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Wow. Seriously.

Superlatives fall short of describing our first CreateAthon@USC – from the number of student volunteers who turned out, to the caliber of work they created; from the shock and awe of our nonprofits to the impact our communications will have on the community. In all, 87 people sacrificed their weekend hours and a night's sleep to donate their talent for six good causes.


CreateAthon@USC is a 24-hour creative blitz dedicated to helping South Carolina nonprofits, and the people they serve. Last October, student volunteers hunkered down in the Carolina Coliseum to produce free advertising and marketing communications materials for nonprofits. Professionals and faculty from the advertising and design community volunteered as mentors, helping students bring their ideas to life. Everyone was kept working through the generousity of many community sponsors – from Red Bull (of course!) to a spirit-lifting musical interlude provided by Cockapella, a university a cappella group. Though the School of Journalism and Mass Communications hosted the event, participants came from throughout the university community.

CreateAthon@USC is the brain child of associate professor Karen Mallia, launched with assistance from Visual Communications instructor Scott Farrand. It was over a year in the making. "I couldn't have done it without Scott. It's staggering how many hundreds of hours it took to pull off a 24-hour marathon," Mallia said with a smile. "Passion kept us going and going – a genuine desire to help those who spend every day making a positive difference in so many lives."

The nonprofits who benefitted were Edgefield County Theatre Company, Federation of Families of South Carolina, Helen Hill Media Education Center, Harvest Hope Food Bank, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, and Tutor Eau Claire.

"Those groups contribute so much to our society in such diverse ways. We are so proud to have helped them share their stories." Mallia said. Farrand added, "Some clients got complete brand identity packages, others received website design. From posters to brochures to press releases, every element was professional caliber. We expected good work – but it was great." The market value of the work donated by CreateAthon@USC 2013 is conservatively estimated at $150,000.

"CreateAthon is a rare opportunity for students to gain real-world experience in developing communication strategies and powerful creative work – and in working under extreme deadline pressure," Mallia said. "For those in the Creative Leadership class who spent the entire semester working with the nonprofits, immersed in their missions and issues, service-learning was a profound experience. The lessons went well beyond the subject matter to a deeper understanding of themselves and their capabilities, as well as the strengths, beauty and frailities of the human condition."


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We give it all we’ve got — time, talent and enthusiasm. But CreateAthon@USC can’t happen without funding for essentials, like team T-shirts and food to keep the troops fueled for over 24 hours.

Even a small donation helps us help others.

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Yay, team! CreateAthon volunteers took home a GOLD Addy Award from AAF of Midlands for Helen Hill Media Education Center Identity/Elements.

Congratulations, Marine Hamersma! Her amazing sales promotion piece won the AAF's CreateAthon Creative Strategy prize. It also blew away everyone who saw it.

  Columbia, SC 29208 • 803-777-3244
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