In 2006, Dakotah Smith unfortunately died from complications due to the rare genetic disease Mucolipidoses. This loss brought forth the charity Rock4Dakotah. Every September, in honor of Dakotah’s birthday, the charity hosts a day of fun and food to raise funds for other families whose children suffer from rare and fatal genetic diseases.
The fundraiser includes “local bands, has food, silent auctions, vendors, raffles, and kid’s games. We even do a Ride4Dakotah Poker run for motorcyclists,” communications director Kelly Erler. Local Businesses and community members sponsor the event and is promoted year round. “Rock4Dakotah raises funds to aid in research and everyday needs of families with children who have fatal, rare genetic diseases as Dakotah did,” Erler said.
Erler explained that the charity is “In the process of starting an application process to be able to give where there is a need, such as glasses, braces for legs, wheelchairs, and other things that these families struggle with. We also allocate a large chunk of our budget to supporting research and benevolent giving. We also use our event, promotion of out event, and the web to make our community aware of how many genetic diseases are out there that we don’t have a cure for.”
The fundraiser never has a specific goal for the day, “Our community is extremely generous and always opens their hearts for Rock4Dakotah. Our goal is to be able to help as many families as we can,” Erler said. This year families with affected children came from great distances to join in the fundraiser activities. “We had three families who have children that are affected by Mucoplipidoses join us this year. Another great highlight for the kid’s at our event is having a local band, Emily’s Toy Box come out. They are great crowd pleasers and allow the kid’s to go on stage. Their presence really promotes a family event,” Erler explained.
In order to spread the word about the September fundraiser, Erler and other charity volunteers use the Rock4Dakotah Facebook page, emails, word of mouth and mailing flyers. This year, the charity advertised in the local newspapers and ads on the radio. Erler said, “Facebook and word of mouth are typically what works best for us, considering that our entire community can be reached if just a few people post about R4D on their walls. We are currently working on updating to a mass mailer which I believe will increase our traffic to our website, awareness and attendance. Lastly, we do small fundraisers all year long that help to get the word out as well.”
Erler explained that being able to put together an event like this takes a lot of experience. “We didn’t have any experience when we started to plan our event 5 years ago. I would best describe the experience of planning as trial and error,” Erler said. She continued with, “I would tell someone planning a similar event to have fun, love the people you work with (because you will spend A LOT of time with them), and never lose focus on why you are doing it. Planning a large all day events can be frustrating and overwhelming, but to watch people have a good time, and come out for a good cause is worth every minute.”