When Diane Franklin began her graduate project for a human services administration course, she studiously read the syllabus. She found out that one of the choices for her master's project was that she could create a fundraiser for Saint Leo students. And in addition to helping others through her fundraiser, Franklin realized something while working on her project. "There are still people who care for each other after all," she said. "And there are people who, regardless of what was going on in the world, want to help those in need."

Franklin, who frequently uses the LionsSHARE app, saw posts on the app about Saint Leo students who were struggling, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea for the fundraiser came about because of posts from a student who had health issues, whose husband is a cancer survivor, and, because of the pandemic, lacked the income to pay their bills, Franklin said.

She contacted Student Financial Services to inquire about policies related to donating directly to the student. Because of privacy laws, she was told she could not do so. "They thanked me for even considering helping," Franklin said. "But I thought I could do more."

Franklin consulted with her daughter, Alexandria, about the best way to raise funds for a Saint Leo student. She contacted her instructor, Dr. Nancy Wood, director of Saint Leo's graduate human service administration program, about her proposal.  While a fundraiser for Saint Leo students had not been done before, Wood was excited about the idea.

Although she said she always has been "a giver" and helped conduct fundraisers, Franklin never had created one from scratch. With the help of her daughter, she launched the fund drive. "And she was the first person to give," Franklin said proudly of her daughter.

Franklin set her first goal at $500 and within the first four weeks of the term, she had raised $180. A family friend who plays in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks gave the fund a boost and helped her meet the $500 goal. Franklin decided not to stop there and raised her goal to $1,000 to help her fellow Lions.

On May 8, via Zoom, Franklin presented a check for $1,000 (and $20 cash) to the Lions Together Fund, created to provide financial assistance for students in need during these uncertain times and keep them on track toward degree completion.

"I had a small, but amazing team, consisting of Alexandria and Dr. Wood," Franklin said. "I thank everyone who donated to the fundraiser, and I thank God for the opportunity to give back to Saint Leo."

"This is the essence of what Saint Leo is all about," said Elizabeth Barr, director of Alumni Engagement & Sustained Giving, who accepted the donation. "Thank you so much for recognizing that you as a student could help and give back. This will have such an impact on other students."

Franklin, who earned her bachelor's degree in sociology from Saint Leo in 2018, loved her Saint Leo experience.  "I wanted to give back to a school that has given me so much," she said.

"You are an inspiration for me as an instructor and as a person," Wood said. "I hope you get the opportunity to speak to other students about this program [human services administration]."

College of Education and Social Services Dean Susan Kinsella echoed that. "We are so very proud of you," Kinsell said. "You have grown so much. The whole goal of the master's in human services program is to teach our students the administrative skills to go out and lead organizations and help others."

Franklin, now 55, began her Saint Leo journey at the age of 50. "And once I finished my bachelor's, I felt gung ho!" she said. "I wanted to go for my master's degree."

Now, as a member of the Class of 2020, she is challenging members of her class and other alumni to give back. "Even $5 can make someone's life a whole lot better," Franklin said. "The fundraising is continuing!"

To donate to the Lions Together Fund, go to https://www.givecampus.com/rfhp54