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Hoops to End Hunger - How One Family Turned March Madness into PWS Awareness

One mom turned her fear into determination by using the family's love of sports and founding 'Hoops to End Hunger' to help raise funds for PWS research.

Nikol Maher, mom to Jack, turned her fear into determination using the family's love of sports.


Jack was diagnosed with PWS when he was 3 weeks old. The news devastated our family and we could not begin to explain how fearful we were for our sweet boy. In that moment, we were overwhelmed by all of the medical procedures, terminology, and services Jack needed. As we waded through this new life, we needed something to give us hope. Jack is lucky to have a big, supportive extended family who adore him. Within 6 months, his aunts and uncles decided to start a fundraiser to raise money that we could donate to FPWR.

We knew that Jack's future depended on the crucial research that FPWR was funding and we were determined to do whatever we could to support them.

Our family has always loved sports, so we decided to host a fundraiser around March Madness.  March Madness is the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament held every spring to determine the National Champion. Since most people we know already fill out brackets for March Madness, we thought it would be a perfect way to raise money for FPWR.

The event, Hoops to End Hunger, occurs online, and we ask that our participants donate to FPWR  ($15 per bracket). Once they have donated, they fill out an online bracket. There are many different websites that allow you to set up a bracket pool. We have used Yahoo Sports in the past, which was simple to start up.

At the end of the tournament our winners receive prizes that are donated by local businesses, sports teams, and family/friends. Our event has been so successful, raising more than $100,000 over the years!. Many of our participants donate significantly more than the $15 we request per bracket, and we are always so amazed and overwhelmed by everyone's generosity and support for Jack. The outpouring of support every year has given us so much strength and encouragement. It has also been a great way to spread awareness of PWS, and to share information and resources with Jack's community. And of course, knowing that we are supporting FPWR and the crucial research that we know will have a huge impact on our son's life.

Hoops to end (1)


Join us for the 7th Annual Hoops to End Hunger
March Madness Bracket Challenge!

All proceeds will benefit FPWR to help support PWS research, and you have the chance to win one of 8 awesome prizes!  

To participate in the challenge, follow these easy steps:

  1. Make a donation, or Create your own Fundraising Page at the top of this site and share your own bracket challenge with friends and family. (each bracket is $15 donation)

  2. Fill out your bracket here: Yahoo Sports Bracket

  3. Get ready to win some fantastic prizes!!

      • YETI Camino Carryall 35, All-Purpose Utility, Boat and Beach Tote Bag, Plus 2 Yeti tumblers.

      • Live Life Full Necklace - These one-of-a-kind necklaces made from the highest sterling silver. Each necklace is handcrafted by New York jeweler, Written by Forest, and placed on an 18-inch chain.

      • $150 Amazon Gift Card

      • $100 Amazon Gift Card

      • Beats Pill by Dr Dre - Portable Bluetooth Speaker 

      • *** $25 Amazon Gift Card for the person who places 15th, 30th and last place!

Questions?  Email 


Topics: Stories of Hope

Sarah Peden


Sarah is FPWR's One Small Step coordinator. She became involved with FPWR shortly after the diagnosis of her daughter, Lily in late 2009. She first began fundraising through her “Running for Lillian” event where she and her friends raised funds for PWS research through peer-to-peer fundraising. Sarah joined the One SMALL Step team in 2012 holding her first of many walks in Bloomington, Indiana. Sarah has held multiple volunteer roles with our organization prior to joining our staff and was the chair of our Community Leadership committee from 2014-2015. She has more than 11 years of event planning experience with for-profit and non-profit organizations and hold a Bachelor of Science in Recreation with an emphasis in tourism, hospitality and event management from Indiana University.