Lollipop Theater's Game Day: Turning big names into big fundraising dollars

For most kids, seeing trailers for upcoming movies is a special thrill. But for children bound in hospitals, hearing about the latest flicks drives home the sad reality of their situation: They can’t make the trip to the theater with everyone else. “They see all the ads on TV, and their brothers and sisters can go, and they can’t,” says Evelyn Iocolano, Executive Director of the Lollipop Theater Network. Lollipop, a Los Angles-based nonprofit, is dedicated to solving this especially poignant problem for sick youth. The idea is simple: Lollipop brings the movie experience into the hospital, handing out “tickets” to current films, staging group screenings, and even setting up in-room shows for the least mobile patients. “It’s an escape,” Iocolano says.

A star-studded event

The worthy cause has met with terrific support among some of L.A.’s top celebrities. And on May 2nd, Lollipop will be harnessing the drawing power of its A-listers with a major fundraiser. Held at Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Game Day will feature a truly spectacular array of activities for kids, including life-sized Candyland and Connect Four games, free cuts from Hollywood stylist Giuseppe Franco, and a virtual red carpet that attendees can stroll down with their favorite celebs. Stars on board so far include Steve Carell, Denise Richards, Julie Bowen, and many more.

“An easy sell”

How has Lollipop managed to get so many celebs involved? It starts with the quality of the cause. “It’s an easy sell,” says Iocolano, offering a reminder that many nonprofits will be able to bring in big names if they reach out. The organization has also worked hard to, in Iocolano’s words, get these stars “to really take ownership” of their involvement, by simply asking them how they’d like to contribute. “Jennie Garth said, ‘I love to paint nails.’” Soon Iocolano had her at the hospital doing manicures for the patients.

Leveraging celebrity with social media

Finally, Lollipop has been expanding its social media platform. A recent one-day Tweet-a-thon with Craig Ferguson’s “Robot Skeleton Army” was an eye-opener about just how far a serious Twitter push can go when the folks involved are cracking a million followers. Hashtagged by Kevin Smith and others, the Lollipop cause briefly broke into the top ten in worldwide trending topics. It’s another great way NPOs can leverage celebrity for good.

Be sure to follow Lollipop on Twitter and fan them on Facebook!

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