Gain experience, give back at CreateAthon

Achieving any goal is possible with enough dedication and a little caffeine. Whether you’re a Carolina faculty and staff member or a student, there are many ways you can participate in CreateAthon@USC, a 24-hour creative marathon.

CreateAthon is an event set for October in which students, faculty, staff and community volunteers stay awake for 24 hours, creating advertising and marketing communications materials to meet the needs of a selected nonprofit organization. These collaborative groups work to promote the mission and advance the goals of the nonprofit while simulating the fast-paced experience of working for a professional creative agency.

Volunteers will work from 1 p.m. Oct. 21 to 1 p.m. Oct. 22, in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications creating and completing pro bono projects for eight nonprofits, each with a marketing and communications objective. Students will assist the nonprofits, while also gaining real-world collaborative experience.

While students from professor Karen Mallia’s Creative Leadership class lead the teams, there is an opportunity for university faculty, staff and communications professionals to get involved. Faculty and staff members along with communications professionals from the community will act as mentors to each team. Their aim is to boost morale, share their personal experiences and offer professional advice. Mentor applications are due Sept. 30.

Student volunteers also are needed to use their skills in design, web development, social media, strategic planning, writing, photography or audio/video production. They can be part of the creative, documentary or supportive aspects of each team. Students who want to join CreateAthon should apply by Sept. 30, and they will be notified of their acceptance by Oct. 5.

Even though there will be a winning team announced at the end of the marathon, CreateAthon@USC is a win-win event for all involved. The students and their mentors will be able to “form close bonds with the nonprofits and to see new possibilities for service-learning in an unexpected way,” said Mallia, director of CreateAthon@USC.

The idea for CreateAthon grew out of Riggs Partners, a creative marketing agency in West Columbia, S.C., and has since evolved into a nationally recognized event put on each year by many creative agencies and universities. This year at the University of South Carolina’s fourth CreateAthon event, eight causes will benefit from the volunteers’ full day of creation, determination and sleep deprivation.

The 2016 nonprofit partners are Be The Match South Carolina, Gills Creek Watershed Association, Lexington Museum, Lighthouse for Life, PAALS, SC Science Academy, SC Tobacco-Free Collaborative and SC Victim Assistance Network.

Since it began in 1998, CreateAthon has served more than 1,300 nonprofit organizations across the country by creating over $16.7 million in pro bono projects. In November 2015, more than 50 student volunteers at CreateAthon@USC produced six marketing communications campaigns for local nonprofits with an estimated value of more than $120,000.

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