In John Groce’s first year at the helm of the Illini men’s basketball program, his team relied on the deep threat. And that mindset — 280 made three-point field goals — helped the Illini reach the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 2011.
But for two Champaign organizations, the Cunningham Children’s Home and the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, those three-point shots meant more than wins and losses.
Each season, members the Orange Krush Foundation – the basketball student cheering section – pledge money for each three-point basket. The made three pointers last season amounted to nearly $15,000, which was donated to those two organizations to help children in need and hungry area residents.
Cunningham Children’s Home has served at-risk children in the Champaign-Urbana area for 118 years. Krush’s relationship with Cunningham started in 2002 and more than $75,000 have been donated to the organization to date. The donations have funded an educational and recreation center, a new playground and an industrial kitchen range.
“The Krush is just amazing,” said Cloydia Hill Larimore, Executive Director at Cunningham Childen’s Home. “They have come together to really help the community. They are so fantastic at cheering on the team, but they are really committed to helping and learning about the organizations.”
Cunningham helps children with foster care and transitional living, provides residential care treatment and supports special needs education. And heading into the holiday season, Cunningham has posted a Christmas wish-list on its website and is asking for donations.
“We are a place where hope begins in a child’s life,” Hill Larimore said.
Krush’s relationship with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank dates to 2001. Since 2006, the student organization has donated more than $27,000 to the Foodbank.
Each donated dollar translates to six meals, which means Krush has donated more than 160,000 meals to the Foodbank’s 14-county reach. In past years, Krush’s grant money has funded programs such as a mobile food initiative, which delivered food to rural families. And this year’s grant has established a high school pantry program.
“This is a new initiative for us,” said Julie Melton, Director of Marketing and Development at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. “We set up pantries in high schools so that students have access and can bring food home for their families.”
Students shop for food using points that are allocated based on the size of their families.
“It gives them an exercise in budgeting and they get to learn how to manage their points and bring home food for their entire family,” Melton said.
To find out more or to donate to Cunningham Children’s Home, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, or the Orange Krush Foundation, go to: