I've long said "it takes a village" to raise a child with diabetes. But it also takes a village to fundraise for the cause. Let me tell you why.
From the moment my son was diagnosed nearly three years ago to this day, my older son has acted as his guardian angel -- from overcoming his own fear of needles to learn how to inject Jake, to becoming more than comfortable with the lifesaving techniques and judging insulin amounts under varying circumstances. Pretty remarkable stuff for a 14-year-old. Hence the name of our fundraising and walk team, Brotherly Love.
So, it came as no surprise when we began planning our first annual golf and tennis open held this past Monday, June 18, that the kids wanted to play an active role. "Fundraising isn't only for adults," they said. And they set out to prove it.
Developing their own cause célèbre entitled "dollars for diabetes" and a youth committee of some 30 relentless kids ranging from 5 to 15, these fundraising demons attacked our community like nothing I've ever seen. Armed first with a logo, a posse of volunteers, a list of retail stores in which to place collection buckets (donated by a major pretzel company, no less!), a schedule of key sporting events where throngs of kids and parents would gather, they attracted the attention of a family friend to supervise the group. So impressed was he with their efforts, that he anonymously secured dollar-for-dollar matching funds, motivating these kids even more. Relentless was an understatement. Armed (and yes, slightly dangerous!) -- in their screaming orange Team Brotherly Love tee shirts, they swarmed soccer fields, lacrosse tourneys, concession stands, school events and even got permission for a table in front of our local WaWa (a literal money machine of potential fundraising traffic indeed!!). And our world responded in spades, literally redefining, for us, the power of community.
That some 250 friends and family gathered in blazing heat for an all-day golf and tennis event. That literally every facet of our life was represented. That some 35 friends served relentlessly on committees for nearly a year to secure everything from signage to diet soda. That some 65 incredible prizes worth over $50,000 (yes, $50,000!!!) were donated and sat piled high in boxes in my garage, staring at me for weeks as if to ask "exactly when are you going to wrap us up as beautiful gifts??!!! And that dear friends took that task off my hands and morphed that cardboard mess into irresistible prizes. That volunteers carted boxes of supplies, goodie bags and water bottles in a 10 car caravan (4x4s of course!) on Fathers' Day evening to set up until way past midnight. That a hot local FJ volunteered his services to keep the kids busy while the adults did their tournment thing. That a detective volunteered his time and security to keep all of the gifts and prizes safe. That this list of amazing signs of community could go on and on, and yes, on -- moves me to tears.
As I sat in the main tent for dinner for our event I watched some 250-300 people sit mesmerized as my son spoke about helping his brother with diabetes. As our friends' 15-year-old niece spoke about overcoming her fear of needles so she could gain back her much needed independence, you could hear a pin drop. Just as you could hear the crowd roar a few moments later when she also won the most valuable prize of the night -- exquisite jeweled earrings. Life works in strange ways. Especially as she told her sister she could wear them on her upcoming wedding day.
It was a day and night filled with a roller coaster of emotion. Great pride in both of my sons. Great envy for those families who frankly don't need to mess with this condition. Great gratitude for those who donated every currency so generously that we barely had to ask. Great appreciation for the teachers and local Lions Club who saw a fundraising effort (and buckets everywhere!) extraordinaire and recognized it with significant awards for several of the children. Great attention as we sat listening to an incredible motivational speaker, Will Cross, who despite his diabetes, has climbed the worlds' highest peaks (with or without diabetes you couldn't get most of us to even attempt what his mesmerizing photos depicted). Great admiration for my husband and our dear friend who despite lives and careers in overdrive, found a way to chair this event that was oh-so-much-more-work than they ever thought! Great appreciation for my village that has never, repeat never let us down, but rather responded so generously that I'm out of adjectives to describe the acts of kindness.
Were still counting as the funds roll in but they were in the vicinity of $150,000. That will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation -- that's a lot of counting, one dollar for diabetes at a time.
I think about my son's closing comments Monday night. He said, "Nothing would make me happier than to cancel this event next year -- that would mean we would have found a cure." I hope with all my heart we're doing ANYTHING but playing golf on June 18, 2008.