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At Guest Relations Marketing, there are many organizations near and dear to our hearts. If you’re looking for a great evening that will benefit a wonderful cause, check out these events. Each one helps give back to children in-need, both locally and globally.

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Guest Relations created a program in September 2009 to honor the courageous fight of children with cancer.  CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time initially featured the personal story of 30 children.  Promoted in social media and other online communications, the program has grown over 5 years to feature nearly 400 children.   The campaign has raised to-date  $1,017,291 towards research aimed at solving children’s cancers.

The Atlanta Journal-Constution recently featured the program.

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BY MARK DAVIS – THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

For 30 days, they shared their stories: the athlete who didn’t let amputation keep him off the lacrosse field, the kid who inspired people even as he lay dying, the sisters who share a bond more profound than blood. Their stories were different — the same, too. Each is young, and has cancer. Some have licked the disease, and are in remission; others remain in a literal fight for their lives. A few have lost that fight.

In September CURE Childhood Cancer, a Dunwoody nonprofit, featured nearly 100 youthful cancer patients in a month-long fund-raiser, Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time. People who visited the organization’s web site could read each child’s store and make an online contribution.
The goal: raising $200,000 to fund childhood cancer research. What it had raised by month’s end: $214,000.

The money will help bridge the funding gap between fighting adult cancer and childhood cancer, said Kristen Connor, CURE’s executive director.
“We don’t (spend) anything to prevent childhood cancer,” she said. “I think that’s wrong.”  Less than 5 percent of the federal government’s annual total funding for cancer research is dedicated to various forms of childhood cancer, according to the National Institute of Health.  At the same time, said Connor, cancer is the No. 2 killer of American youth, defined as newborns to 21-year-olds. Only accidents claim more young lives.
Childhood cancer often isn’t the same as that afflicting adults. Grown-ups, for example, may contract cancer of the lung, colon, breast. Children are more apt to develop cancer in soft tissues, or in growing bones.  About 14,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 1.6 million men and women will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

For Connor, the numbers are more than an abstract. Twelve years ago, physicians diagnosed her son, Brandon, with neuroblastoma, a cancerous growth on his spine. The boy was a month old, and she was terrified.  The cancer has been in remission for nearly a decade, and Brandon recently celebrated a birthday. But the experience so profoundly changed his mom that Connor gave up her career at an Atlanta law firm to lead CURE.  “Brandon was lucky,” she said. “But a lot of others haven’t been.”

Some struggled against a disease that proved too much for their young bodies. Silas Edenfield was 3 when physicians diagnosed him with type IV hepatoblastoma, liver cancer. The boy, who lived near Savannah, underwent six surgeries over a 16-month period. He faced chemotherapy, blood tests and hundreds of nights away from home. In May, 10 days short of his fifth birthday, Silas died.  His is one of the stories on CURE’s site. By then end of September, people who’d read his story online had contributed more than more than $2,000 in donations in his name.

Other stories show that cancer is not insurmountable. Sean Dever was 11 when he developed osteosarcoma, bone cancer, above the knee. Surgeons removed the cancerous segment, then reattached the ankle and foot to his knee, rotating the joint so it serves as a new knee. Colleges are recruiting the Marietta resident, now a high school senior, for their lacrosse teams.

Consider the stories of Olivia and Elena Tate. Gwinnett sisters, each was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnoses came five years apart, and on the same day.

April 2, 2004: The Tate family was on vacation in Florida when Olivia’s parents noticed their 2-year-old daughter was tilting her head to one side. She stumbled when she walked. When the child started holding her head and vomiting, the Tates rushed her to a hospital. A CAT scan revealed a brain tumor. A helicopter took her from Florida toChildren’s Healthcare of Atlanta where Olivia underwent surgery to remove the tumor. Eight follow-up visits showed no recurring tumors, and the Tates relaxed — until a ninth checkup in 2008 revealed another tumor.It was removed, too.

