It began with a simple idea: Brookdale career services representative Jill Donovan wanted to recognize global Rare Disease Day with a day-long program at the college on Feb. 29. Donovan, whose five-year-old daughter Grace was born with the rare metabolic disorder galactosemia, decided to raise awareness and research funding for the disorder by offering employees the chance to wear jeans to work in exchange for a small donation.
Almost immediately, the initiative began to take off. Colleagues from across the college began pledging donations and promoting Donovan’s “Blue Jeans for Rare Genes” initiative across social media. Houlihan’s restaurant in Holmdel offered to host a fundraising dinner following the program, donating a portion of all proceeds to the Galactosemia Foundation.
Middletown Public School District Superintendent Dr. William George III took up the call and enlisted students, parents and teachers from all 17 of the township’s schools in Donovan’s effort. Schools across Monmouth County joined in as well.
Throughout the day, supporters posted pictures of themselves wearing blue jeans in classrooms, at work, and at home to the official “Blue Jeans for Rare Genes” Facebook page.
Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger and the members of the Township Committee even passed a resolution declaring Feb. 29, 2016, Galactosemia Awareness Day in Middletown.
At Brookdale, employee offices and academic buildings were flooded with blue jeans and denim-colored ribbons on Monday, as dozens of employees came together to show their support. The Office of Continuing and Professional Studies even hosted a “Brookdale Spirit Day” to mark the occasion, encouraging all employees to don jeans and their Brookdale apparel in support of Donovan’s cause.
The day-long “Blue Jeans for Rare Genes” initiative, along with an online crowd-funding campaign started by Donovan, raised a total of more than $8,000 for galactosemia research, including nearly $3,500 raised by the Brookdale community. That money, Donovan said, is sorely needed by the children, adults and family members impacted by the disorder each year.
“Galactosemia is considered an orphan disorder, meaning that is there is limited or no funding for research other than what families raise. So this is huge,” said Donovan. “It is not often that I find myself at a loss for words, but there really are no words to express how grateful I am for all the love and support over the last few days. My cup truly runneth over.”
To learn more about galactosemia, visit the Galactosemia Foundation webpage here.
Check out more photos from the Blue Jeans for Rare Genes initiative here.