Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fundraising ... and a Heart-Felt Thank You

A couple months ago the boys and I were at church attending our family "Sunday school." At our church on Sunday evenings everyone in the family attends religious education.  We have dinner together and then everyone is split up into age appropriate sessions.  This evening the middle school groups were presented a "pay it forward" challenge.  They were given $100 and asked to use that money to make more money and then donate their profits to a charity of their choosing.

On the way home in the car I asked the boys how their evening went.  They responded with a few quick grunts of OK.  Being the curious (or nosey) person I am I was unsatisfied with a grunt so I asked Garren, "Which charity did your group chose?" Garren proudly stated, "We chose JDRF." Ben smiled and gave him a high five.  Garren then continued explaining how his group wanted to raffle off gift baskets. 

Once the car was quiet again, Cole said, "Our group chose the American Cancer Society.  I never suggested JDRF because I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for us." Using the rear-view mirror to look at Cole in the back seat I assured him, "I totally understand.  I get it.  I often feel the same way."

I did totally get it.  Sometimes everything seems so much clearer through the eyes of a child.  Every year since Ben was diagnosed with T1, almost 4 years ago, our family along with some super-duper supportive friends has participated in the Cohasset Triathlon to raise money for JDRF.  And even though we have successfully raised almost $50,000, every year I end up saying the same thing, "I am never doing this again."

I never understood why after receiving so much loving support I would always end up in the same place.  But now through Cole's eyes I can see so much clearer.  No matter how much we struggle raising Ben and managing his diabetes, our life is good and Ben is great.  When it comes time to ask our family and friends for their time and money I feel like we are being whiney and selfish.  And maybe there is a little pride mixed in too.  And like Cole suggested, I don't want people feeling sorry for us, because we are OK.

This past weekend was our third Team Ben fundraising event.  And as is always the case, I spent the last couple months agonizing over the planning.  This year I was convinced this would be it, our last year!  We asked our dear friend John Fitzsimmons if he would be willing to bring his band and play some music for us.  He generously agreed.  We then found a local pizza/bbq place that was willing to set up a tent to accommodate us.

Saturday night, along with my mother-in-law, I arrived and hour early to setup and decorate the tent.  As we were working outside in the tent there was a 30th birthday party going on inside the restaurant.  While we were moving around tables and tying up balloons the event coordinator interrupted us.  She told me that she wanted to introduce me to someone, the mother from the 30th birthday party.  I was puzzled but I reached out my hand, introduced myself and said "Hello."

The mother looked at me and asked, "Is this a fundraiser for JDRF?" I, of course, said, "Yes it is." Then suddenly her eyes started to water and then she said, "My son had Type 1 diabetes." Now this woman looked fairly young and the fact that she said "had" did not go unnoticed.  After a few seconds of silence I asked, "Had Type 1?  What happened?" She then explained that her son had died in his 20s, not too many years ago because of a problem with his kidneys.  She quickly assured me that he did not die because of his diabetes. (Though I still wonder how true that is.  Diabetes often = kidney troubles. But I want to believe her, so I do.) She continued and explained that once she heard we were raising money for JDRF she was convinced her son was here too.  She felt his presence.  And with tears in her eyes, she thanked us for our hard work.  I didn't know what to say.  She was so moved that it was impossible to not be moved too.  She thanked me again and then returned to her party.

Soon my sisters and brother-in-law arrived to help.  As we were setting up the registration table my mother-in-law shared the story of the mother and her T1 son.  Then right as we finished the mother returned.  She handed us some money and told us, "Please take this money for JDRF.  Thank you for all your work.  And thank you for bringing my son." Seriously, this may sound corny, but even my brother-in-law was moved. As she walked away my brother-in-law asked, "Do we have anymore Team Ben t-shirts because she should have one?" We didn't. So my brother-in-law chased her down across the parking lot and took off the t-shirt I had just given him and he gave it to her.  I couldn't hear what they said but the conversation ended with a hug.

The rest of the evening was so much fun. The music was great (thanks again Fitzy!) The food was great.  And the weather was perfect!  The evening ran smoothly and we raised a nice amount of money.  And now, today, I am left with the question, will I do this again?  I don't need to make my decision until next December when we receive the email letting us know that registration is opening for the 2014 Cohasset triathlon.  But when I do, I hope I remember the mother who lost her T1 son; because she helped me realize that our fundraising efforts are not a selfish, whiney, "feel sorry for me" act.  We are not raising funds to cure Ben.  We are raising funds to cure all of our T1 friends (and there are so, so many of them!)


  1. Ok so I'm totally crying now and just read your post twice. I say the same thing about the JDRF Walk every year. I've organized so many teams in so many cities and no matter how organized I think I am, it's never smooth sailing. All it takes is one person (like the Mom in your story) to stop me in my tracks, and I'm right back to pulling my hair out trying to get our next team organized. I'm so glad YOU brought that woman's son. It's such a beautiful thought (still crying).

    1. Thanks for the nice comment ... and let me take this chance to THANK YOU for all your fundraising efforts! Hopefully we can both ROCK ON