By Sheila Mulcahy-Bell
The journey may be harsh, but in the end I pray many are able to stomp out sarcoma.
I knew nothing about sarcoma until an acquaintance of mine told me she had it and is now cancer free. When people think about cancer they think of the more “popular” cancers. Sometimes I think cancer gets swept under the rug when it comes to discussing the less “popular” ones and sarcoma in my eyes is one of them. I am joyful for the experience my family has had in learning about sarcoma through our participation in the 2017 Sarcoma Stomp, and in helping to try to raise awareness and money to find cures.
When we found out about the Sarcoma Stomp 5K, I knew I wanted to participate. What I didn’t know was that 5 out of 6 in my family would join in! (The 6th was there in thought, but a 5K isn’t her thing.) It was a delight to be able to join Julia’s Jamboree team to STOMP out sarcoma. Something I didn’t expect was that this event would also lead to our family agreeing they all wanted to do more 5K’s to raise awareness and money for more organizations. Most may think that this is no big deal, unless you have the “couch potato” thing going on in your family like we do. So I am proud and joyful about this new commitment!
Sometimes in life we get too busy — and forget to stop and think about what others are going through and how much they need prayers and a cure. I look at Julia and I am grateful for her strength and courage to have fought and beaten sarcoma. It has been an eye opener for me to remember to appreciate any time I have with family and friends, and the Sarcoma Stomp was just one more way I was able to spend time with them.
I am glad I was able to support the cause to help find cures for sarcoma. I look forward to the next Sarcoma Stomp event and hope that in the near future there will be cures.
During a recent trip to my mailbox, I retrieved a donation solicitation that yielded a familiar sight; one that I must admit, kinda irritates me. In the window of the envelope, near the familiar stream of return address labels, a shiny new nickel is on display for the taking. What kind of message is this sending to us? That 5 cents can change a person’s life? Or is it subliminally reinforcing what I see as a concerning and rising industry trend that we will give you a gift if you donate to our cause?
Okay, I’ve said it. Before you go all postal on me, please, hear me out.
It has been a little over two years since I took the helm of the Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research. My background in the stock market and securities regulation is apples-and-oranges compared to the non-profit world, and boy have I learned a lot in the last 26 months. I’ve met many peers and have attended many events. I’ve watched, I’ve analyzed, and I’ve ingested a ton. To say that I am in awe of the endless stream of critical missions and passionate nonprofit leaders in a challenging landscape is an understatement. But inherent in the industry competition and the changing demographics of the donating public comes what I believe to be an unfortunate rising trend – the increased expenses of fundraising events related to giving party swag, participation gifts, and the like. Yes, sometimes these things are donated by corporate sponsors, but oftentimes they are absorbed by the nonprofits themselves. And that lessens the impact they can make.
So why are our supporters different? Why do they “get it”?
For every fundraiser we execute, whether it is the annual signature Sarcoma Stomp, or other smaller events held throughout the year, our Board pours over the numbers and makes conscious decisions about where we will allocate our expense budget to attract participants to our event and to ensure that the event is fun, engaging, and of quality. We make the tough choice not to give gifts for showing up, because we firmly believe that those who understand the huge significance of this mission will attend — and because they want to fund as much new research as possible. Are we taking a competitive risk? Yes. Can we sleep at night? Yes, because we feel most authentic and correct in this approach.
I have gotten to know many of our supporters, some of whom hail from sarcoma families and some who are just plain kind. Perhaps I’m a bit partial, but I think that we have the most loyal and heart-forward supporters around. Each year they donate, participate, and volunteer with vigor. They tell us that they had a blast at our events, and they send soulful emails and notes of gratitude for the work that we do. They get it. They feel connected to the cause, the effort we put forth, and the immense value of the sarcoma research program at Levine Cancer Institute.
So what is our philosophy of supporter connectivity and appreciation?
I would like to think that our connectivity lies in several factors, but all of them take root in authenticity and communication. We love getting to know our families – the stories of how they came to know us, the stories of how cancer has impacted their own life, the journeys of survival against the odds, and the heartbreaking retelling of loss. It is that candor and openness between us that is beautifully real. It is the complexity and the struggle of the human health experience in the cancer world that binds us in this mission.
