VCU PT Students Win Fundraising Challenge Benefiting Physical Therapy Research – VCU News | Region & Cash

For the third straight year, students in the Department of Physical Therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Health Professions have won the VCU-Marquette Challenge, a fundraiser for the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research.

“It’s pretty cool how many people care about raising funds for our profession and helping it grow and thrive,” said Maya King, a third-year physical therapy student at VCU and coordinator of the VCU-Marquette Challenge for the Class of 2023. “The challenge really made me realize that we could help patients and advance the field of physical therapy.”

Marquette University students started the challenge in 1989 to raise funds for the foundation, a national nonprofit organization that funds research grants, fellowships, and physical therapy fellowships. Over the past three decades, physical therapy and physical therapist assistant students from more than 300 schools have participated, raising a total of $4.6 million to support the foundation’s mission. The top three schools for the 2021–2022 challenge were VCU ($23,053.72), University of Delaware ($20,050.04), and University of Miami ($17,344.30).

“The challenge is a tremendous help in enabling us to fulfill our mission,” said foundation spokesperson Jordan Jennings. “The challenge represents our largest annual fundraiser.”

“Through this prestigious competition, our students are helping to create numerous opportunities for physical therapy research,” said Susan Parish, Ph.D., Dean and Sentara Professor of Health Administration at the College of Health Professions. “I am extremely proud of their continued success and the remarkable impact they are making in the field of physical therapy.”

For winning the challenge last year, VCU co-hosted the 2021-2022 Marquette Challenge and had their name added to the title. For the challenge, physical therapy students voluntarily organize various fundraising events during an academic year. Last year’s events included a cornhole tournament, a golf tournament and the March Madness Bracket Challenge.

“When students at any level participate in the challenge, they are making an investment that will strengthen their future profession,” said Jennings. “Additionally, participating students gain valuable leadership skills and experience that contribute to their professional growth and networking.”

King enjoyed the experience and saw the challenge as an opportunity to connect more with her classmates and faculty. She spent many hours organizing fundraisers and coordinating with faculty and staff.

“I started my program at VCU during the pandemic and I wanted to get involved,” King said. “I wanted a way to feel more connected to my classmates and the program since we were doing everything on Zoom.”

Shawne Soper, DPT, an assistant professor at the VCU Department of Physical Therapy, was the long-time faculty coordinator for this challenge. She helped organize events for the students and worked to keep the fundraiser going.

When Soper took over the coordination of the challenge in 2015, VCU came along on the second place. The students came up to her and said they wanted to win the 2015-2016 challenge. That required a plan. She worked with the students and helped them develop a systematic way to manage fundraisers throughout the school year. This has been the case every year since and is one of the main reasons for the school’s success. Every year since 2015, the VCU has placed either first or second in this challenge.

Soper said she enjoyed the position and loved working with the students. The challenge brings prestige to the physical therapy program and the VCU.

“The organization of the challenge ticks so many boxes for students,” Soper said. β€œIt is a great opportunity for leadership development, organized social events and professional development. It was so wonderful to see these students thrive in these leadership roles.”

For next year’s challenge, Chad Taylor, DPT, an assistant professor in the VCU Department of Physical Therapy, will take over as helm from Soper, who is retiring in the fall. The challenge has become an important part of the physical therapy program at VCU and Taylor said he is honored to continue the work.

Taylor said the challenge is meant to be fun. Students and faculty work together to raise money for the profession. Most events are fun and a great way for everyone to socialize.

“These are excellent team building exercises and great for getting students involved in the school,” Taylor said. “It’s also a great way for students and faculty to interact outside of the classroom.”

Taylor said past and present physical therapy students should be proud of the role VCU has played in raising funds for the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research. VCU is one of the best schools to raise funds for the foundation since the challenge began.

The awards ceremony was virtual and King was one of the presenters as VCU won the award last year. She said that although she was the challenge leader this year, everyone who helped organize the various fundraisers played a key role. This would not have been possible without the great help of everyone.

“It was a lot of work, but it was an amazing experience,” King said. “It’s been amazing to see how many of us want to come together to help with this effort.”