Public relations students using class project to raise money for Alabama gymnast’s brother

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Public relations students using class project to raise money for Alabama gymnast’s brother

Sam MacDonald

Sam MacDonald

Sam MacDonald

Alabama gymnasts wear green ribbons in their hair to support Mack Brannan's brother, Brian Roberts.

Ben Stansell

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During every meet this season, Alabama’s gymnasts have donned lime-green green ribbons in their hair to support senior gymnast Mackenzie Brannan’s brother, Brian Roberts.

Roberts has been fighting stage-four Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma since he was diagnosed in November of last year.

Now, a group of public relations students are joining Roberts’ fight, transforming a class project into an effort to unite the Tuscaloosa community behind his cause.

As a part of their public relations class, junior Elly McKinnon and three other group members were tasked with bringing the Tuscaloosa community together using sports or entertainment.

After reading an article about Roberts’ situation and the way the gymnastics team was honoring him, McKinnon and her group members decided immediately that their project would be centered around fundraising to help Roberts pay for his medical expenses.

“I read about Mackenzie’s article and I was like ‘that’s it.’” McKinnon said. “‘That’s what we have to do. We have to bring the community together to support her family.’”

With the entire group, including junior Emma Coyne, junior Imani Daffin and senior Quincey Gary, embracing the idea, the next step was to reach out to Brannan to let her know their plan.

The group met with Brannan and her parents just days after she suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles while working on a floor routine during practice. Without hesitation, Brannan and her family gave McKinnon’s group the green light to move forward.

Move forward they did, arranging two separate fundraising events; one at Heat Pizza Bar from 4-7 p.m. on March 20; another at The Bear Trap from 5-9 p.m. on April 6.

“We decided we were going to do two types of fundraisers. One at Heat Pizza Bar, which is going to be a community night and have some of the gymnastics girls show up and maybe Dana Duckworth,” McKinnon said. “Then another night at Bear Trap and have it be completely college student funded.”

Green cups will be sold at the Heat Pizza Bar event, along with pizza and raffle tickets to win an Alex and Ani bracelet. All proceeds going to Roberts’ GoFundMe account for medical expenses.

“I really hope the Heat night will bring the Tuscaloosa community, not just the University community, together just so we can support Mackenzie and the gymnastics team because they have a meet later that weekend,” McKinnon said.

At The Bear Trap benefit event, the first 150 students who buy a wristband will be provided with a free ticket to the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional gymnastics competition, which Alabama will be hosting the next day, on April 7.

“I’m incredibly appreciative of the amazing support my brother and our family has received from Alabama gymnastics and the community,” Brannan said in a press release for the fundraiser.