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This fall, supporters of Mahomet Area Youth Club are taking a risk—and living out their commitment to helping others—as they hold their annual raffle.
They plan to split the proceeds 50-50 with Team Jeremiah, which is raising funds to help the family of Jeremiah King, a Mahomet 8-year-old who is recovering from being struck by a car earlier this summer while training to run in the annual MAYC 5K.
"It's just a leap of faith," MAYC board member Jeff Courson said of the decision. At the same time, though, board members and staff alike feel that it's a leap worth taking.
"It's a huge risk, but we've got nothing to lose" by helping King and his family, MAYC director Mary Vita Rosmarino said, adding that the choice to share the raffle proceeds was an easy one.
In an email from Chicago, where Jeremiah is recovering in a rehab center, his parents Mike and Brandy King said that they were "blown away" by MAYC's generosity.
"They had already done so much for us, letting Team Jeremiah be a part of their big race day," they said. "We know their need is limitless and they do such good work for the kids of our community so for them to be willing to 'share' again with Team Jeremiah is incredible."
But sharing the bounty isn't the only way in which the project is a leap of faith for the youth club: this is the first time that the raffle has been held separately from the MAYC celebration in May.
This spring, planners decided to postpone the raffle, but weren't sure when the best time to hold it would be. "We just kept saying, 'Let's do the raffle,' but when?" said Courson, who helps spearhead fundraising for MAYC's Board of Directors.
Mike King and the rest of the family had helped with club projects in the past. When Jeremiah was seriously injured while training for the MAYC race, it seemed like a sign that the two causes were closely joined. In fact, the race itself was one of the first times that Team Jeremiah came out in full force, sporting their distinctive blue t-shirts with the superhero logo.
It was Rosmarino who initially suggested partnering with Team Jeremiah on the raffle. MAYC depends on the generosity of the community, so agreeing to give away half of the proceeds would make any non-profit director a little nervous.
But, as Rosmarino put it, it's about more than the money. It's about putting MAYC's commitment to helping others into action—and returning the favor for so many years of community support.
"We are now reflecting, as an organization, on all that people have done for us," she said.
Courson and Rosmarino said that the MAYC board is currently looking at the club's long-term plans, generating lots of ideas for expanding programming and reaching more children.
"There's a lot of work going on behind the scenes," Rosmarino said.
It's the job of club treasurer Richard Steeves to determine whether MAYC has the funding to make these plans a reality. Although the club has some support from United Way and other organizations, it depends on donations from the community through events like the MAYC celebration in May and the 5K and half-marathon in August.
"One of the things that MAYC has on its side is good community support," Steeves said. "The biggest bulk of the budget comes from the community."
The Kings said that they're also grateful for Mahomet's support. They're not sure yet what the financial burden will be once Jeremiah is released from the Rehab Institute of Chicago, where he's currently working to regain the skills that were affected by the accident, but they said that they're fortunate to have so many people willing to lend a hand.
"Jeremiah's progress has been nothing short of miraculous, and we give all the glory and thanksgiving to God for being so gracious and merciful," the Kings said. Jeremiah celebrated his eighth birthday on Monday, and has made great strides in the past several months as his brain continues to heal.
The family has been helping the community track Jeremiah's recovery by posting photos, video and notes to the Team Jeremiah Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/teamjeremiah1.
And meanwhile, back in Mahomet, he continues to remind people of the generosity and caring that can unite a small town.
"That little boy may touch more people than we'll ever understand," Courson said.
Tickets for the raffle are available at Mahomet IGA, Main Street Wingery or by contacting the Mahomet Area Youth Club at 217-590-2860 or by email at email@example.com.
Raffle tickets are $10 each, six tickets for $50 or thirteen tickets for $100.
The first prize is a John Deere X300 lawn tractor with a 42-inch mower deck, second prize is $500 and the third place prize is a football signed by NFL linebacker Kevin Hardy. The drawing will be held on December 20 at the Main Street Wingery.