Malaria group uses championship brackets to raise interest

NEW YORK: Looking to emulate American's March obsession with tournament brackets, new organization Madness Against Malaria (MAM) will hold a tournament of its own to raise funds for equipment.

NEW YORK: Looking to emulate American's March obsession with tournament brackets, new organization Madness Against Malaria (MAM) will hold a tournament of its own to raise funds for equipment.

The NCAA men's basketball championship in March attracts a diverse following of fans through betting on office pools. According to the FBI, over $1 billion is illegally bet on the tournament over the course of the whole month.

Between March 1 and April 15, fundraising teams raising money for bed nets to help prevent the spread of malaria will be matched up against one another, and eventually the "tournament" will whittle 64 teams down to one, just like the real thing.

This month MAM announced Dukas Public Relations has been chosen as AOR for the effort, and Dukas promptly formed their own fundraising team, Team USA, to compete in the tournament.

"It's rare you have an opportunity to use your professional skills to make a difference in peoples' lives and save lives," said Richard Dukas, president. "This is a place where public relations really can make a difference. The more exposure we can bring to the effort, the more likely people are to take action, the more likely the government or NGOs will start to take action."

George Washington University, Merrill Lynch, and Notre Dame University are among the entities that have formed teams, joining efforts from private citizens. From now until March 1, teams are competing essentially for seeding, at which point the first placed team will be matched up against the 64th placed team, and so on. Each round will take about a week to complete, during which the two teams will go head to head to compete for fundraising dollars. Current standings are available on madnessagainstmalaria.com.

MAM is the brainchild of Lance Laifer, a hedge fund manager and philanthropist who came up with the idea after running a "Dunk for Malaria" fundraising effort connected basketball nets and the bed nets that are needed to save children form the disease.

"There's a concept of donor fatigue, but people don't have donor fatigue when they are betting on their NCAA pool," Laifer said, who is also a co-founder of Hedge Funds vs. Malaria. "We wanted to try to capture that passion to bring attention to the disease and make it interesting and engaging."

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