May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness month, and as we close out the month, I wanted to celebrate the success of our awareness and fundraising campaign.
I began the morning of Saturday, May 18 with an extra smack of the snooze button. Just ten more minutes, I thought. I tried to zonk out for another ten minutes, but I started to get excited again. The night before, I forced myself to go to bed early (8:30!) and had to do some mental gymnastics for nearly an hour to get my brain to calm down.
I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, nervous and excited about what the morning would bring. After half a year of planning, the event was just hours away.
A Leap of Faith
Back in October/November, I spent three weeks in the hospital fighting the worst lung flareup of my life. When I finally came home, I found out that my sisters had created a team in my name to walk at the Great Strides fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis.
Great Strides is an annual national fundraiser held in hundreds of cities throughout the United States. The government does not provide any funding for research or treatments for Cystic Fibrosis, so it’s up to patients, families, friends, non-profit organizations, and private corporations to fund research.
In 2012, the Great Strides events raised almost $40 million – thanks to the work of over 250,000 registered walkers – truly a collective effort. With that in mind, we took our campaign to Facebook, where we could reach many people at once.
Ken and I started seriously campaigning right after the beginning of the New Year. When filling out my information page on the Great Strides website, I struggled with setting a monetary goal. Was it too high? Too low? Was it attainable? Was I burdening people? I settled on a dollar amount and hoped. Part of me really didn’t know if we’d reach it, but we threw ourselves into the challenge.
We worked diligently, writing emails, inviting friends and family to walk or donate, working with local businesses to help raise awareness and money, and asking everyone to spread the message that the CF Foundation needs our help.
Reality Sets In
It was a risk. It was a bit scary. We began “going public” about my CF a couple of years ago. Many people knew I had CF, but really didn’t “know” what life was like. Now, we were opening up our lives to the world, asking whomever would listen to join us in a fight. A fight to help raise awareness and funds to support research that would extend and improve the quality of life for more than 30,000 Americans with Cystic Fibrosis.
Each time someone donated, joined, or shared our fundraising page, I received an email notification.
The excitement grew with every new registered walker or donation.
We created and ordered team t-shirts, and sold almost 30 of them. I didn’t realize then how much of an impact they would have, though, until the event.
The months seemed to fly by. As usual, I had several flare-ups that I feared would land me back in the hospital, and prayed that my health would not prevent me from participating on this important day.
Ask, and Ye Shall Receive
Although I had set what I thought was too lofty a financial goal, the thing I most prayed for was to create awareness. How much money we brought in, or how many people signed up, were not the most important accomplishments. I became more nervous as the date got closer. I felt a responsibility to everyone who had helped us thus far, and those who were coming to the event.
The walk was at the beach in the morning, and I feared that it would be too chilly that time of day and location. We arrived early, with layers of clothing in case the weather changed, and a trunk full of bagels and coffee for our team.
As people started to arrive – some rather unexpectedly – more nervousness set in. I made sure to introduce everyone to everyone else.
A close family friend from childhood and her husband…
Our college friends (my roommate!) and their kids (my roommate’s daughter picked out the Tiger ears I wore in some of the photos!)…
My high school friend/my maid of honor…
Ken’s friend from darts…
My cousins from my mom’s side… and to my surprise – my 82-year old aunt!
Another maternal-side cousin and my mom…
My cousin and her daughter (on my dad’s side of the family)…
One of my sisters and my nephew/Godson…
My other sister, a twin to the one above, with her hubby, my niece and two nephews, one of them who is my other Godson…
And finally, the reason why I am still here, my best friend and partner in life, my coach, my confidant…
I think that everyone had a wonderful time.
The Final Tally
In total, Toni’s Tigers had 25 team members. It was awesome to see the orange shirts everywhere I looked. Everyone was having fun, making new connections and rekindling old ones.
Thanks to everyone on the team, and every person who donated to any of the members, we collectively raised a total of $2,400!
It was an incredible day with friends and family. Everyone, including those with health challenges, finished the 3-mile walk. It was truly an amazing accomplishment on so many levels.
We felt so loved and supported by everyone who attended, donated and spread our message.
With more days like this, spread across the country and bringing in millions of dollars to fund vital research for treatments for CF patients. Perhaps someday, someone will find a cure.
Until then, we keep fighting!