The Most Exhausting Month of the Year

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Have you finished your National Frog month shopping yet?  And allow me to also wish you a Happy Testicular Cancer month. It should come as no surprise that a career in the non-profit sector requires us to be at least marginally aware of the various observance months that are so designated to help raise awareness about a particular cause—and, yes, it also helps raise funds.  If there’s a designated month that aligns in some way with a particular Eat-the-Frog2cause or mission, we’re on it. If there isn’t one, we’ll do whatever we can to create it. Look, people are more prone to respond to a cause-oriented campaign that has some good ol’ hype and some kind of collective effort or rally cry attached to it. The legendary MDA telethon held every Labor Day weekend is a prime example of how that theory works. The prominence of the event has dwindled in the past decade, following the exit of legendary host Jerry Lewis. But in its heyday, the Vegas style glitz of that mega-fundraiser allowed the viewer to feel like they were an integral part of the glamorous affair, which made them more apt to respond to the call-to-action with a healthy donation. When I was around eight, some family friends created and hosted their own neighborhood slumber party fundraiser to coincide with the telethon and it quickly MDA-JERRY-LEWIS-TELETHONbecame an annual favorite. With our sleeping bags, pillows and the bag-o-spare-change in hand, we’d stake our claim in the family room, with each of us taking turns throughout the night calling in donations raised from carefully divvied portions of our collective bundle of coins, thinking the more we called, the better the chances that at least one of us would get our name mentioned on the air—much like millions of others, to whom the idea of having their name announced live on the air by Wayne Newton or Ed McMahon was almost intoxicating. While a few of us were at least granted the lesser level of celebrity status by hearing our name spoken (and always mispronounced) by the part-time weekend traffic reporter on the Flint-Saginaw NBC affiliate during the local breaks, we were never fortunate enough to be given national fame, even if only for a few fleeting seconds.

When you work for a cancer research organization—particularly one that deals with most types of cancer—you learn that almost every month is designated to observe some kind of cancer. We just finished commemorating National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and in addition to the observances I mentioned earlier, April is also Multiple Myeloma Awareness month. That hits home on a personal level, since that is the cancer that took my mom 23 years ago. At the time of her diagnosis about twenty years ago, multiple myeloma was barely even a blip on the cancer research radar. The war on cancer had just begun and funding was still at a minimum. What little funding there was would be directed at the cancers affecting the largest percentage of the population—breast, colorectal and lung cancer. A diagnosis of multiple myeloma at any stage was virtually a death sentence and one could hope for no more than five years at the most. So the mere fact that multiple myeloma now has its own observance month is proof of how far we have come in the fight against all types of cancer. But it’s still not far enough.

Right on April’s coat tails is the month of May, which is rather bittersweet for me. Of course, it is host to that day when we honor our amazing mommas and stand in awe of the fact that those incredible superhumans braved nine months of various levels of hell, including vomiting, aches and pains, exorbitant weight gain, and swollen body parts, after which they would endure hours—even days—of excruciating pain of a level most men moms dayare unable to even fathom, just so we could make a grand entrance into this thing we call life. In my case, mom was in labor for 32 hours—and I was breech. The queen of stubborn refused to have a c-section. So understandably, even after all these years, Mother’s Day is still rough for me. Adding salt into the wound, around a week after Mother’s Day is my mom’s birthday, which was always a special occasion and, in our family, the true marker of spring since all she ever asked for on her birthday were flats of flowers to plant in the numerous gardens that ran throughout our lawn. But the up side of May is that it celebrates the amazing strides we’ve made because of cancer research. It’s only because of research that new and effective treatments have been developed, and more rare cancers such as multiple myeloma are now survivable. May is National Cancer Research Awareness month (NCRAM). Because that’s such an integral part of the work we do at Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP), we welcome any opportunity that helps people better understand how research is the primary ingredient to the development of cutting edge clinical trials and groundbreaking new treatments for a variety of cancers. Without the research, these life-saving treatments would likely not exist. So one might assume that NCRAM would have some level of importance in the hierarchy of commemorative observances. Not quite. In fact, let me share with you a list of some of the other observances for which May is the designated month. I pulled it from Wikipedia, a fairly reliable source for information, and was rather taken aback to discover that NCRAM wasn’t even on the list. Take a look…

Military Appreciation Month; ALS Awareness Month; Asthma Awareness Month; Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month; Brain Cancer Awareness Month; Celiac Awareness Month; Mental Health Awareness Month; Hepatitis Awareness Month; National Huntington’s Disease  Awareness Month; Lupus Awareness Month; Lyme Disease Awareness Month; Motorcycle Awareness Month; National Bike Month; National Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month; National Guide Dog Month; National Mobility Awareness Month; National Foster Care Month; National Stroke Awareness Month.

