Couple says charity event honoring their lost newborn taken away

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A Chicago couple is looking for ways to keep their not-for-profit organization alive.

Ted and Annette Stenstrom started The Peapod Project after losing their newborn daughter back in 2007.  They wanted to help other families dealing with the same loss by offering counseling and ways to create keepsakes.

To help raise funds they started a 5K run.  After a couple of years, the group partnered with the mortgage company Guaranteed Rate which offered to become the exclusive sponsor.  The mortgage company also helped with the marketing for the event, changing the name to the Disco Dash.

The 5K race became a runaway marketing hit.  In the last year, Guaranteed Rate decided to start its own foundation and fund other not-for-profit groups.  The Stenstroms say they are left with no race or sponsors since they turned away all other sponsors to satisfy the mortgage company.

The Peapod Project may be forced to shut down since the 5K race has been taken over by Guaranteed Rate.

“To hurt a foundation that helps families that have children who have died. That was a hard one to wrap my head around.  I don’t know," Annette Stenstrom said.

In response, Guaranteed Rate sent out this statement: "We feel it’s very unfortunate that the relationship between Guaranteed Rate and The Peapod Project is in this current state.  The Peapod Project is a wonderful organization that provides a beautiful service for families during a very difficult time.  We can’t tell you how truly disappointed we are that our relationship finds itself in this current position.”

FULL STATEMENT from Guaranteed Rate Spokesperson Shawn Malayter:

  • Guaranteed Rate created the concept, has funded, and has served as the host of the Disco Dash race since its beginning. While the Peapod Project received proceeds from the 2011-2013 events, last winter we changed the charitable beneficiary of the race to our own charitable arm, the Guaranteed Rate Foundation.
  • We feel it’s very unfortunate that the relationship between Guaranteed Rate and The Peapod Project is in this current state.  The Peapod Project is a wonderful organization that provides a beautiful service for families during a very difficult time.  We can’t tell you how truly disappointed we are that our relationship finds itself in this current position.
  • Even though the Disco Dash event ran at a loss from 2011-2013, Guaranteed Rate still provided a $10,000 donation to The Peapod Project each year for a total donation of more than $30,000. Also, we boosted awareness of The Peapod Project through ads, press releases, social media promotion, and mass emails about the event.
  • We also had offered financial and operational assistance for The Peapod Project to have a fundraising event of their own this past summer, which they declined.
  • The Guaranteed Rate Foundation was the recipient of the 2014 Disco Dash fundraising efforts, which was held in late June.  The Guaranteed Rate Foundation has helped more than 400 individuals and distributed more than $700,000 in aid to families related to financial hardship, acute medical needs, disaster relief funds, and scholarship assistance.

The Stenstroms say they were never offered any bridge funding or an alternate event to keep the organization afloat.  So far, there no plans to create other events to fund the Peapod Project.

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