A Family’s Road to Understanding Clubfoot and Raising Awareness

January 30, 2018

An unknown diagnosis and a school project sparked a clubfoot awareness campaign for one family and their community. Meet the Riordan Family! Like most clubfoot parents, their clubfoot journey began with fear of the unknown. Through excellent medical care and Ponseti method treatment, their son James grew up not even recalling his experience. One classroom assignment, however, would give him a lesson about his own history, as well as an opportunity to educate others and raise enough funds for children born with clubfoot in low-income countries.

We interviewed James’ father, Matt, to tell us more about their journey with clubfoot and how they managed to raise over $2,000 in 13 days!

MiracleFeet: Tell us about your son’s clubfoot journey.

Matt: James was our first child. We found out that he had clubfoot during an ultrasound around 28 weeks. We were scared out of our minds! We didn’t know anything about clubfoot. We were already nervous about having our first child, and then this seemed so scary. Fortunately, we found a phenomenal doctor whom we trusted, Dr. James Deppe. He educated us on the Ponseti method and made us feel empowered. Starting at 5 days old, James got new casts every Friday for 3 months. Then, James needed surgery to lengthen his Achilles tendon. We took his casts off the night before, and he finally had a night without casts! Unfortunately, since his skin is already pretty sensitive, and it had been covered with casts for 3 months, just the exposure to the air made his legs break out in blisters! Because of this, his surgery was postponed a week. Eventually, he had his surgery; it went great. Started wearing the brace until he was about 1 year old. Then he just wore it at night for a while longer. He has no lasting effects from clubfoot.

MiracleFeet: How did James feel about telling his story? He did an amazing job in his video!

Matt: It was odd, because, while James knew he was born with clubfoot, in doing this project we came to the realization that James did not understand what that meant at all. He didn’t know that he had surgery, he didn’t understand that it was unusual to be born with clubfoot. He didn’t understand that his life would be very different if we wouldn’t have sought treatment for him when he was a baby. He knew that he wore braces on his feet, but that was about the extent of it. He didn’t even realize that he had scars from his surgery!

Telling the story was somewhat challenging…it’s not easy to wrangle a 6 year old for long enough to talk about this and keep his younger brother and sister quiet simultaneously! James loves school, so he was excited to work on his school project, and he actually seemed interested to learn about it himself. He came up with the wording for the sign he made all on his own, we only provided help (spelling & grammar) if he asked. I put the video together and told him basically what to say for his parts in the video. He was embarrassed at first, but he came around!

MiracleFeet: Are you surprised by the support you have received so far?

Matt: Absolutely! I never could have imagined this amount of success! When we first started the project, I thought he might raise $50. Then he was doing pretty well getting donations from our extended family, so I created the Crowdrise campaign and set the goal at $250…we met that in 45 minutes! Now he’s up to $2,042 in 10 days from 72 donors! I’m totally amazed by the generosity of our community!

MiracleFeet: Why do you think it has been so successful?

Matt: It’s hard for me to really pin that down. Like I said, we have been totally shocked by the success of his Crowdrise campaign. My guess is the compelling video helped a lot. We shared it on Facebook, and tried to post an update every $250. The donations definitely correlated to the updates. If we didn’t post an update for a day, we didn’t get donations for that day.

MiracleFeet: That is a fantastic tip! What other tips do you have for other families who are thinking of doing a fundraiser for MiracleFeet?

Matt: Make a cute video. I used an iPhone app called “Adobe Spark Video.” Use some text in the video, so that when people see the video on Facebook and get an idea of what it is about without audio.

Also, when you post to Facebook, don’t just post the Crowdrise link. Write a short message, upload the video, and paste the link to the Crowdrise campaign, all in the first Facebook post. This way, when people are scrolling through Facebook, they see the video playing, and not just the link to the Crowdrise campaign. People are less likely to click on a link to learn about your campaign, so you have to rope them in with your cute video!

Amazing advice, Matt! Maybe we should recruit you to the MiracleFeet marketing team. Thank you for sharing your family’s story and helping other children born with clubfoot. And a special thank you to Mrs. Meyer for giving each of her first grade students $5.00 to make a difference. Mission accomplished!

Inspired by the Riordan Family? Learn how to start your own fundraiser here.