By Bill Studenc
One Day for Western, the inaugural all-in day of giving to benefit multiple areas of Western Carolina University, proved to be one day to remember as 1,128 donors made gifts and pledges totaling $316,337, blowing past an original goal of 800 donors.
Held March 29, One Day for Western was a 24-hour fundraising event designed to benefit 12 distinct units of the university by inviting members of the WCU community to donate to the priorities that mean the most to them.
The donations, which include more than $263,950 in cash gifts, will support a total of 88 separate university funds those dozen units of campus. Two hundred and six donors made more than one gift or supported multiple designations.
“The generosity shown by members of the Western Carolina University family on our first-ever One Day for Western has been amazing. My heart is touched to know that there is a personal story behind each and every gift made that day,” said Chancellor Kelli R. Brown.
“I want all those who contributed – alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, friends, volunteers and community partners – to know that their gifts are greatly appreciated and will be put to good use toward improving the academic and extracurricular experiences of our students,” Brown said.
Several of the university’s identified priorities for One Day for Western spurred a variety of challenge gifts designed to increase the impact of the donations through dollar-for-dollar matches or extra contributions unlocked by hitting specific dollar amounts or participation rate targets.
* The Catamount Club, which received $86,069 in gifts and pledges thanks to challenge gifts from the Catamount Club Board of Directors.
* Support for the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band trip in 2024 to Ireland, $42,673, which included a challenge gift from an anonymous donor who is a longtime supporter of the band.
* The Division of Student Affairs, which received $17,121 for its priorities, including challenge gifts from Chancellor Brown and the Foundation Board of Directors and a $10,000 contribution from the Hathaway Family Foundation to specifically support the Student Affairs Emergency Fund.
* The Speech and Hearing Clinic, $10,170, with a challenge gift from Dan Killian, head of the Valley of Franklin Chapter of N.C. Rite Care.
Other funds receiving impressive gift totals include the newly established Thomas B. Nelson and Ronald F. Nelson Memorial Endowed Fund, $25,000; the Kenneth E. Flynt Endowed Scholarship Fund, $19,747; the Ogletree Endowed Scholarship in Communication Sciences and Disorders, $12,500; the Catamount Football Program, $10,803; the General Scholarship Fund, $5,924; and the Women’s Soccer Program, $5,325.
The largest number of gifts during One Day for Western came from alumni of the institution, with 482 undergraduate alumni combining for more than $113,555 in donations and 55 graduate-level alumni chipping in nearly $4,260.
Current faculty and staff members also answered the call for One Day for Western, with 85 faculty members contributing $40,820 and 129 staff donating $12,634.
Thirty-nine current students also got in on the action, donating a total of nearly $1,000 to the effort, and 41 parents of current students gave nearly $8,150.
Jillian O'Beirne, a senior majoring in music performance (saxophone) from Forest City, is among the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band members eagerly anticipating next year’s trip to Ireland to perform in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin. Donations from supporters during One Day for Western are helping make that experience a reality, O'Beirne said.
“This is one of the biggest trips Pride of the Mountains will ever go on. The simple fact that I've admired this band since I was in high school and I get to be a part of their journey doing something I love is amazing,” she said.
“The contributions made by others would make the cost of this trip a little less of a burden than anticipated and would also allow me and my colleagues to take our musical efforts outside the country,” O'Beirne said. “We are insanely appreciative about how much support One Day for Western received for it being our very first time doing something of that magnitude. Thank you to all of our friends, colleagues, alumni, Catamount Club members, strangers and everyone in between.”
The 12 units of campus that took part in this year’s One Day for Western were: Athletics, the Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts, the Brinson Honors College, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the College of Education and Allied Professions, the College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Health and Human Sciences, Graduate School and Research, Hunter Library, the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band and Student Support initiatives. Each unit offered a variety of giving priorities.