I’ve worked in non-profit organizations for most of my career, largely in the areas of education and youth programming. While it has never been my primary job, fundraising has always been a part of my work in one way or another. For a long time it made me uncomfortable because I hated the idea of asking people for money. I remember asking the development director at one of the museums I worked for how he did it day in and day out and his response really stuck with me. “It’s easy to ask if you believe in the thing you’re asking for.”
At times this mantra has made my job easier and at times it has made it more difficult. When I believe deeply in the value of the project or a cause I’m raising funds for, it’s now incredibly easy for me to conceptualize the details of a grant proposal, create an event, or organize a campaign. Likewise, when I don’t truly buy into an organization’s mission, I find myself uncomfortable, uninspired and with the same disdain for fundraising activities that I had early in my career.
It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I find myself especially passionate about one particular cause at this point in my life. The most important person in my entire world is battling a rare and aggressive cancer and while I’ve felt compelled to support many other causes in my life, I have never felt so personally attacked by something in the way I do by Glioblastoma. I feel like Liam Neeson’s character in Taken except I don’t have the “particular set of skills” needed to find and kill this tumor.
The people who do have those skills are doing an amazing job. There are entire teams of professionals that are working tirelessly to attack the tumor surgically and medically without destroying the parts of Travis’ brain that make him who he is. There are therapists who are working to restore the physical abilities and functions that have been effected by the tumor, and researchers who are studying Travis’ progress to figure out what more can be done to help him and others like him. Travis himself is fighting back against the tumor every day completing tasks that restore his cognitive functions, working out even when his body is exhausted from chemotherapy, and generally pushing himself to the edge of what his body can tolerate allowing the medical interventions to do what they need to do.
And then there’s me. Sure, I’m helping. I drive Travis to and from his appointments. I make schedules and calendars and meals that are “chemo friendly.” I make sure the cats are fed, the garbage is taken out and there are no strange smells in the kitchen that will make Travis feel worse than he already does. I deliver the poison prescribed to him on the schedule provided by his doctors and hold back tears as I watch him struggle to force it down. I politely suggest activities that might make him feel better, and then more forcefully push him to do said activities when he declines. I’m busy all the time but it never feels like enough. I want desperately to do more to help him and help others like him. I’ve never been so needed and felt so useless all at the same time.
So I look for ways to be useful in any way I can. The Jimmy Fund Marathon Walk gives me something positive on which to focus my attention on days when I feel completely useless. Those are the days when I take longer walks to get my body ready for the 26.2 mile trek, and the days my family and friends see an increased number of social media posts and fundraising requests show up in their news feeds. They may tire of seeing my posts (often cleverly disguised with cat photos), but I feel no hesitation sending them out into the world because this is a cause that I believe in.