Student-led Fuel Our Heroes Austin campaign raises money for Dell Medical School

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fuel our Heroes Austin | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Fuel Our Heroes Austin, a student-led fundraising campaign, has raised nearly $13,000 toward its goal of $100,000 for the Emergency Response Fund at Dell Medical School, according to the HornRaiser crowdfunding website. 

Funds from this initiative have gone toward personal protective equipment for front-line staff, weekend lunches, overtime pay and expenses associated with scaling the COVID-19 response, said Holly Gaete, Dell Medical School associate director of development and annual giving.

The campaign began the fundraising initiative on April 17 and has received funds from 378 donors as of April 28, according to HornRaiser. Funds are tax deductible and go directly to the emergency fund, said Morgan Korb, a campaign member and accounting sophomore.  

“The students’ campaign has not only been a source of necessary funds but also a source of inspiration to front-line workers,” Gaete said in an email. “Across Dell Med and UT Health Austin, the efforts of the students have been applauded.”

The Austin campaign is a branch of Fuel Our Heroes, a Los Angeles-based and student-led foundation, which works with UCLA Health to raise money for medical professionals amid the COVID-19 pandemic, biomedical engineering sophomore Xander Klein said.

Klein said he established the foundation with friends from his Los Angeles high school to help diminish the impact of the virus on cities across the country. 

“As college students sent home midway through our spring semester, it was easy to feel  helpless and powerless,” Klein said. “But also it’s difficult sitting around feeling that way while there are health care workers and medical professionals that are risking their lives tirelessly day after day to fight COVID-19 on the front lines.” 

The Los Angeles campaign was established on April 4, and since then, campaigns in cities such as Boston, Denver and Nashville have been founded across the country, Klein said. 

Business honors sophomore Jay Jaber said he was inspired to help start the Austin campaign after seeing one of Klein’s Instagram posts about Fuel Our Heroes. 

The Austin campaign has received much of its student support through its Instagram initiative, “See a Texas memory, send a Texas memory,” Jaber said. 

“You post a memory that you miss from UT or Austin and then you tag five friends, and you also donate $5,” Jarber said. “So that’s what’s created a lot of donations from the student body.” 

Campaign member Jake Greenberg said the purpose of the initiative was both to raise money for Dell Medical and boost the morale of students who are living at home and miss the college experience. 

“When all this is over, we will get back to doing the things we loved in Austin,” Greenberg, a business honors and finance junior, said. “That positive message from people just sharing their stories from friends and reconnecting is another great aspect of the social media campaign.” 

The campaign has also partnered with local businesses and student organizations to help raise money, campaign member Ethan Robinson said. Tiff’s Treats Cookie Delivery agreed to donate a $100 gift card to the student organization that raises the most money for the campaign, finance junior Robinson said. 

Texas Silver Spurs is one of the student organizations that has partnered with the campaign, and approximately 50 members have donated so far, Greenberg said. 

Reid Balser, Texas Silver Spurs president, said organization members posted about their donations on Instagram and challenged people outside of the organization to donate as well. 

“To be able to partner with Fuel Our Heroes and benefit the heroes on the front line at Dell Medical who are sacrificing their well-being for our well-being is a perfect thing to get involved with,” economics junior Balser said.