‘With Purpose Lincoln Park’ raises money for pediatric cancer research


With Purpose Lincoln Park’s team of advocates (from left to right) )Melissa Bellew, Charlene Haparimwi, Maggie Orchard, Jessalyn Kieta, Sandra Antunez.

A handful of people trickled into the upstairs auditorium in the DePaul Art Museum as senior Jessalyn Kieta took the podium. She began to explain what her and the four other group members, Melissa Bellew, Charlene Haparimwi, Maggie Orchard, Sandra Antunez, were there to present.

The five came together as one of the groups participating in the national Bateman Case Study Competition. The trial is the Public Relations Student Society of America’s annual event challenging teams of students to research, plan, implement and evaluate a public relations campaign for an actual client. The competitors are narrowed down to three finalists: third place winning $1,500, second with $2,500 and first taking home $3,500.

This year, Kieta’s group, and the others were partnered with the With Purpose campaign.  Created to improve awareness and raise money for pediatric cancer research, With Purpose’s vision is to support innovative research and advocacy initiatives.

The group of local students founded the Lincoln Park branch of With Purpose and started background research of pediatric cancer. They researched beyond tentpole facts, rather brainstormed ways as to how they would get their word out.

“We brought this up to our community via surveys, we did interviews with many DePaul students and we just asked questions about how people get involved in their communities,” said Charlene Haparimwi, the copywriting director for With Purpose Lincoln Park. “We gathered all that research and that’s when we started to create our campaign with how we were going to reach out the target demographic we chose.”

They found that, unsurprisingly, social media was one of the biggest ways people got involved.  Creative Director Maggie Orchard had this in mind when creating the promotional materials. The idea is to make the media sites easy to find, so they can begin to build up a base.  When it came to what is posted, Orchard has aimed to keep things simple.

“We wanted things to focus more on the content because it’s more about the advocating than the fundraising, so we wanted people to focus more on the facts than the visuals,” Orchard said.

What better way to get some facts out there than a trivia night?

For With Purpose Lincoln Park’s first major event, they hosted a 1990s themed trivia night with the winner getting a 100 dollar gift card from Boka, one of the group’s sponsors.  

While random facts about Seinfeld and MTV where abundant, the group also used the moment to teach attendees about the limited resources available for those with pediatric cancer. They handed out fact sheets and talked to participants about how they could help, giving people are chance to donate there and giving other resources they could go to.

Now, the five members were at the DePaul Art Museum about to start their second event, a screening of “Thrill Ride.” In the films director and DePaul professor, Chris Parrish, the group had found a partner who could share a deeply personal story to help further each other’s causes.

As Parrish put it, he and his son Mason “didn’t throw the ball around, but we would pitch stories and jokes to each other.” After seeing “Night at the Museum,” Mason told his dad he liked it, but it would have been cooler if it had taken place in an amusement park.  And why wasn’t the kid the hero at the end? Parrish loved the idea and began “Thrill Ride” based on Mason’s ideas.

Mason died in 2011 from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, a form of pediatric cancer involving aggressive tumors around the base of the brain. It only affects around 300 children a year.

The problem with that, according to the medical community, it is so rare that it is not worthy of funding serious research. Until it happens to your child, or your cousin or your nephew,

— Chris Parrish

Parrish then created the Mason Parrish Foundation, which he uses to make films and donating half of its proceeds to pediatric cancer research and the other half going towards the next Mason Parrish Foundation film. The foundation’s first film was “Thrill Ride,” based on Mason’s ideas.

“It is really fun for me to walk into a movie and watch people react to it who aren’t friends of the family and don’t know Mason’s story, that just enjoy his jokes.That is just something that means a lot to me and I love it every single time,” Parrish said.

With Purpose spoke before the movie about the troubles pediatric cancer has with funding and used their campaign to raise awareness for their cause and Parrish’s. The campaign lasts until March 15, including an entrepreneurship workshop for high school students and a local business week were businesses in Lincoln Park will join the fight for awareness.

“For the business week, our strategy was to get our logo out there. The Poster is super simple, it’s just our logo and some facts,” Orchard said. “Simple, but strong. To get the facts. Because it’s not about raising the fundraising dollar amount, it’s more about advocating for With Purpose.”