HondaVF1100Sabre2By the way, I have since contacted Wikipedia to point out the oversight of excluding NCRAM. Now, let me be clear. These are all great causes—though it’s tough to classify Motorcycle Awareness as a cause. Listen, I’m glad to learn we have Motorcycle Awareness month, particularly since I still have a special place in my heart the Honda Magna 1100 I had back in the 90s. I sure do miss that beauty. But c’mon. Motorcycles make the list but cancer research doesn’t? If you aren’t a motorcycle fan, May is also National Smile month, National Barbecue month and National Hamburger month, so you can triple up on the celebrations zombie monthat your big Memorial Day weekend cook-out—or quadruple it, because it’s also National Zombie Awareness month. I can only assume that is due to the dramatic increase in zombie sightings we so often hear about during the month of May. Have you stocked up on eggs yet? You might want to, since May is also National Egg month and I would expect the demand for eggs to go through the roof. But I have to admit, May is starting to make my mouth water as I envision a spread of summertime deliciousness including BBQ chicken, burgers and freshly prepared deviled eggs, all laid out for the annual feast for which we all gather to celebrate National Good Car Care month.

Perhaps you’ll consider adding another fun layer of celebratory revelry by commemorating the birthdays of some of the celebrities born in May, including country music legends Tim McGraw and Wynona Judd. There are also stars of stage, screen and television such as Candace Bergen, Joan Collins (who cares how much work she has had done—she still looks fabulous!!!), George Clooney and Clint Eastwood, as well as Hollywood legends we’ve lost including Katherine and Audrey Hepburn (no relation), Bing Crosby and Orson Welles. And then there are the musical icons who were born in the merry month of May—Janet Jackson, Billy Joel and Cher. But during all this celebrating you and your guests will be enjoying, perhaps you’ll consider including a mention about cancer research, maybe a shout out to CCRP and, if you really want to go the distance, perhaps a small donation box next to the beer. Yes???

By leveraging strategic partnerships with other key organizations including the National Cancer Institute, we are working to help raise the prominence of National Cancer Research Awareness month, but we also understand that it’s a slow process. And each month brings toma new challenge for another awareness campaign. In June, we’ll be celebrating the patients whose lives we’ve helped to save for National Cancer Survivors month.  After that, it’s Sarcoma Awareness month in July. Fortunately, we get a break in August, but we are all encouraged to take a few moments to pay homage to our pals named Tom, since it’s National People Named Thomas month. No, I am not kidding. Then comes what will arguably be the craziest of all months when September hits—also known as National Childhood, Gynecologic, Leukemia and Lymphoma, Ovarian, Prostate, and Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. If I survive September, we’ll be ready to join the incredible PR machine that the month of October has become for Breast Cancer Awareness.

But until then, perhaps you’ll consider helping us out with our efforts for the month of May and start planning your big bash now. Thanks to the assistance of my good friend and CCRP board member, Rep. Dianne Primavera, the governor will be issuing a proclamation on May 1 commemorating the important role Colorado plays in cancer research, and honoring CCRP as a regional leader in the fight against cancer. We also have the 10th annual Drive for a Cure charitable golf tournament happening on May 23, which would be a may2wonderful way to support cancer research and commemorate National Golf month. Or maybe you’ll just go with my original idea of hosting the multi-faceted cook-out, inviting all your friends and family, raising a glass to toast Cher’s birthday, and trying out a few new sauces in celebration of barbecue month—although you may want to schedule your feast for May 6 since it’s National No-Diet Day, when you are encouraged to scrap the diet and eat to your heart’s content.  And somewhere in between the Mother Goose Day songs and the National Limerick Day limericks, it would be wonderful if you could at least mention to your guests that May is National Cancer Research month, remind them of the important role research plays in the fight against cancer, and the importance of charitable support for so many worthy cancer fighting organizations. Without it, we wouldn’t be here to do the work that leads to the breakthroughs that are developed into the treatments that save the lives of so many cancer victims right here in Colorado. Whew! And believe it or not, May is also National Give to Local Cancer Research Organizations month. OK, I just made that one up. But you can still give right here, right now.

 

 

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When Hockey Has a Heart

There are a few phrases with which we non-profit types are familiar but which are sometimes something of a different language to anyone else. One of those is “third-party event.” The “event” part is pretty self-explanatory but it’s the “third-party” part that throws folks for a loop. Basically and in the simplest terms, a third-party event is any fundraising activity planned and executed by a non-affiliated group or individual where the benefiting organization has no financial responsibility and little or no staff involvement. In other words, someone else comes up with an idea how to raise funds on hockey2your behalf and all that is required of you is to help promote it and, perhaps, be there during the event to help where needed. Of course, these include the traditional events such as bake sales, car washes and carnivals. Gaining more popularity are dining out nights, where a restaurant will agree to donate 20% of proceeds from that evening to an organization. Sporting events make for lucrative TPEs because the attendance is usually larger and they tend to bring in more charitable revenue, but they also help brand and market an organization to a larger audience that may not be familiar with them.  Sporting social events, such as bowling nights, are also among the favorites by bringing people together in a fun social setting while allowing them to take part in the sport itself and feel good about advancing a cause.