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April 2, 2009: Elena, 10, had been complaining of severe back and leg pain. Leukemia, her doctors said. Since then, Elena has run the gamut in care: chemotherapy — her hair fell out — spinal taps, blood transfusions. She underwent a bone marrow transplant last year and is in recovery.
Their stories, shared online, had raised $4,200.

In an interview last week, both girls said they feel great — happy to be at home, and in school. Olivia, now 11, is in the fourth grade; 14-year-old Elena is a ninth grader.  School, Olivia said, is “good. I think I need to study a little more.”  Elena, who wants to be a marine biologist, has her hair back.  It’s a red tangle. She also has regained something else.“I’m feeling confident again,” she said.  “Everyone has been there for me.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 1.33.06 PMClient CURE Childhood Cancer has a lot of amazing supporters. And one of GRM’s favorites is NFL Linebacker Gary Guyton. For Gary, watching kids fighting cancer truly touches his heart. He’a a Zealot for sure. That’s why Gary has rallied some of his NFL friends and joined forces with CURE for their May 5th event Lauren’s Run & CURE Annual Picnic.

Lauren’s Run (the annual 5K, 2K, and Tot Trot) begins at 8:00am at Concourse Office Park in Atlanta, GA. Following Lauren’s Run, all race participants are invited to the CURE Annual Picnic. There, your family will enjoy lunch and an abundance of games – including the Gary Guyton Flag Football game. Just look for the Flag Football registration table at Lauren’s Run check-in to sign up for a time to play. The football game is free – all you need to do is register for Lauren’s Run. Click here to sign up and support this worthwhile cause. Keep your eyes peeled for GRM – we’ll be there on race day!

Check out some of the great commercials we filmed with Gary and 11Alive. It was a fun day on set for all of us – and the kids.



What would it take for you to strip down to a Speedo and run through Midtown in December? For our own April Voris, all it takes is CURE.

When April got word that CURE Childhood Cancer is the benefactor of this year’s Atlanta Santa Speedo Run, she was on board. Not only will April be donning her Speedo, and perhaps a jingle bell or two, but she also has set a goal to raise $500 for CURE. Click here to check out her fundraising progress or make a donation.

April needs all of our support on raceday, December 8th. So put on a warm coat, charge your camera, and come cheer her on along the race route. Click here to learn more about the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run. Or for the brave, click here to register to run and fundraise. Speedo required.

A year ago, childhood cancer was a totally foreign subject to me. The disease hadn’t affected my family or friends. It didn’t have a face or a name. It wasn’t real.

Then I met CURE’s Kids.

I began my internship at Guest Relations Marketing in August 2011 and my first project was to read, edit, and upload the stories of the children participating in the September promotion CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time.

Some children were survivors. Some were currently in treatment. Some had lost their battle. The stories were both heartbreaking and inspiring. After researching CURE, I soon realized that childhood cancer is much more common than I ever imagined and that government funding for the disease is almost nonexistent.

Since its inception in 2009, CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time has raised more than $600,000 for critical research aimed at finding cures for childhood cancers. All this was accomplished by simply sharing the stories of children whose lives have been affected by this horrific disease.

CURE’s goal this September is to raise another $250,000. Seems like a daunting task. But as soon as you read the story of a child like Laura, the reason CURE needs our support is crystal clear.

Are you a Zealot for CURE? I certainly am.

CURE Childhood Cancer just announced record donations of $3.1 million received in its just-concluded fiscal year. This represents about a 200% gain in annual giving since they became a client of Guest Relations Marketing in 2007.  This has been accomplished primarily through activating their Zealots through online media and events.

More importantly, this has resulted in tremendous advances in research. We are striving for the ultimate success story – finding ultimate cures for childhood cancers. It is coming!

Word of mouth marketing has existed since the day of the first business. Sharing opinions and experiences has always been a means of success or failure for many companies. If you have an excellent product, people will find out and, as you can imagine, this same principle applies to those products of lesser quality.

