While on a medical mission trip in the Dominican Republic, Cortney Shepard saw malnourished children, famished adults and poverty-stricken communities.
But it was a starving orphan who changed Shepard’s life forever.
“She was eating two crackers a day mixed with water,” Shepard said. “It didn’t look like she would make it.”
When Shepard returned to Indiana in 2007, she shared her experience with University of Saint Francis academic adviser Amy Obringer, who responded with a simple question: “Why don’t you do something about it?”
Later that year, Formula for Life was born.
The University of Saint Francis group hosted the sixth annual Formula for Like 5k walk/run and silent auction Sunday at the Hutzell Athletic Center off Leesburg Road.
About 400 people participated in Sunday’s event, which has raised more than $150,000 in money and supplies in six years.
The group provides food, wells for clean water and has recently raised enough funds to help build a new orphanage in northern Haiti, where Shepard had a missionary contact.
“The hardest part was figuring out how to get what we had collected to the people who needed it most,” Shepard explained.
To help with the process of delivering goods and money, she connected with Father Andre Sylvestre, director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Orphanage in Haiti.
The orphanage serves children who have lost their parents because of disaster, poverty, disease or abandonment and was a perfect match for the Formula for Life’s mission, Shepard said.
Since then, the scope of the project has continued to grow and involves many more students, she said.
Shepard graduated from Saint Francis in 2009 and passed the baton to a new set of student leaders who have greatly benefited from the program, Obringer said.
In 2012, the group set a goal of raising $50,000 to help build a new orphanage to house about 80 children. The students met their goal and construction began last summer.
“We take the new students down and let them see the communities and the students who have been there before fly directly to the orphanage,” she said.
While there, the students help with a variety of projects – anything from making concrete blocks to helping build a room or unloading shipping containers.
As the annual fundraiser benefits the people of Haiti, it also benefits the hundreds of participants and Formula for Life students who help plan the event, Obringer said.