Finnegan’s Challenge: raises $95k for families of children with birth defects


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — It’s a lofty goal — all to raise awareness of children born with birth defects.

Former East Tennessee State University Athletic Director Richard “Doc” Sander had a goal of 3,300 free throws in a 24-hour competition starting Thursday, Nov. 4 at 8 a.m. Sander reached that goal by 6:00 a.m. Friday morning. He continued to shoot free throws and topped out at 3,956.

Sander asked people to donate for each free throw he makes over the 24 hours. As of Friday morning, gifts and pledges totaled about $95,000.

The 75-year-old took on the challenge to raise awareness of the 120,000 children born every year with birth defects, which cause one in five deaths during the first year of life.

That averages to one out of 33 children born with a birth defect. That is why he chose 3,300 free throws.

Finnegan’s Challenge is in honor of Sander’s grandson Finnegan Sander who was born on June 15, 2014, with a rare birth defect that impacts only 1 in 7,500 children.

Finnegan had surgery within the first 24 hours and spent 22 days in the NICU/PICU before finally heading home. Finnegan had two more surgeries to treat the condition within the first few months of his life, followed by years of meetings, appointments and diagnostics.

Finnegan’s family hopes to use their years of working with doctors, therapists and teachers to pave the way for other families traveling a similar path.

Finnegan’s Challenge was the kickoff to gather resources to fund more research, education, and awareness for children with birth defects.

Community members are invited to help bring exposure to the challenge by posting videos of themselves shooting baskets to social media with the hashtag #FinnegansChallenge.

If you would like to donate you can find more information on their website.

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