Mike and I both lost our mothers to cancer–his in 1998 and mine in 2001. Our families both dealt with it in different ways–his discussed things in depth and mine treated it like the elephant in the room. Their illnesses were very different–length, effects, treatments–but had some commonalities. One of which was the American Cancer Society.
One day in 2002, Mike and I were sitting at the bar at a country club waiting for some friends to meet us for dinner and we were talking about sponsoring a golf outing and having the proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society. I wasn’t too enthralled by the idea. I don’t golf, so I wanted to do something that I’d be interested in too.
Months later, Mike was turning 30, and instead of having a traditional birthday party for him, we decided to ask everyone to bring a donation for the American Cancer Society instead of a gift. During the planning stages, we decided to do a 50/50 and were able to scrounge up enough prizes to have a raffle. We invited family and close friends, had a great time, and raised somewhere around $1000.
That was when we decided to do it every year, and make it a stand-alone affair, unrelated to Mike’s birthday. The next year, we put a little more effort into it and raised a few thousand dollars. Each year, the benefit has grown. We now get about 150-200 people the night of the event, and donations coming in from those who can’t attend. We spend months planning it, enjoy every minute, and always have an empty feeling that night after it’s all over.
The last 2 years, we’ve raised around $6000. This year our only hope was to beat that, and we did! Donations are still coming in, but we should be somewhere around $9000. More than we ever thought we could raise!
Oz (in the picture above), was a big help to us this year. He raised $2000 on his own through co-workers and friends. This year we made him the “Humanitarian of the Year”, but he didn’t do it for the attention or the cheap bowling alley pro shop plaque. He did it because his life has been affected by cancer. He’s lost family, friends, and co-workers to cancer. And he made it a point this year of doing everything he could to raise money. What an inspiration he is!
I dream of the day where our benefit is a $200-a-plate fancy affair with celebrities in attendance and silent auction items that raise $9000 on their own. But 40 years from now, when Mike and I are still hosting it a Pittsburgh bar, still getting the same people to come, and still raising an amount that isn’t but a drop in the big bucket of cancer fund-raising, I think we’ll still be proud of what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for–our mothers, gone before they were 50, who will never know their grandchildren.