PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s a tradition 20 years strong that combines rivalry with philanthropy.
Illinois State University and Bradley University have a storied basketball rivalry. Two days prior to the annual ISU Bradley game, Sigma Nu fraternity brothers from Bradley raise money by running from Normal to Peoria through their annual Game Ball Run fundraiser.
“We relay the game ball for the basketball game from Redbird Arena in Normal to the Civic Center in Peoria,” said Wesley Diaz, Sigma Nu philanthropy chair and Bradley University senior.
That’s a 42-mile journey in seven hours. Diaz said about 30 fraternity brothers left Illinois State University at 7 a.m. and arrived at Peoria Civic Center at 2 p.m., then continued to Children’s Hospital of Illinois. He said they ran in hourly shifts, collectively running to the hospital.
“It’s definitely very rewarding. Probably the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my college career so far. I think I speak for all the guys when I say that,” said Diaz.
Sigma Nu raised $21,042 for Almost Home Kids, a transitional home part of Children’s Hospital of Illinois for patients with medical complexities ready to leave the hospital, but not quite ready to go home.
“If these children didn’t have transitional care, they would have to stay in the hospital waiting for nursing care at home … We can provide a home-like atmosphere with trained pediatric nurses that can train their caregivers to care for them when they get home. It’s a very important program to the community,” said Cheryl Murin, community outreach coordinator at Almost Home Kids.
Murin said they rely entirely on community donations because there is no revenue stream for transitional care.
“It’s overwhelming. We are so grateful for the community support we receive, and the Bradley students never disappoint us. They are wonderful,” she said.
Murin said most of the money will go towards monitoring systems for children.
“When the children go home, they’ll have one-to-one nursing care. But when they’re in our home, there are three children to each nurse, so we’re going to improve our monitoring systems so that we can keep eyes on those kids and keep them safe,” she explained.
Diaz said Game Ball Run is the fraternity’s biggest fundraiser.
“It was definitely a lot of work, but all the guys worked really hard this year to raise the amount of money we did,” he said.
The check was presented at halftime during the ISU and Bradley on Feb. 19. The run was supposed to take place on Feb. 17 but was rescheduled due to a snowstorm.