Our supporters also understand how they directly impact the mission and how their generosity is put to work. They read the updates we send in emails and post to our website, they stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter, and they call me to ask questions. They truly believe that the research they are funding at Levine Cancer Institute is important, valuable, and novel. They are keenly aware that efforts to advance the field of cancer research requires significant funding and long-term commitment. They give generously even though they see that the impact on our community and the world-at-large is a lengthy process. They are committed. They get it.
We thank our supporters for their generosity, their embrace, and their understanding of us. Thank you for not making us feel badly that we don’t send you nickels in the mail to entice donations and that we don’t give you expensive swag for showing up at fundraisers. Instead, we show our gratitude in smiles, hugs, handwritten notes, and phone calls. We show our gratitude in the telling of the progress of the growing research program at Levine Cancer Institute. As things continue to advance at Levine, we believe you’ll be hearing from patients who’s lives have been improved by your tireless dedication. These are not expenses you’ll see on our balance sheet. This is how we choose to do business.
We look forward to a wonderful time with you all at the April 29 Sarcoma Stomp. They’ll be lots of smiles, hugs, and expressions of gratitude for all. Come introduce yourself if you are new to the Foundation family. Come ask questions about the progress. Yes, these things will be in our budget under “intangibles.” Nope, they’ll be no nickels in view.
Thank you to Ashley Smith of AWS Fitness for this passionate and heartfelt post!
Why exercise? Plain and simple….because you can!
With the Sarcoma Stomp 5K just weeks away, this is the perfect opportunity to examine why starting a fitness program is a necessity. As a personal trainer, I know that there are so many people out there that just DO NOT respond favorably to exercise. Meaning….there is nothing that they dread doing more. But, I am here to tell you that exercise must be an essential part of your life. If you are physically able, you have NO EXCUSE. If you aren’t exercising for YOU, do it for those who love you.
Instead of talking about all of the reasons that exercise is good for you (I think we all learned that in grade school Physical Education…nothing much has changed, folks), let’s talk about what inactivity does to our already AGING bodies. If you choose a sedentary lifestyle you are at risk for DIABETES, CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, JOINT AND LIGAMENT PROBLEMS, and OBESITY. And, remember how I mentioned AGING??? Well, to put it bluntly, a decline in how our brains and bodies function and perform starts at age 40. 40?!?! How do we slow that trend down? EXERCISE! It’s very simple.
I know that starting a program is hard and maybe you are telling yourself that you have tried it 20 times before. Maybe you stuck with it for a while and then quit. Maybe you failed all together and never even got past day one. Well, MAKE TODAY DIFFERENT by doing these three things for me.
- Choose a plan that will stick. Set realistic goals for yourself and don’t expect instant results. Change takes time. If you choose a plan that delivers gradual results and not one that breaks you down right out of the gates, you are more likely to stick with it. Find a couple of things that you really enjoy doing and do them….OFTEN….4–5 times/week.
- Get your friends and family on board with you. Exercise is much more fun if you have a friend that wants to work hard too. If you can’t find someone, sign up for some classes. More importantly, schedule them and PUT THEM ON YOUR CALENDAR. You are less likely to bail on things if they are actually scheduled in your day, week after week.
- Make a public commitment. We live in a public world these days. Like it or not, people know a lot about you. Why should this be any different? If you let others know that you are starting an exercise program, it will force you to have others hold you accountable. Set goals for yourself….maybe it’s losing weight, maybe its gaining strength, maybe it’s running a 5K (I happen to know one coming up in 3 weeks). Whatever it is, tell your friends about it and let them help you!
Finally, if you can take anything away from what I’ve said here, please let it be this. Your body requires a certain amount of love and respect to thrive. If you live your life saying, “I can’t do this” or “I’ll fail” or “It’s just too hard”, that mindset becomes who you are. Don’t let this negativity become your life experience. How do you know that this time won’t be the one time that it sticks? How do you know that you won’t start to love how you feel every single day?
Do it for yourself. Do it for your children. Do it for those that can’t. Do it because you can.