and change lives," she added.

As executive director of UNICEF, Ann Veneman knows that good health care is essential. She pointed out that 10 million children "die every year of preventable causes," with half those deaths occurring in Africa. Twenty percent of the African deaths are due to malaria.

She lauded the group effort on the anti-malaria campaign. "What we've seen today is the power of partnership," she said.

According to the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive, United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, "the whole church is about connections." Having a partnership with groups such as UNICEF, the U.N. Foundation and the NBA "is very exciting for us because we're reaching a wider audience."

Changing lives
Ruth Riley, a WNBA player for the Detroit Shock, said she became interested in Nothing But Nets after visiting Kenya and "experiencing what life is like for them on a day-to-day basis."

As a professional basketball player, she hopes to use her influence in support of the campaign. "It takes so little to change their (Africans') lives completely," she added.

Sam Perkins, an NBA legends player, 18-year NBA veteran, Olympic Gold Medal winner and spokesperson for NBA Cares, declared that malaria is "so treatable" that it doesn't make sense not to help. He noted that the NBA has a fan base around the world and is not only teaching basketball skills in Africa but also providing education on health issues.

Students from Americans for Informed Democracy participated in launch activities at the NBA Store, as well as malaria advocacy training the day before.

Contributions can be made to Nothing But Nets through the Advance for Christ and His Church, the designated mission giving channel of the denomination. Donations, designated for Advance Number 982015, can be made online at http://secure.gbgm-umc.org/donations/advance/donate.cfm?code=982015, by phone at (888) 252-6174, or by mail at Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068. Checks also can be placed in the offering plate of any United Methodist congregation. Checks should have the Advance number and “Nothing But Nets ” in the memo line.
One hundred percent of every Advance gift goes to the designated ministry.


For more information about the Nothing But Nets campaign, visit www.nothingbutnets.net or www.umc.org.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

Date posted: Jan 05, 2007


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