In today’s age of social media and instant sharing, companies must utilize these tools to their advantage. Not only can social media allow you to monitor what is being said or share information, it can also be used to activate those that you want to share your message.

Marketing programs should be built from a referral perspective based on those most passionate about your brand. These passionate followers, or Zealots, live the philosophy of word of mouth marketing without even knowing the true power they possess. While tapping into this resource may seem obvious to many, it also shouldn’t be the end of the road for your marketing strategy.

Case and point: a recent promotion that our client CURE Childhood Cancer was involved in: Club Diamond Nation (CDN). Launched as the first virtual baseball and softball academy, CDN provided an opportunity for fans to vote for their favorite player for a chance to win a one-on-one training session. Additionally, CDN would donate $15,000 to the charity selected by the player who received the most votes.

CURE Childhood Cancer was the selected charity of CDN athlete and former Atlanta Braves pitcher, Tom Glavine.  Immediately, we began to promote the contest to followers of CURE Childhood Cancer, via e-blasts, blogs, Twitter and Facebook. With more than 31,000 fans on Facebook and even more on our email and blog lists, we were sure that this would be enough to win. However, after a month of voting we realized that this would not suffice if we really wanted to win the $15,000.

Softball player Jennie Finch was blowing Tom Glavine out of the water when it came to votes and, with a week left, Tom trailed Jennie by more than 1,200 votes.

The major issue? Those who are Zealots for CURE Childhood Cancer are passionate about finding a cure for the disease and as a result did not feel directly passionate about this promotion, as it was very baseball-oriented. This is when we decided to take another approach and activate indirect Zealots of CURE by targeting those who are Zealots of Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves.

Through Twitter, CURE Childhood Cancer and Tom Glavine promoted the contest to Braves fans and asked them to vote. Tom began to interact directly with fans and reward those who were spreading the word by retweeting and replying to them directly. As a result, the dialogue exploded in frequency.

In a matter of six days Tom Glavine received more 6,000 votes, 4,500 more than Jennie Finch during that time. Additionally, direct mentions of CURE on Twitter increased 810%, resulting in an increased reach of 1,490%.

By simply asking Braves fans to support their old pitcher, Tom Glavine, CURE Childhood Cancer won the CDN contest and the $15,000.

Yes, word of mouth marketing can serve as a wondrous opportunity for organizations.  Now through social media platforms, companies can not only listen to what people are saying about their brand, but also have an simple and direct way to start the conversation.

In 2006 CURE Childhood Cancer and Guest Relations Marketing teamed up to transform the CURE brand from that of a grassroots organization to the renowned nonprofit that it is today. 

We are immensely proud of the work CURE does on a day-to-day basis and are even more proud of our own April Voris, who is currently Board President for CURE. CURE’s transformation was recently featured in the Georgia Center for Nonprofits April Newsletter, which we are pleased to share:

GCN member CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based nonprofit cancer research foundation dedicated to finding cures for childhood cancer, knew they had to make some major changes in order to effectively carry out their mission. In a recent conversation, executive director Kristin Connor and board chair April Voris shared highlights of the organization’s “inside-out” transformation over the past three years.

“We wanted to transform CURE from more of a grassroots organization to a much more professional, sophisticated, higher-impact organization,” says Kristin Connor, Executive Director of CURE Childhood Cancer.

The process began in 2006 with a successful growth pattern that resulted from CURE’s inaugural annual campaign; but, as Connor observed, this was only a start. At a point, “we realized that we had captured the low-hanging fruit,” acknowledges Connor, who recognized the need “to dig deeper and gain a better understanding of how to really do annual fundraising right.” They made a major strategic shift, moving away from an emphasis on special events to focusing on major gifts. A development audit conducted in 2009 formed a critical step forward in clarifying direction, but left Connor and her board without the capacity to move from plan to execution. A GrantsPlus coaching grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta enabled the organization to push forward.

