It’s not every day that Gift of Life International receives tens of thousands of dollars in donations from a single entity, but for the last 15 years, in the month of March, the Encinitas Country Day School has done just that. Encinitas Country Day School (ECDS), located in California, has been fundraising for Gift of Life each year through a one-day peer-to-peer jog-a-thon.
This event was founded in 2009 by Shannon Everett – a mother of two students at ECDS and the daughter of the late Chad and Shelby Everett. Shannon was inspired to carry on the legacy of her parents who were advocates for Gift of Life International for many years. Chad Everett was the National Spokesman for Gift of Life International in the early 2000’s and was dedicated to healing the heart of children around the world. Another ECDS parent, Joty Vallandingham, has been at Shannon’s side since day one. Joty has supported the jog-a-thon every year by donating her time, cheering the students on and providing monetary donations to support the cause. Even though Shannon and Joty no longer have students at ECDS, they continue to work with the school administrators to make this happen year after year…doing whatever it takes to heal the heart of the next child in need.
The jog-a-thon challenges students of every grade level to run for 30 minutes. For every lap they run, they earn donations pledged by their sponsors. Over the last 15 years, Encinitas Country Day School has fundraised $515,635 for Gift of Life International. We sat down with Anna Marasco, who organizes the jog-a-thon at the school, to learn more about how and why she and the students are so committed to fundraising for Gift of Life International every year.
When did you first learn about Gift of Life International?
We first learned about Gift of Life International after a parent (Shannon Everett) suggested we fundraise money to save children living with heart disease worldwide. The idea of hosting an annual jog-a-thon that raises money to save children’s lives profoundly resonated with us. After the first year’s success, we’ve never looked back.
Why is Gift of Life International important to you?
I am so happy to be the organizer of this endeavor every year. I am so proud of our school community for their unwavering support, which helps these children and their families.
Why do you think your fundraisers for Gift of Life are such a success year after year?
Our very generous parents have always been so supportive, and that’s why we have been so successful. We educate our students on the children we are trying to help. Our students understand their impact on these children’s lives and have become so committed to supporting them through Gift of Life International year after year.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start their own jog-a-thon or peer-to-peer fundraiser on behalf of Gift of Life International?
Do it! These children need us.
At Gift of Life International, we are inspired by, and appreciate the relentless fundraising efforts by the students of Encinitas Country Day School. Their fundraising saves lives. The power of peer-to-peer fundraising helps Gift of Life International to reach many more children. A special Thank you to Shannon Everett for founding this great event to honor the memory of her dear parents – Chad and Shelby Everett and to Joty Vallandingham for her unwavering support.
If you’re interested in hosting your own peer-to-peer fundraiser at your school, company or organization, we invite you to contact Rob Raylman, Gift of Life International CEO, to set your fundraiser up for success.
Rob Raylman is the Chief Executive officer for Gift of Life International. He assumed this role in 2008.
Rob is a life-long resident of New York State. He graduated Hobart College in 1984 with a BS in Political Science. Over the years, he worked for US Senator Alfonse D’Amato and held the position of Vice President for Browning-Ferris Industries (at the time, the second largest international solid waste company in the world). In 2008, Rob created the position of CEO for Gift of Life International. Since then, he was visited 38 countries on 5 continents to build the Gift of Life Global Network of 84 affiliates. During Rob’s tenure with Gift of Life International, 30 affiliates have been created while over 35,000 children have received care for their heart defects.
Rob focuses on strategically building bridges between Gift of Life programs, foreign Governments, Rotary Clubs and Districts, like-minded organizations and hospital administrations in order to address the Global Crisis of congenital heart defects.