A group of UNC Kenan-Flagler undergrads are rallying together to help Joe Brown (BSBA ’16) power up.
Brown was involved in a bus-pedestrian accident in April 2015 that left him with minor injuries and significant damage to his wheelchair. Insurance would cover the cost of replacing his chair with an identical model, but that left Brown facing a new challenge: that chair no longer meets his needs, and he wouldn't be able to upgrade again for five years because of insurance regulations. Upgrading to a power wheelchair with a needed standing feature would cost Brown more than $8,000 out of pocket.
That’s when the UNC Kenan-Flagler community stepped in.
At the time of the accident, Brown – a business major and PR minor – was a student in Patricia Harms’ management and corporate communication class. With just 20 students – including 18 GLOBE Scholars – in the class, the group grew close over the course of the semester.
“We were all very aware and concerned when the accident happened,” says Harms. “When Joe and I talked about his situation, I suspected the GLOBE group would be willing to step in and spearhead a fundraising effort.”
With Brown’s blessing, Harms emailed her students and offered to lend her support if they wanted to get involved.
“We started working within the hour,” says Christina Farrell (BSBA ’17).
The tightknit class was familiar with each other’s skills and strengths – knowledge they used to swiftly mobilize and get a campaign off the ground. They devised a strategy – crowdfunding, corporate sponsorships and community support – to raise the $8,269 needed for Brown’s upgraded wheelchair.
The next day they launched a GoFundMe campaign for Brown and used social media to spread the word.
“This is completely indicative of the Carolina Way and the way that UNC Kenan-Flagler students are taught to apply their knowledge,” says Farrell. “It isn’t just about learning the technical skills, but learning how to make a tangible impact.”
The efforts garnered an immediate response from the community and raised nearly $6,000 in less than a month. “We were surprised how fast this gained traction and how fast students took to it,” Farrell says. Thanks to continued support from the Carolina community, they reached their goal.
“It’s very humbling,” says Brown, executive vice president of campus engagement and marketing for the Carolina Sport Business Club and an active member of the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club. “UNC Kenan-Flagler is awesome. I know almost everyone in my classes, and they’re all very good people.”
His classmates and professors say the feeling is mutual. Farrell credits the success of the fundraiser to Brown’s character. “You have to find the projects that you’re passionate about,” she says. “Joe is a really fantastic person. He approaches every day with a positive attitude and has brought a lot of humor and a lot of smiles.”
“Joe is an inspirational student,” adds Anna Millar, director of admissions, academics and student engagement for the Undergraduate Business Program. “Others want to support him in any way given all he gives to the rest of us.”
Looking back, Brown says he’s fortunate to have made the last-minute decision to enroll in Harms’ class and is grateful for the support his classmates, professors and community have shown him.
“UNC Kenan-Flagler is a very special place to be,” he says.