When a group of UChicago graduate students connected their common experiences in the U.S. military with a midterm project at Chicago Booth, together they raised the value of a $20 pair of swimming goggles to more than $30,000.
Mike Bigrigg recruited fellow Iraq war veterans Eduard de Courreges and Evan Johnson, and two supporters of the cause Petar Dudukovski and Kenichi Hino—all graduate students in the Chicago Booth School of Business and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies—to complete a 5-kilometer swim at the Ratner Athletics Center pool on Thursday, Feb. 16, to raise money and honor the memory of Travis Manion.
“This swim serves as a tribute re-enactment of a reconnaissance training swim my friend Travis Manion and I completed prior to Travis’ final deployment to Iraq where he was fatally wounded,” explained Bigrigg.
The goal was to raise money to fund a Challenge Grant through the Travis Manion Foundation. The grant will pay a disabled veteran’s salary to work at a third-party nonprofit organization, where the veteran will gain valuable job skills and the veteran-focused nonprofit will receive valuable labor in exchange.
The catalyst for their fundraising effort—the 5k Memorial Fundraiser Swim—was their midterm project in the Chicago Booth course “Building Internet Start-Ups: Risk, Reward, and Failure, taught by Groupon co-founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky.
“The Travis Manion Foundation’s Challenge Grant program fits perfectly with the midterm project’s focus on 'value creation,'" said Bigrigg.
The group of veteran-students and their friends raised $30,600 from 118 donors in less than two weeks, said Bigrigg, and they decided to allocate the funds to purchase a fellowship for a disabled veteran in the Chicago area. “I have contacted the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment representative in Chicago, who has begun searching for a veteran in need to receive our fellowship,” said Bigrigg.