CURE tapped GCN Consulting Services and partnered with consultant Cara Schroeder, who worked closely with the executive team and board to provide hands-on training. Connor credits the process of “literally walking us through an entire fiscal year of major gift and annual campaign fundraising, step- by-step” with providing CURE with the breakthrough it needed. Through one-on-one and group coaching, staff and board learned the “how-to’s” to systematically and strategically approach the process. Board members were trained to solicit donations through personalized appeals – which, with the help of scripts to allay intimidation, proved a successful tactic.

The results speak for themselves: In 2010-11, CURE received 69 new major gifts and 640 annual gifts to their annual campaign.

The organization then chose to hire its first-ever Director of Development, a department that has now expanded to a 3-person team.

A Brand Makeover

Another transformation instrumental in building CURE’s fundraising capacity is a rebranding, led by board president April Voris of Guest Relations Marketing. The “before” image of CURE was “a pink teddy bear, unprofessional documents printed on a home computer, and a low level of professionalism.” The “after” is a transformed brand “built from the bottom-up” that reflects CURE’s mission and vision, while resonating deeply with CURE’s core audience: families of children with cancer.

Identifying those who are passionate about CURE’s mission – our “zealots” – explains Voris, has been the key to developing effective branding and marketing strategies. An early adapter of social media, CURE recognized that a Facebook page not only offered their constituents a place to build a community of supporters, but could act as a story-telling platform. The momentum grew quickly. Voris cites CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer, a fundraising initiative they launched during National Childhood Cancer Awareness month, with a goal of raising $30,000 online. Over 30 days, 60 families were honored and the momentum grew quickly, eventually raising $170,000.

CURE’s marketing program continues to grow from the inside-out through an overall marketing philosophy, which Voris explains is much like a “spider web approach,” each piece is interconnected and strengthening the others. “Your customers take the lead on how they want to interact with your brand,” says Voris, “so you must be prepared to engage and accept them from all points of entry.” Reflecting on the journey, Connor and Voris offer some insight to fellow nonprofits with similar challenges. The first steps toward positive change? “Really looking at ourselves”; honestly evaluating core competencies; and asking both “where are we needed?” and “what do we not need to be doing?”

CURE Childhood Cancer has been instrumental in serving the children and families that depend on timely research. Through a transformation on the inside, they have been furthered their ability to transform lives on the outside.

As we’ve discussed in the past, the Guest Relations Marketing team is Zealots for CURE Childhood Cancer. Not only are they our client, but we’re passionate about the cause. So much so, that April sits as President of the Board of Directors for the organization. If that’s not Zealotry in Action, we don’t know what is.

As the holiday season approached, we were thrilled to find out that CURE would be selling Elves from Catie as a holiday fundraiser.

These Elves were inspired by Catie Wilkins, one of CURE’s kids who lost her battle with cancer in 2007. Elves from Catie visit your home – or office – during the holidays and remain completely frozen in place whenever you’re around. But as soon as you leave? Chaos ensues. Not only are Elves from Catie a fun addition to any household, but a portion from each Elf sold goes directly to CURE. So it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Elves from Catie have only been visiting GRM for a few days and they’ve already been caught creating mischief.

If you would like to add some spirited fun to your home or office his holiday season – and support CURE – you may purchase Elves from Catie online at www.elvesfromcatie.com or in-stores or online at Swoozie’s.

We have a feeling this isn’t the only time these Elves are going to get in trouble this month. You can’t leave these guys unattended for one second.

CURE Childhood Cancer’s Annual “CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time” campaign just completed its third year. This year was the most successful year yet, inspiring hundreds of donors to join the fight against childhood cancer.

During the month of September, CURE Childhood Cancer honored and remembered children affected by cancer; these children representing the 12,700 children diagnosed each year. The money raised from this campaign is directed towards children’s cancer research, in hopes of someday finding a cure.

This campaign, promoted through Social Media and Online, raised $263,000 this year alone, and more than $640,000 collectively in the last 3 years, while at the same time almost doubling database numbers.

Just another example of the power of tapping into the Zealots for your brand (or cause), in combination with an emotionally driven fundraising campaign.

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