Aikens Family Honor Sister with Fundraiser for RAINN

When Herbie Aikens talks about his family, you can feel the love and admiration he has for them—especially for his sister Lauren. Herbie and his family represent part of the 1,300 fundraisers around the country who develop their own campaigns to support RAINN and the National Sexual Assault Hotline. In October 2016, Herbie’s family hosted a “night golf” tournament in honor of Lauren, who had taken her own life. The family had chosen RAINN as a beneficiary and partner to help other people like Lauren, who may be struggling with the effects of sexual violence.

The golf tournament was a success. Hundreds of friends and family came together to honor Lauren’s legacy and show their support for survivors of sexual violence—and the event raised nearly $45,000 for RAINN. Herbie took some time to talk about the ins and outs of organizing a big fundraiser, and what it means to his family to show support for survivors.

Herbie Aiken poses with family

How did the fundraiser come about?

When we lost Lauren, it was a horrible shock. We knew what she went through as a child [having experienced sexual abuse]. Our family was so supportive—my mother in particular was always there for Lauren, like an angel. But we know that not everyone has someone like my mom—or can afford therapy. Sometimes people don’t have anyone to turn to.

I talked to my family, and we decided together that this could be an opportunity help people that are in a similar situation as Lauren. A golf tournament seemed like a natural fit—I’ve played a lot of golf and participated in a lot of charity tournaments that raise money for really important causes.

It didn’t take our family long to decide on RAINN [as a beneficiary]. It broke our hearts to think that people were going through what Lauren went through alone—we want people to know that RAINN is out there and can help.

That means so much. We know that many people come to RAINN to talk about what happened for the very first time—it isn’t always easy to open up. I’m interested in some of the details of your event. Can you tell us what it’s like to organize a night golf tournament?

I’ve been involved in a few golf tournaments before, so I knew what phone calls to make and what basic logistics needed to be arranged. There were four parts: ticket sales [for 18 holes of golf], sponsorship, dinner, and an auction.

We were a little worried about being able to fill up all the registrations at first, so we worked to make the event really unique. That’s how “night golf” came into play. For us, playing golf at night—with the course full of special lighting for the participants—tied into the bigger theme of finding light in dark times. Whether it’s a glow stick and a golf ball, a shoulder to cry on, or a phone line to call, we want wanted people to know they can still find the light.

What was the reaction to the event?

We sold out quickly, in just two and a half weeks. I couldn’t believe the amount of support—for Lauren and for the rest of my family. On the day of the event, there was so much overwhelming joy from the people who were happy to be there, playing in this tournament and supporting such an important cause. Folks were so involved, and so compassionate. You could see it on their faces, especially when my mother spoke [during the ceremony at the end]. The people who were in that room came with great intentions to celebrate a positive night in a dark story.

It was a fantastic event. Do you have any advice for folks planning memorial fundraisers?

During the grieving process—it’s really hard. There’s no reason to sugarcoat it. I’m so fortunate that I had my family to lean on. When you’re going through something tough, friends are amazing, but family is different.

Everyone grieves differently and heals at different speed. If you want to plan an event and raise money during this time, it’s important for everyone to be on the same page. I would encourage people to write down common goals and important information. That way, you can get everyone involved, and it can be part of the healing process.

The entire Aikens family played critical roles in planning the event. Thank you to Brendan Aikens, Justin Aikens, Cheryl Nourse, Amy Hayhow, Lucille Aikens, and Herb Aikens.

Learn more about creating your own fundraiser for RAINN.