So maybe not everyone can be a winner, but we are!
Last Wednesday, Mike and I were invited to attend the American Cancer Society’s volunteer recognition dinner. We’ve been hosting an annual benefit for the American Cancer Society for the past six years, but this was the first time we were invited to attend this dinner.
There were a lot of reasons for not going that could have persuaded us to stay home–it’s on the other side of town on a Wednesday, there would be a lot of rushing around after work to get there on time, we wouldn’t know anyone, Mike would have to (gasp!) wear a dress shirt and a tie. But we went–more out of curiosity than anything.
The director of the Pittsburgh ACS unit, Leslie, was actually the one to greet us at the door, and she immediately took us aside and talked to us for awhile. She was so appreciative of what we do and the money we raise, and seriously we could have left right after we talked to her and we would have been on cloud 9 the rest of the night.
She explained to us that we’re what they consider to be a third-party fundraiser. The ACS has limited involvement and more or less just sits there waiting on our cash to roll in. We knew that much. The thing that shocked us is that the typical third-party fundraiser for our region averages $1100 and in a lot of cases it’s a one-time only event. We’ve been doing this every year for six years and have raised a total of around $30,000. In the grand scheme of things, we know that $30,000 isn’t a lot when you’re talking about cancer research and treatment. But all of a sudden it SEEMED like a lot.
She had a lot of other people to talk to, so she excused herself and we drifted towards the bar. We didn’t know anyone else there, and with the exception of one other couple seemed to be the youngest people in the room. Leslie came over to us and told us that she’d like for us to sit with her at dinner and pointed out her table. We made our way over there and introduced ourselves to the others that were already seated.
There were a few quick speeches, then dinner, a motivational speaker who was a cancer survivor, and then an awards ceremony. Mike and I had talked about the possibility of us winning some kind of award, but didn’t really expect to. As the awards went on, all of the winners were people who were involved with ACS-established events and programs–Relay for Life, Road to Recovery, Daffodil Days, Look Good Feel Better. At that point Mike and I realized that we were out of our league. These people were the ones who organized events and services for thousands of people. We just throw a big party at a bar and send a check to the ACS. At one point I looked around and felt like we didn’t belong; that we were invited by mistake.
When they announced our names for an award, I was stunned. A very nice speech was made about our benefit and how much money we’ve raised over the years. We shuffled up onto the stage, accepted our award, shook hands all around, and made our way back to our seats. Leslie smiled at us and leaned over to congratulate us. That moment was one of the proudest in my life. Mike and I put a lot of time and effort into the benefit each year, and to be recognized for it in front of a room full of people who have an appreciation of what we do and why we do it was the biggest compliment that we could ever receive.
That picture above? That’s of the 2006-2007 American Cancer Society Greater Pittsburgh Unit’s Income Development Merit Award winners. And we’re damn proud of it!