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SU alumnus raises money to send 400 kids to Texas Bowl

A Syracuse University alumnus is getting into the spirit of giving by attempting to raise more than $12,000 to send 400 underprivileged children to the Texas Bowl.

Sean Keeley, who graduated in 2000, is hosting a fundraiser online, with the donations helping send children from a Houston YMCA in the Third Ward to the Texas Bowl, where SU will play the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Dec. 27. Donors can send from $5 to $4,444 through PayPal on www.nunesmagician.com, a Syracuse-specific sports blog that Keeley operates. The blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, is named after former SU quarterback Troy Nunes, who is perhaps best remembered for leading the Orange to an upset over then-No. 8 Virginia Tech in 1998.

Keeley, who graduated as a marketing and entrepreneurship major, said he thought it would be a great opportunity not only for the kids in the Third Ward — an “under-served” area in Houston — but also for the SU football team. There are currently 200 seats set aside in sections 135 and 136, lower level end-zone seating directly next to the SU marching band.

Because of the game’s location in Texas, many Syracuse fans decided not to travel for the game, Keeley discovered from a survey on his website. Only 44 out of 439 people were planning to go to the game, the survey indicated.

“A lot of people couldn’t make it down from Syracuse for the game but they had the means to do so, so I thought maybe we could send that to kids that want to go but can’t afford it,” Keeley said. “It’s also another way to support the team.”

Texas Bowl officials got involved after getting word of Keeley’s intent, said Amy Palcic, director of media relations for the Texas Bowl. As a result of Keeley’s cause rising in popularity, Palcic said the price of children’s tickets would be sold at a discount.

Originally, tickets for children cost $60, but will now cost $30 — providing each child with a ticket to the game, an Otto the Orange shirt, and a food voucher for a hot dog and a soda. Originally capped at $12,000 for 200 seats, the limit is now raised, as Keeley intends to expand to other sections if the seats by the SU marching band are filled, he said.

“The opportunity for [the kids] to see a big time sporting event in real life is something that will stick with them for a long time,” Palcic said. “It says a lot about Syracuse’s school spirit — it’s a great way for Syracuse to be represented far from home.”

As of 7:37 p.m. eastern time on Dec. 16, the fundraiser exceeded its original goal, reaching $12,456.

Keeley said that before the fundraiser started, it seemed like a tough target to hit, but was impressed when it reached its halfway point just three hours after it began. He has been pleased with the amount of support he’s received, especially from SU alumni. Michael Alper, a 1999 graduate, for example, has donated to Keeley’s causes several times in the past, including this most recent one.

“If I lived closer, or could afford to travel there, I would go to the game. Since I can’t, I thought what would be better than to let someone else take my tickets, especially since they’re underprivileged kids,” he said. “It will be like Christmas for them.”

Another campaign that Keeley was a part of was Menotti Minutillo’s action to send kids to a Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh game in 2010. Minutillo, a 2007 School of Information Studies graduate, posted a comment to Keeley’s blog about the cause, which Keeley then promoted after.

Minutillo said he’s enjoyed seeing Keeley’s success, and said a mixture of the timing, the content, and Keeley’s social standing on Twitter has helped the Texas Bowl fundraiser gain momentum. The twitter hashtag “#CuseTixForKids” has also gained popularity, to help students, alumni and fans keep connected.

As for reasons why people should donate, Keeley said he hopes people will do so not just because they’re Orange fans, but because it’s a nice thing to do.

Said Keeley: “I’ve found that people want to help, they want to do nice things for other people. Sometimes you just have to show them how they can do it.”

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