Vanderbilt students ‘Fuel Our Heroes’ across the nation

A Vanderbilt sophomore founded an organization to support medical professionals, demonstrating the charitable power of social media

Employees+at+Vanderbilt+University+Medical+Center+give+their+thanks+to+the+efforts+of+Fuel+Our+Heroes.+Photo+courtesy+%40fuelourheroesnash

Employees at Vanderbilt University Medical Center give their thanks to the efforts of Fuel Our Heroes. Photo courtesy @fuelourheroesnash

Emily Gonçalves, Multimedia Director

In reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, Vanderbilt sophomore Simon Pompan and three high school friends from Los Angeles began the Fuel Our Heroes organization, which raises money for personal protective equipment (PPE) and various other resources for front-line medical professionals. With seven active chapters run by college students nationwide, Fuel Our Heroes has raised over one hundred thousand dollars since April 4.  

“We were shocked to see how medical professionals were not properly protected in our own communities, and we knew that it was probably worse on the East Coast where they were being hit harder,” Pompan said. 

Pompan and his friends partnered with UCLA Health, which is a 501(c)(3) tax deductible organization, and created a fund to provide PPE, gas cards and groceries for LA medical professionals. They reached out to family and friends as well as their temples, churches, schools and any local organizations that would be willing to help. 

Their work has gained substantial traction, with influencers shouting them out on social media as well as local businesses and brands like Leilo donating their profits to the organization. Pompan noted the influx of people interested in getting involved, ranging from students who offered to make masks with 3D printers to chefs who wanted to prepare meals for medical workers. 

“A ton of people were reaching out to us to lend their services to our cause for free,” Pompan said.

As the founders reached out to friends across the country and other students started Fuel Our Heroes campaigns in their own communities, the organization’s reach expanded nationwide. Fuel Our Heroes currently has teams in LA, NYC, Nashville, Boston, Denver, Austin and Chicago, and the organization is launching teams in Atlanta, D.C. and San Francisco over the next few days. Each of these initiatives partners with a local hospital to allocate funds toward their respective areas of need. Pompan estimates that around 10 to 12 Vanderbilt students are currently involved in running different chapters of the organization. 

Shelby Goldberg, a Vanderbilt sophomore, collaborated with Pompan in order to create the Fuel Our Heroes NYC initiative, raising over $7000 in their first day of operation.

“Even though we’re all separate and self-isolating, it’s nice to connect with people and to give back to my community,” Goldberg said. 

The NYC branch partners with Mount Sinai Hospital, but the organization’s platform has given them the opportunity to help other hospitals, too, Pompan and Goldberg said. After a contact offered to provide hundreds of masks to the organization on a weekly basis, they were able to connect this mask supplier with a Bronx hospital in need of this steady flow of masks. 

Fuel Our Heroes Nashville partners with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), where funding goes toward childcare and housing costs for medical professionals, in addition to PPE. By now, you’ve probably heard about them on the news or at least seen the “see a Vandy memory, send a Vandy memory” Instagram story challenge. This challenge encouraged students to post a memory, donate $5 to the initiative and to challenge five friends to do the same. On Saturday, April 18 alone, this challenge generated over $3600 for the organization. That same day, IFC fraternities Kappa Sigma and Delta Kappa Epsilon donated a combined total of $5000 to the cause.

Lucie Johnston, a Vanderbilt sophomore who volunteers with Fuel Our Heroes, said the two organizations have a competition going to see who can raise the most money. Two members have even pledged to dye their hair blonde if they raised a certain amount of money, Johnston said. 

“Even though it’s a small way and there are so many organizations that are a part of the cause, it’s easier to stay at home if I’m in some way fighting this fight, too,” Johnston said.

A majority of the Nashville chapter’s donations seem to be coming from Vanderbilt students, Pompan said.

“This definitely speaks to the strength of the Vanderbilt community and the selfless nature of the student body,” Pompan said.