Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

MBA students help spread the word about cancer foundation

Raymond Wentz was only 17 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Without family support, Raymond and his sister Michelle lived on their own in a small apartment, worked at the grocery store and rode their bikes everywhere. Raymond even rode his bike to chemotherapy treatments — more than 20 miles from his home.

While Raymond was ill, his oncologist, Dr. David Schrier, asked Michelle if they could manage on their own during Raymond’s last days. She answered, “Yes. The only thing we have to worry about is food.”

“She said it with such sincerity, it was so heartfelt” Schrier says. “They never played the role of victim.”

Schrier was so moved by Raymond and Michelle’s brave response to their situation, he founded the Raymond Wentz Foundation in 2002 to ensure that no cancer patient in Denver would go without food, heat or shelter.

Six years later, Schrier shared Raymond’s story with Cory Foreman, a student in the Daniels College of Business’ executive MBA program. At the time, Foreman and some of  his fellow MBA students — Chris Deel, Kim Hoeksema, Daniel Maes, Harish Rajagopal and Kristine Strain — were working as a group on their Social Capital Project, a five-quarter team project designed to benefit an organization or the community as a whole.

After talking with Schrier, the executive MBA group decided to work with the Foundation to provide marketing and operational assistance.

Since its inception, the foundation has given nearly 2,000 grants to patients to cover basic needs such as food, shelter, transportation and utilities, but Schrier says requests for help have doubled over the past few months.

“The requests far outweigh our resources,” he says.  “We needed some help to raise our visibility and increase our fundraising efforts.”

Starting in January 2009, the DU group began to meet with Schrier, the foundation’s executive director and board members to discuss operations and areas of need. The group established an advisory board made up of DU faculty, alumni, and community members with nonprofit expertise, and has become involved with the organization’s fundraising events. Additionally, the students completed a comprehensive marketing feasibility study, redeveloped the Foundation’s Web site and worked to increase the organization’s visibility via social media.

“Everyone at the foundation has had a completely open mind and they are very open to ideas, and ways that they can move forward,” says Foreman. “They’re unbelievably appreciative.”

The Daniels group will continue to work with the foundation through March 2010, at which point they hope to turn the work over to a new group of executive MBA students. Each team member plans to stay involved with the foundation in some capacity.

“Everything we’ve been doing aligns with something we’ve learned in class, from marketing to financial analysis,” Foreman says. “It’s tremendously rewarding to see a social benefit come out of what we have been learning.”

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