In January of 2010, Becky Anderson was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Her sister Brenda and best friend Denise wanted to help, so they decided to do a fundraiser where they would shave their heads in support. They called the event Anything for a Friend, and more than 1,000 people attended, raising $30,000 to help offset the cost of Anderson’s medical bills.
“My initial reaction was that I didn’t want the fundraiser and the help, because I didn’t want to be putting people out,” Anderson said. “So, in order to take that gift from everybody, I wanted to pay it forward.”
What started as something to help out a friend grew much bigger. To date, Anything for a Friend has raised more than $900,000 and helped more than 23 families. However, this couldn’t have been done without the help of Weber State University’s computer science program.
In order to hold the dinners, runs, concerts and various events for the organization, the program had to use software to register participants. However, the software was expensive, and one of the most important things to Anderson was that every penny be given to help others.
“I was at a loss and didn’t know what to do,” she said. “So I got down on my knees and asked if this was supposed to be something bigger than it was to help me find a way, because I knew nothing about computers; I’m a social worker. The next day, out of the blue, Rob Hilton (with WSU’s computer science program) called me, and he wasn’t even sure why he was calling me, but we were able to develop this program, and it literally has saved us thousands of dollars.”
While this project has been beneficial to Anything for a Friend, it also benefited the students who helped develop it. They received real work experience while helping out a good cause.
“Becky came in and talked to the class on multiple occasions,” Hilton said. “Becky was so grateful for the work that was being done, and the class was highly affected by her personality.”
With this system, all of the profit can go to families, whereas before, a registration fee was due.
Student Tiffany Waugh was able to participate in the Anything for a Friend project, which she said was more valuable than any other computer work she has done.
“Anything for a Friend, it brought reality to each of us,” Waugh said. “It brought a sense of urgency and pride in your work. You knew that what you were doing will make a difference to a lot of people to come, because there was passion behind the work. The amount of growth and learning within the C Sharp language was much greater than anything else I had experienced in school or have experienced since.”
The Giving Tree is a project that started with Anything for a Friend’s eighth recipient— a tree full of gift cards given to someone in need. The computer science program is currently perfecting a donation system for it.
Hilton stated that while he has other plans for projects for his students to work on this semester, he plans to continue to help out with Anything for a Friend.
Originally written by Caitlynn Kindall of WSU Signpost