Students Recognized for PR Excellence

By Matt Hawkins
January 2, 2014

A domestic abuse awareness campaign earned the fall semester’s Ebeling PR-ize for Excellent Public Relations. The award, in its 10th year, is given to the top senior capstone public relations project each semester.

The “Find Your Light Campaign,” one of four capstone campaigns in the fall, paired Peoria’s Center for Prevention of Abuse with local boutique Hey Lola to collect more than 500 photo pledges dedicated to stopping domestic abuse.

Students who worked on the campaign said the semester personalized the issue they addressed.

“Our passion for the issue grew as we met person after person who had been affected and realized just how prevalent domestic abuse is, whether mental, verbal, emotional, physical or sexual,” said senior Kelsie Barnhart. “We knew if the issue of domestic violence, which is so often kept under wraps, was brought into the light, the community would benefit.”

Barnhart, with teammates Lauren Campbell and Meghan Loy, organized pledge events at Hey Lola and Late Night BU. People who pledged were photographed with  signs of encouragement for people facing abuse. Additionally, Hey Lola co-owner Jessica Benassi offered an art therapy night for CPA clients.

Find Your Light coincided with October’s National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. It became a vehicle for emotional healing following the early-November death of Peoria resident Laongdao Phangthong.

This became evident in one conversation between the Bradley team and a local woman at one of the photo shoots.

“She talked about how she has done nothing but pray since, and that this campaign was the first thing that was able to give her a glimpse of hope and begin to bring her some sense of closure,” Barnhart said. “This was far beyond the reach we initially thought our campaign could ever accomplish. It was a gift to us that no other school project we have ever been involved in would have been able to give.” 

Though the semester ended, Find Your Light will continue thanks to other business that partnered with the program through 2014.

The capstone project competition, which began in Fall 2004, requires teams to bring together a for-profit business with a nonprofit. This allows Bradley students to make a positive impact in the community while learning professional campaign skills.

Competition founder Chuck Ebeling ’66, a retired McDonald’s vice president of communications, said he brainstormed the project after visiting the class.

“I was so impressed with their creativity and how they were learning and expressing ideas,” he said. “This is so close to the real world of PR campaigns. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some recognition for it?”

Though ideas have changed over a decade, Ebeling continues to marvel at students’ work in the Peoria area.

“What changes are the students and wonderful causes they support,” he said. “I’m so impressed. One thing I love is that this shows Bradley can be supportive of the Peoria community.”

Dr. Jeffrey Huberman, dean of Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts, applauded Ebeling’s decade of support to his alma mater.

“This was a way to take his success in the PR world and as a Bradley graduate and make the convergence of a great professional experience and education accessible to generations of students,” Huberman said.

For more information about the Ebeling PR-ize, visit: