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Nothing But Nets gets boost, launches campaign in Miami

Nothing But Nets gets boost, launches campaign in Miami

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Nothing But Nets gets boost, launches campaign in Miami

May 2, 2007    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0667}

NOTE: This article was produced and distributed April 27 by United Methodist News Service, Nashville, Tenn.

An e-Review Feature
By John Gordon**

MIAMI — It was a record-setting day for Nothing But Nets, and a day of hope for many children in Africa, where malaria kills one child every 30 seconds.

The Nothing But Nets campaign, which is raising money to send insecticide-treated nets for African children to sleep under, kicked off a grassroots awareness effort April 25 in Miami on the same day that the TV show “American Idol” raised millions of dollars to further the cause.  

“The momentum seems to be higher than it has been at any point,” said United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton, who leads the denomination’s Pittsburgh Area and is president of the church’s Commission on Communication.

“The ideas that are being generated are just beginning to flow in from all circles across the country, from a variety of different forms and places, within churches and secular organizations,” Bickerton said. “The money that we’ve raised is showing that the momentum is growing.”

Miami Heat basketball star Jason Kapono visits with University of Miami students during a "watch party" for the "Idol Gives Back" television program, which raised money for the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria campaign and other charities. The watch party ended activities in Miami on April 25 that began with a faith leaders' prayer breakfast and included a "boot camp" on campus to educate students about malaria and ways to get involved in fighting the disease. A UMNS photo by John Gordon. Photo #07-0574.

Nothing But Nets is a partnership that includes the people of The United Methodist Church, the United Nations Foundation, the National Basketball Association’s NBA Cares, Sports Illustrated magazine and Major League Soccer’s MLS W.O.R.K.S.

The Miami events kicked off a 12-city arena tour encouraging youth and faith leaders to get involved. The activities marked Africa Malaria Day and, in the United States, Malaria Awareness Day.

Millions raised

A special “Idol Gives Back” edition of the top-rated “American Idol” raised more than $50 million, to be divided among eight charities including Nothing But Nets. The exact amount to be received by the anti-malaria effort was still being determined, said Elizabeth McKee, marketing director of the United Nations Foundation. McKee said the “Idol” donation will be matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Several dozen students at the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus watched the television program in the evening April 25 after attending a “boot camp” session to learn more about malaria and discuss ways they could get involved.

Jason Kapono, a forward on the Miami Heat basketball team, was on hand to sign autographs and pose for pictures with students.

“People need to look beyond … their own lives here in this country and understand that there’s a lot of problems going on outside of this country,” Kapono said. “And it’s something that we as a people, I believe, should do.”

Kapono personally donated about $5,000 to Nothing But Nets earlier this year by pledging $100 for every successful shot during a three-point contest at this year’s All-Star game.

“I think it’s a tangible way to help people and take real action against malaria,” said Carly Winokur, 20, a University of Miami sophomore who attended the Miami events. “This is a campaign where you know that 100 percent of your money and your donations are going to people and making a difference.”

Providing insecticide-treated nets for children to sleep under is considered one of the most cost-effective ways to fight the mosquito-transmitted disease that kills an estimated 1 million people annually. Children under 5 are the most vulnerable, and the disease is primarily transmitted at night when people sleep.

It costs $10 to send a net to Africa and provide community health workers to show residents how to use them.

“I think it’s incredible that we can save a life with just $10,” said Caroline Gomez, a 20-year-old University of Miami sophomore who attended the watch party. “We live such a privileged life, and we don’t take the time to really think about what Third World country people are going through.”

Not including the “Idol” contribution, Nothing But Nets has raised $5.5 million — nearly double the original fundraising goal of $3 million — since its launch less than a year ago

“One of the keys for the church in the future is people finding themselves in places where they don’t normally go, so that they can have an opportunity to spread the gospel,” said Bickerton. And “American Idol” is “a very unlikely place for us to go.”

Building support

Bickerton said the popularity of “American Idol” not only brought in donations, but is helping raise awareness of the plight of children in Africa.

“I think it’s yet another one of those creative partnerships that will bring life to this campaign,” he said.

Stan Van Gundy, former head coach of the Miami Heat and a member of Kendall United Methodist Church in Miami, lent his support to Nothing But Nets by attending a faith leaders’ breakfast that drew nearly 70 representatives from two dozen United Methodist area churches.

“I’m very proud to be part of a denomination like The United Methodist (Church) that’s reaching out to so worthy a cause, and one in which we can make such a great impact,” said Van Gundy.

“I think sports is very universal, and when you use that as a vehicle, I think you sort of bring everybody together.”

The breakfast was hosted by Christ Church United Methodist in Fort Lauderdale.

“It’s so easy, I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to be involved in this wonderful campaign,” said the Rev. Alex Shanks, the church’s executive pastor.

Organizers are hoping the Nothing But Nets campaign will keep up the pace, since an estimated 300 million nets are needed in Africa.

“In the marketing world, you’re always interested in how long it can stay on the front page,” Bickerton said. “Some of us have thought that maybe we’ve got another year, 18 months. But with the momentum that’s being built at this point and the network that’s being built, the infrastructure that’s being built, we think this can be more of a long-term, sustained program.”

University of Miami student Jessy Antoni, 20, hopes other students will get involved.

“It’s going to be an incredible cause,” she said, “(one that will) save hundreds of lives, thousands of lives — hopefully, millions of lives.”


This article relates to Outreach/Church and Society.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.