Let me begin by admitting right up front that I did not sign up for the Avon Two Day Walk for Breast Cancer because I am driven to change the world, or to avenge the death of a loved one. While I am aware of the devastation that breast cancer causes, and I know many people whose lives have been affected by this disease, it’s never touched anyone close to me. I have no teary-eyed tale to share, no precious soul whose memory will live on in every step I’ll take. I am not that noble.
I joined the Avon Two Day Walk for Breast Cancer because I wanted the exercise.
I like the idea of a multi-day physical challenge, and the AIDS Ride sounded too hard. So, despite the fact that I haven’t worn pink since I was six-years-old, the Avon Walk seemed the perfect idea. I could raise a little money for a good cause while taking a 39 mile walk along the lovely Chicago Lakefront, and I’d get to sleep in a tent in a park not far from my home.
Of course, when I came up with this plan, the fund raising aspect was a little fuzzy. In a vague way, I understood that I would be expected to raise money toward The Cure, but in my head it was the kind of money that I could bully my siblings and parents into covering. It never occurred to me that I might have to ask non-relatives to give me money.
I was wrong. By a long shot.
After announcing my plans to do The Walk on Facebook, and inviting the world (or my online version of the world) to join me, I did a little research. It turns out that the minimum amount of money that I would have to raise in order to participate in The Walk is $1800.
This amount reaches far beyond the generosity of my immediate family.
I promptly tried to quit, but I’d already roped several people into joining me on the journey. And while most of them also quit after hearing that figure, there was one insistent walker – Debbie, you know who I’m talking about – who refused to be deterred. She insisted we could meet this goal, and cajoled, bullied, and sweet-talked me into making good on my promise.
So, we attended a meeting, collected our Avon Walk for Breast Cancer t-shirt, and made the commitment official. I had 83 days to raise $1800.
Not surprisingly, fund raising did not come naturally to me. As a trade journalist, it’s my job to give away free publicity, and except for the rare media-shy CEO or oil company executive, most people love to take me up on my requests for interviews.
Asking people to give donations, it turns out, is an entirely different kind of skill. While I have successfully bullied the occasional parent into donating juice boxes to a classroom party, I have no experience raising funds for good causes. I don’t like asking for help, and I certainly don’t like asking for money, so this process has been an uncomfortable one.
After dismissing my Avon Walk Coordinator’s suggestions that I host a bar crawl or sell paper shamrocks at a local coffee shop, I opted to focus on the easiest, most effective, and least personally invasive approach I could think of – email requests.
The trick was crafting a message that made my quest to raise money in support of a cure poignant and meaningful. This is tough to do when you don’t have a heartfelt story to share. “My thighs are flabby and I want to sleep in a tent,” are hardly words to make people scramble for their credit cards. I needed a hook.
I finally settled on a message that rang true and would make sense to people: I’m lucky not to have experienced this disease, and I’d like to show the universe my appreciation by fighting for those who are not so lucky.
I sent out emails, posted updates on Facebook, and tweeted every person I could think of who would conceivably remember who I am. Then I waited.
It’s been almost four weeks since I started my campaign, and the experience has been far less painful than I expected – and far more humbling. Many of the people I thought would jump in on day one with donations have been surprisingly silent, while people I barely know have been unaccountably generous.
I’ve received donations from family, and friends and employers. An old boyfriend from college donated $50, and a boy I haven’t seen since fourth grade donated $100 after seeing an update on my Facebook page. In one case a complete stranger pledged $25 after noticing the Breast Cancer Walk icon in a business email I sent to him. He told me his daughter does the Walk every year, and he always gives when he can.
Today, I am more than halfway to my goal, and feeling for the first time that I may actually achieve it. And while this is possibly the last time I will sign on for a fund raising project, the experience has given me hope, which is a tough commodity to come by these days. If the people in my small network can be this generous, imagine what can be accomplished on a grand scale. There is power in numbers, and power in a generous spirit that can drive change, and find cures, and end wars. And hopefully, there is enough power out there to stamp out breast cancer once and for all.
To all those people who’ve contributed to my campaign to find a cure for breast cancer, thank you. You are amazing, and selfless, and so important to me.
And to those who haven’t yet donated… there’s still time.