Student philanthropy leader catalyzes community, secures national award by raising nearly $70K for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Viviana Cao led her Tri Delta chapter’s fundraising efforts, earning it the 2021 Most Improved Philanthropy Award from St. Jude out of 117 chapters across the US.

Viviana Cao: Philanthropy Chair, Tri Delta, Communication Major, Class of 2022, University of Southern California

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (May 6, 2022) When Viviana Cao graduates this month from the University of Southern California, she will walk across the stage with a Communication degree, a lifetime of memories and award-winning experience in raising funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. For two years, Cao has been the philanthropy chair of USC’s Tri Delta chapter. Tri Delta, a national St. Jude partner, recently completed a $60 million fundraising commitment for St. Jude two years ahead of schedule due to work by chapters like Cao’s.

Raising funds was a daunting prospect as the world was still adapting in 2020 to virtual events and Cao recalled wondering, “Oh God, what did I sign up for?” But Cao, a first-generation Vietnamese American whose parents are refugees of the Vietnamese war, embraces challenges, whether competing as a two-time taekwondo champion on Team USA or raising funds amid a global pandemic.

In addition to well-known fundraisers like the letter-writing campaign Sincerely Yours, Cao drew on the power of community to create new traditions such as St. Jude Week, where her chapter collaborated with other campus groups and local businesses. Together, she and her sisters ran almost one event a day for a full week, from an interactive online BINGO card fundraiser to a matching program with an area restaurant. For one event, Cao even agreed to pie herself onscreen with chicken pot pie if a certain fundraising goal was met – and it was. “That is how much I love philanthropy,” she said, grinning.

These efforts paid off spectacularly. Cao’s chapter raised $69,000 from fall 2020 to summer 2021 and was recognized by St. Jude with its Most Improved Philanthropy Award for 2021 out of 117 Tri Delta chapters nationwide. Additionally, the chapter was recognized for its fundraising with a plaque at Tri Delta Place, the housing facility at St. Jude that is named for Tri Delta and provides a home away from home for patient families.

“It really raised everyone’s spirits to focus efforts on something that matters,” said Cao of her impact of her chapter’s fundraising, which will help ensure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food so they can focus on helping their child live.

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