In the fall of 2021, when sisters-in-law Kelly Hilliard and Lisa Schrage were asked to co-chair the Emerging Leaders Derby for Kids planning committee, they immediately said yes. Having attended events past and been previously involved, they knew what this event meant to The Children’s Foundation’s fundraising efforts and the organizations it supports.
But this year, the cause hit especially close to home with the event mission focus to support mental health and substance use disorder. They both felt a personal connection to it and wanted to make a difference for those struggling.
“I want my children, family, and friends to understand mental health,” Lisa said. “Not only for themselves but so they can help others as well.”
For months, they devoted time, talent, and treasure, to recruit and lead a group of energetic, passionate, young professionals and parents who were enthusiastic about making Derby for Kids an incredible success.
The spirited group harnessed their networks to recruit new sponsors, silent auction items, and several cause-related marketing partners. They worked with the community to promote the event, collaborated with event co-chairs Joan and Doug Budden and Donna and Brian Satterfield, and consulted staff at The Foundation for guidance and expertise.
“My favorite part was setting the goal and watching us chip away at it,” said Kelly. “Then we exceeded it, and it made me really proud to know that the generosity of my local community was behind it.”
Kelly, Lisa, and the Emerging Leaders suggested games and contests, adding to the Derby fun while cleverly raising additional funds. They helped almost 200 Pony Priced tickets, which were targeted to a 40 and under crowd – largely contributing to the increase in number of attendees which more than doubled compared to past years – and spearheaded a competitive silent auction which brought in nearly $20,000!
It was a record-breaking year for the Derby in both attendance and funds raised. Approximately 500 guests in attendance raised more than $150,000 to open a substance use disorder and mental health clinic at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Troy.
“Now more than ever is a time to stay connected with your community,” said Lisa. “Together, we are creating an opportunity to support many people who feel alone and do not have the access to services they need.”
The pair help create a memorable Derby for Kids and raised important funds to impact future generations of youth.
“The fact that you are making a difference is a very rewarding use of your time and effort,” Kelly said.