Nonprofit Spotlight: Open Hands Overflowing Hearts

Wendy Bolm 09/04/2015
Nonprofit Spotlight: Open Hands Overflowing Hearts
In 2013, Kayla Perry was a recent high school graduate who had the world ahead of her. While in Hawaii preparing for mission work, Kayla experienced her first nose bleed. The nose bleeds continued as she moved on to a mission trip in Kenya, where she decided to seek medical help. Her eventual diagnosis was Neuroblastoma, a rare form of pediactric cancer. 

When medical treatment proved unsuccessful, Kayla refused to be daunted. She was accepted at Auburn University, founded the nonproft Open Hands, Overflowing Hearts, and dedicated her life to fund pediatric cancer research. Last year, Open Hands Overflowing Hearts raised more than $300,000 (surpassing their original goal of $100,000) in a viral crowdfunding campaign, #100Ways100Days. This year, they plan to raise even more: $500,000.

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Kayla says she wants to eradicate this disease in her lifetime, which will be no easy task. Pediatric cancer research is the most underfunded of all cancer research, receiving less than four percent of government funding. Since becoming a member of the CommitChange community, OHOH has successfully raised more than $500,000 to bridge this gap. 

OHOH Director of Development Hayden Patton says that, in addition to bridging the funding gap, getting the word out about pedriatic cancer is just as important. "You see breast cancer everywhere," she says. "Not that that isn't an important cause, but because of that, people think that there's funding across the board for all kinds of cancer."

So far, OHOH has given around $150,000 to Children's Hospital of Alabama, $130,000 to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and are set to give $50,000 to Children's Hospital of Cincinnati. 

Hayden says it was her passion for nonprofit work and Kayla's passion that led her to working with OHOH. "Once you meet Kayla and learn her story and see what she's doing to make a change in the world, especially under the circumstances she's in, it makes you want to do the same thing."

With an estimated 263,000 new cases of children younger than 20 being affected by cancer around the world each year, new research could have a monumental impact on not only the lives of these children but also their communities, rippling outward as each child's health and quality of life continue to improve.

OHOH's successful campaign last year can be attributed to the way they prioritized community engagement  opportunities in the campaign's strategy. They asked that supporters contribute in any way they could, whether it be donating $5, forming a team to help raise money, or washing their mom's car. They told their supporters to publicly announce "I will do anything to end childhood cancer," share a photo or video, and use provided hashtags to connect the community together. This year's campaign is much the same, with #EndChildhoodCancer, #ohoh, and #worthit among the suggested hashtags. 

Hayden says that a combination of good timing and this personalization that led to their success. "One thing that worked last year was coming off of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Everyone was aware of online social media campaigns." She also says OHOH's community of supporters is amazing because, "everyone is willing to jump on and do what they can. Everything we've done has been pretty phenomenal in how the community embraces what we do."

With an energized community behind her, and another semester beginning at Auburn, Kayla's life is definitely full, but there's no questioning the difference she is making in the world. 

To find out more about Open Hands, Overflowing Hearts, please visit their website.

You can support their current campaign here.