March Madness Has Montville Man Helping Raise Money for SIDS
Devin Solanki helps build Brackets 4 Life website launched by Butler native in honor of his brother who passed away from SIDS at 5 months old.
For 19-year-old Michael McConville, this year's March Madness tournament is personal.
The college freshman and last year's Butler High School valedictorian has launched a new charity, Brackets 4 Life, that seeks to raise money during the NCAA tournament to support research for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). And he did so with help from Montville native Devin Solanki.
McConville's brother, Christopher, was just 5 months old when he died from SIDS.
"I was sitting right next to him but didn’t even realize he had stopped breathing until our babysitter tried to wake him up hours later," McConville said in a description of the Brackets 4 Life charity and what inspired the cause. "In an instant, this bright new life was gone with no explanation but the words 'Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.' "
Since Christopher's death, McConville and his family members have been raising money to support SIDS research. In 14 years, the family raised more than $1 million through an annual golf outing fundraiser. But once the McConvilles no longer organized the golf outing, Michael McConville said he came up with his own idea to continue raising money through something he and his friends were interested in.
McConville, a multi-sport athlete himself during his years as a Butler Bulldog, has always had a passion for watching college basketball, particularly the Duke University team.
"It seemed fitting that as a Cameron Crazy, I should use the most exciting time of the year to get people excited about doing something good to help others," he said. "I've done brackets in the past with friends so I knew at the very least I could convince everyone from back home to fill one out."
To participate in the fundraising, users log in to the Brackets 4 Life website and donate $2 to compete in a bracket competition. The user is then able to select teams they predict will win games throughout the March Madness tournament.
While SIDS is the primary cause McConville is hoping to help with, understanding that there are many other causes that also deserve funding he will donate 50 percent of proceeds to the CJ Foundation for SIDS and 50 percent of proceeds to charities decided by the five highest-scoring bracket creators.
"This way, we'll be inspiring everyone to play and try to win money for a cause close to their own heart," McConville said.
McConville's goal is to raise as much money and spread as much awareness about SIDS as possible.
"The awareness part is just as important, if not more important, than the money," he said. "If I can educate a couple hundred people about ways to lower the risk of SIDS in their baby, then this event is a success."
Ultimately, he said he hopes to save infants and the easiest way is through education.
McConville is unsure how many people have signed up for the brackets, although he has had a great deal of support from friends, including Solanki, working with the InCube entrepreneurial program at Duke University, which helped design and build the Brackets 4 Life website during a 24-hour hack-a-thon. Solanki is a member of InCube.
Regardless of how much money is raised during the first season of the charity, McConville said he is proud of himself and thankful for the efforts of the InCube group for launching something so important to him.
"Whether I make $100 or $100,000, I consider this a success because I'm now motivated to continue this for years to come and improve upon it every year," he said.
To create a bracket and donate to McConville's cause, visit the Brackets 4 Life website.