Skip to main content

Georgia Southern Marketing Students Give Back to the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County

Georgia Southern Marketing Students Give Back to the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County

A collection of the best and brightest students from the Department of Marketing at Georgia Southern University volunteered their time to help raise awareness and support for the Haunted Forest, an annual fundraiser benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County. The marketing and sales management majors, many of whom are members of the national co-ed fraternity Pi Sigma Epsilon, were tasked to develop a strategic marketing plan that would make the Haunted Forest more appealing to the Generation Z demographic. The Haunted Forest annual fundraiser is one of the most significant philanthropic fundraising events held by the local Boys & Girls Club each year.

The Parker College of Business students who volunteered their time and expertise in the development and presentation of the marketing plan included Nathan Albrecht, Ansley Atkinson, Michael Bland, Alex Cimmerer, Brennan Craig, Kurt Devine, Anna Gilbert, Kelly Mueller, Brandon Onuschak, Courtney Simon, Tyrone Singletary, Eric Tweet, Lisandra Velez Vidal, and Hank Weldon.

The primary goal of the student-led initiative was to raise awareness and increase attendance amongst the Bulloch County Generation Z population of the upcoming 2022 Haunted Forest fundraiser. The plan included a comprehensive SWOT analysis, primary data collected via a market research survey, a three-part strategic plan with target objectives, and a detailed action plan outlining recommendations for paid, earned, owned, and social media platforms. The students presented the proposed plan on April 27, 2022 to the board of directors and chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County. Also in attendance was representation from Willingway, the longtime presenting sponsor of the Haunted Forest, and administration from the Parker College of Business.

“I was truly impressed with the students’ approach in reaching the target audience, knowledge in addressing the identified challenges, and their well-executed plan for obtaining data to support their recommendations,” said Mike Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County. “Most impressive of all, I appreciate their willingness to volunteer their time when I know they have many competing obligations at the end of the semester. I sincerely appreciate their involvement and intentions!”

Georgia Southern hosted the Haunted Forest, first started by “Mouse” Blankenbaker as a class project in 1980. However, when Professor Blankenbaker retired in 2003, the tradition ceased operations until community volunteers brought the fundraiser back to life in 2009. Despite serving as a longstanding Halloween tradition to generations of Georgia Southern alumni, once the Haunted Forest returned and relocated off-campus, support from the Georgia Southern student body began to wane. A general lack of awareness and then the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be obstacles that kept students away from the turnstiles.

“When I first attended the Haunted Forest in 2021, the crowds were great, but I was surprised to see how few college and high school-aged individuals were in attendance, despite being held only a few minutes from the GSU campus,” explained Travis Brickey, Lecturer of Marketing from Georgia Southern’s Parker College of Business. “When I got back to campus the next day, I polled nearly 200 of my students in class, and the vast majority had no awareness, despite many being interested. What better way to raise awareness and market to a Gen Z audience than to recruit a group of Gen Z students who best understand the generation’s media habits and appeals, making the Haunted Forest a go-to Halloween event in October.” 

Part two of the service project will be to tactically execute the plan and put into motion some of the recommendations presented to the organization’s leadership. Some of these recommendations included the development of a dedicated Haunted Forest website, increased social media presence, use of influencer marketing, and re-establishing an affiliation with Georgia Southern, with Pi Sigma Epsilon becoming a formal partner.

“Being a part of Pi Sigma Epsilon, it is important that we live by our motto, ‘people helping people succeed.’ We found an opportunity to do so by helping the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County with their Haunted Forest marketing plan,” explained Courtney Simon, a senior Marketing & Sales Management major from the Parker College Business. “Working on this strategic plan was not only a terrific learning experience, but it felt great knowing we were putting our knowledge to work and helping raise awareness and money for such an important organization in our community.”

Support from the Haunted Forest helps the local club provide the youth of Bulloch County with a safe, constructive, supportive environment where all children have a place to go after school or during the summer months. In 2021, the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County had a total of 21,786 visits and served 26,655 meals to area youth. The club would not be able to do this without the community’s generosity. To learn more about the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County and ways to give, visit


Posted in News