Freshman Michael McConville is using March Madness to benefit a charity that hits close to home.
Two weeks ago, McConville decided to create a bracket competition that would benefit research on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which took his brother Christopher’s life in 1997, he said. McConville turned to InCube, Duke’s entrepreneurship selective living group, to help him create an online NCAA men’s basketball championship bracket competition called Brackets 4 Life to raise money for SIDS research.
McConville worked with his roommate, freshman Devin Solanki, an InCube member, to come up with a plan to develop a charity. Although the event was fast approaching, the pair decided to center the charity around March Madness.
“After we thought of the idea, it kind of just took off,” McConville said.
When McConville and Solanki pitched the idea to InCube, more than a dozen kids were immediately interested in helping out, said sophomore Ashley Qian, another member of InCube.
The marketers, programmers and designers at InCube worked for more than eight hours straight to create Brackets 4 Life, in a website-creating event called a “Hackathon for a cause.”
“It has been a great way for us to see what programming can do to really make an impact,” Qian said. “It also allows us to apply a lot of the things we learn in our own companies to a charity cause.”
McConville was inspired to raise the money by his parents, who have raised more than a million dollars for SIDS through an annual golf fundraiser. Brackets 4 Life is McConville’s way of following his parents’ example by turning a horrible situation into something positive, he said.
Close to 200 people have already signed up on the website, and the charity has raised more than $500, McConville said. Participants must donate a minimum of $2 in order to enter the bracket. Fifty percent of the money will be divided between five charities chosen by the pool’s top five scorers.
“I understand that I’m not the only person that has had something bad happen to them,” he said. “Why should I be making my problem out to be the most important when I know everyone else has something to fight for as well?”
Sophomore Tre’ Scott, Duke Student Government vice president for services, said in an email Feb. 26 that Brackets 4 Life shows the positive impact students are making.
“It’s good to see Duke students doing amazing work for other people,” he said.
McConville said he wants to continue raising money for SIDS research, and hopes to make Brackets 4 Life an annual event.