It’s nice when competitive impulses can be cultivated for good.
That’s what happened last year at a BioGuard banquet when Mermaid Pools and Spas of Anderson, Ind., was honored for raising money to help cystic fibrosis through the manufacturer’s Splash for CF program.
The organization receiving the funds was called Laps for CF, an advocacy group dedicated to increasing awareness and support for the disease.
Diagnosed during childhood, cystic fibrosis causes the body to produce a thick mucus that interferes with breathing and digestive functions. The life expectancy today for an infant born with CF is about 38 years.
BioGuard took on the cause after hearing about an incredible girl named Emily Schreiber, who was diagnosed with CF in 2003 at the age of nine. Undaunted, she organized her first CF fundraiser only six weeks later. An enthusiastic swimmer, Emily geared her event toward collecting pledge money for each lap she would complete.
Today, Laps for CF has grown from a modest program in a community pool to a vibrant non-profit that’s garnered national support and attention.
The award given to Mermaid Pools and Spas caught the attention of one friend to the company — Linda Butler, co-owner of Pools Plus in Elizabethtown, Ky. She and husband Fred have been friends with Mermaid owners Brenda and Tom Murr for more than a decade, so she figured it was safe to pitch a friendly challenge to see who could top whom the next time around.
So it was on. The Butlers and Murrs designated May as the month and decided that whoever raised the most money during that time period would win. But the true winner would be the Laps for CF Foundation.
As with all competitions, there was a bit of smack-talk. Murr and Butler posted a little back-and-forth dialogue on a new Facebook page dedicated to Splash for CF. But the goading came to a head April 30.
Linda Butler and Brenda Murr were on the phone when Murr asked if Butler had received a package that day. It was busy at the store, so the deliveries hadn’t been checked in yet. Murr encouraged Butler to look.
“So I go to check, and here’s this little box,” Butler says. “There’s a cup with all these Tootsie Roll pops tied together, and a sign that says, ‘First annual Splash for CF Challenge. … a mermaid told us that Pools Plus is going to take a licking. Let’s whip this CF thing together.’”
But once May 1 came around, the time for talk was over. It was all about strategy.
Last year, Mermaid Pools raised its funds by selling candy bars, and BioGuard-provided “Splash for CF” wristbands. This year, the company offered 5 percent off any chemical purchases to all wristband purchasers for the entire swim season. “It was an easy sale,” Murr says. “For a lot of them, the bracelet was paid for with their first season purchase.”
But one showcase event really brought the numbers up. A tournament of Corn Hole, a bean-bag-toss-like game that’s popular in the Midwest, was scheduled in the store’s parking lot. Mermaid created a carnival atmosphere, with food, drink and balloons. Each team paid an entry fee.
To motivate the staff, Mermaid Pools gave two hours of paid time off for every $100 raised, whether from wristband sales, raffle tickets or Corn Hole participation.
As a result of its efforts, Mermaid Pools raised just under $3,000.
Pools Plus also sold goodies and raffled a grill. But the company’s showcase event was a hot dog-eating contest that was structured like a 10k run, where each participant gathered pledges from donors.
The company also set its contest in the parking lot with live music, a radio remote, food and other games. “We gave hot dog trophies to the winners,” Butler says.
At the end of the challenge, a clear winner emerged: “Pools Plus whomped us,” Murr says. “Never get in a bet with Linda Butler — she knows how to raise money.” Pools Plus brought in almost $5,000 that month.
But in this case, everybody wins. Both companies have continued fundraising, for a total of about $11,000 so far this year.
“CF is a disease that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” Murr says. “But after we started this, we were surprised to see how many of our customers have been affected by it, and you just didn’t know.”