Donor Profile

How do you help a community understand how many lives are affected by maternal and neonatal tetanus?

In a town with deep passion for University of Michigan athletics, Ron Gardner, president of the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor, tells the story with a football analogy.

Ron asks his audience to close their eyes and imagine “The Big House”—UM’s football stadium—filled with 110,000 fans on a Saturday afternoon. “That’s less than the number of newsborns killed every two years by tetanus,” he says. “If you can’t give money to help save those innocent lives, what can you give to?”

Just US$1.80 can save or protect a woman and her future newborns. The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor has gone well beyond that amount: as a 100K Club, its members will save or protect 55,000 mothers and their future newborns from MNT. Club members were driven to this generous commitment knowing that every dollar would have a significant impact on those whose lives are touched by MNT. “I’m proud of our club for contributing to the Kiwanis-family’s worldwide service project,” Gardner says.

Club member and 2010–11 Division 10 Lieutenant Governor Larry French agrees. “We consider ourselves one of the strongest Kiwanis clubs in the organization,” he says, “and this is a way for us to prove it.”

The club has done it before. During the worldwide service project that virtually eliminated iodine deficiency disorder, the club raised well over US$100,000. This success gave club members confidence that they could do it again for The Eliminate Project.

During the IDD campaign, the Ann Arbor club kept up its local fundraising initiatives. It was one of the top contributors to the campaign to eliminate IDD, and during the same time period contributions to local nonprofits actually increased. “We had a good system,” Gardner says. “We funded local nonprofits like the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Child Life Services in hospitals across the state through our weekly thrift sale, and we funded the IDD campaign through new fundraisers and personal gifts from club members.”

The club plans to use the same strategy to fulfill its commitment as a 100K Club: Individual gifts from members including Walter Zeller Fellowships will support The Eliminate Project, and the club’s weekly thrift sale will continue to fund local organizations.

The club’s officers are making contributions that they hope will lead the way for others. French has already committed a multi-year pledge to The Eliminate Project. “I’m hoping my personal commitment might have some positive influence on my fellow members,” he says.

Special fundraising and awareness events will also be planned. With football season under way, members are already pulling together to raise awareness for The Eliminate Project—and have some fun at UM games. One event is a joint effort with the club’s sponsored Circle K International and Key Clubs. The Ann Arbor club will host a booth with informational handouts and videos playing during University of Michigan pregame tailgate parties, while the SLP partners will circulate through tailgaters to sell wristbands and other items to support The Eliminate Project. While they work, the Big House will stand as a reminder of the impact the club is making in the lives of women and children its members will never know.



Photo caption: Members of the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor selling water and raising awareness for The Eliminate Project before a 2011 football game at the University of Michigan.

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Club size: 168 members

Location: Kiwanis Activity Center – 200 S. First St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Meeting time/date: 12:10 p.m. every Monday

Signature service project: Weekly thrift sale at the Kiwanis building in downtown Ann Arbor. “The Kiwanis thrift sale is something very ‘Ann Arbor’ to do on a Saturday morning. Our thrift sale brought in nearly $300,000 last year alone!”— Ron Gardner, club chairman for The Eliminate Project

How was The Eliminate Project introduced to your club?: “I shared that $1.80 was all it took to save or protect one woman and her future children. Then I took $1.80 in coins out of my pocket, threw it on the table and left it there.”— Ron Gardner, club chairman for The Eliminate Project