When his friend’s son died from cancer at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Mark Johnston decided to make a difference in the lives of other families who have their lives thrown into disarray when their child enters the hospital for lengthy stays.
Free Throws for Kids (FTFK) is an organization that raises money to benefit families in the Pediatric, Neonatal and Cardiac Intensive Care Units at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
The fundraiser pays for gift baskets that deliver $500 worth of “practical things directly to families,” including items like gas cards, gift cards to the hospital’s cafeteria, toiletries and precooked Dream Dinners, Johnston said.
Each member of a team of at least 4 people (including a Team Captain) shoots 500 free throws. Each team works to raise at least $1,000 through sponsors and pledges.
Last year, every family in the Intensive Care Units received a gift basket, according to Johnston. In addition, the surplus of the $43,828 raised was donated to the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House.
This year, FTFK hopes to register 48 teams and raise $75,000. Currently, there are 400 total shooters signed up for the March 28 event, according to Johnston.
For Johnston, running FTFK has turned into a part-time job, requiring more help this year with the drastic increase in participants and volunteers. He sees the organization as “further than non-profit” because 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to families in need.
Natalie Gerano, Corporate Donor Relations Officer for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, works directly with FTFK and plans to attend this year’s event.
“The committee that organizes it is wonderful,” Gerano said. “For a first-year event to raise $40,000 is amazing.”
Gerano sees these donations as “extremely important because these families have so many other things to worry about while in the hospital.”
Lance Connor, of Cincinnati, experienced these worries firsthand.
Connor and his wife, Brooke, welcomed twin boys Ashton and Blake into the world in 2014. The twins were born 12 weeks early and required extended stays in the hospital.
Connor said he arrived at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to find a “bag of everything a parent in a hospital could use.”
After receiving the gift basket, Connor reached out to Johnston expressing his gratitude and interest in participating in this year’s event.
“Every day is kind of a struggle and to have someone give you a gift — a gas card — with all the driving back and forth between Good Sam and Children’s — was truly a blessing,” Connor said.
Connor’s twins are now 10 months old and “happy and healthy,” and he wants to help the cause. He has a goal of raising enough money for at least one basket, with nearly half of it already raised.