That model can apply to virtually any sport, but we especially love when it applies to hockey. Yes, that’s right. Hockey, the sport that continues to gain favor, and even more of a fan base in large part because of the Avalanche, of course, but also because of the continued success and national prominence of the University of Denver Pioneers hockey program. The Pioneers have repeatedly made it to the top of the heap in the NCAA and this year is no exception.  Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP) is honored to once again be a beneficiary of the Quest 9 Charity Adult Hockey Tournament, courtesy of our good friends at Foothills Event Management (FEM).  The event, now in its 9th consecutive year, was created, in part, by FEM’s director Lance Jaeger.  Not surprisingly, Lance is a hockey nut as well as a dedicated philanthropist, so this event is the perfect way for him to combine his love for pucks and Zambonis with his commitment to charitable causes. We sat down with Lance to chat about the tournament, how it all started and why he is so passionate about it all.

CCRP: Lance, this will be the ninth year for this charitable tournament. Take us back to the beginning so we get an idea of how things all began.

lance1a1LJ: Nine years already. It’s crazy. How did we get here?  If you can believe it, it all started just prior to the 2007 Holiday season in the back of a semi-trailer during the106.7 KBPI Hand that Feeds Food Drive. That event was held in the Parking Lot of the Ice Centre at the Promenade in Westminster where people in need could donate food benefiting the Denver Rescue Mission.  I was there helping out and it turns out that the guy accepting and loading food next to me was Justin Goldman. He had been doing some unique things in the Colorado Adult Hockey Community with the Colorado Avalanche and I had just sold one of the events I had been managing, the Panicking Poultry 5K Run/Walk, which was a pre-Thanksgiving event, benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – Colorado Chapter.  I was pretty busy at that time and since hockey was my passion, I decided to sell it to my long-time partner because running was his passion.

CCRP:  Well, we’ve never known you NOT to be busy, Lance, especially since you‘ve been doing hockey stuff and charity fundraising events for a long time.

LJ:  Ever since 2002, I have been running a successful hockey business called Competitive Edge Hockey, LLC, which focuses on coaching and instruction for all ages.  At the same time, I’ve also been running a successful event business, Foothills Event Management, LLC, which focuses on consulting, planning and management for events of all types and sizes.  So, yeah…I guess keeping busy and doing things to help out charitable organizations is in my blood—almost literally, since it’s something I did as a kid with my parents. So after working for several hours at that KBPI food drive event and talking to Justin a bit more, he and I became friends and forged a partnership that allowed us to finally figure out a way to  combine our two passions—hockey and charity—and that’s when we decided to start the  Charity Adult Hockey Tournament.

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CCRP:
So, did that eventually become the Quest Tournament we know today?

LJ: Sort of, but not quite.  It was originally called the Quest for the Crown and we were able to parlay the Rink Manager’s membership in the NHL Players Association and Justin’s relationship with the Colorado Avalanche so that we could partner with the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer Initiative as our beneficiary.  The event was held for two years at the Big Bear Ice Arena in Denver until that arena changed owners, causing us to find a new home. And that’s how we came to be where we are today, at the Edge Ice Arena in Littleton.

CCRP: And how did that all go for you and Justin?

LJ:  It started really well and we were able to raise a nice amount of money for cancer. But as it evolved and grew, the NHL kept insisting that we try to keep the money locally, or at least as much as we possibly could.  And as luck would have it, in 2015 a hockey client of mine introduced me to a good friend, Patricia Peterson, who is the President & CEO of Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP).  It didn’t take long for everyone to see that the hockey tournament was an ideal fit for CCRP and that Pat, and her staff would work well with the Foothills Event Management staff.

davewtf2aCCRP: Well, we’re just as happy it was such a good fit for everyone.  I was going to ask about the name, but it’s obvious that the original tournament, Quest for the Crown, has become the Quest Charity Hockey Tournament that we know today, which makes perfect sense since the name is already fairly well-known in the hockey community. I know you like to help as many charities as you can. In fact, let’s make sure to give a shout out to the other charities benefiting from this yea’rs tournament, including Third Way Center and NHL Hockey Fights Cancer. What are some of the others that you supported in the early years prior to CCRP?

LJ: There are quite a few.  There’s the Jessica Redfield Ghawi Foundation, honoring a vibrant young journalist and hockey enthusiast who was killed in the 2012 Aurora theatre shooting. Also, the Win the Battle Foundation, a local organization similar to “Make a Wish” based in Arvada. And we’ve worked to fund scholarships for the Colorado Adaptive Sports Foundation, specifically the Colorado Sled Hockey Association. We’ve also helped individuals who needed support, such as Ian Tuthill, a hockey client of mine who lost his battle with osteosarcoma in 2013 just prior to the event. And Dominic Scrivner, another hockey client of mine who is a testicular cancer survivor as well as the GM for our title sponsor, Mike Shaw Subaru. I really need to point out that without the commitment of Dominic and Mike Shaw Suburu, this event would not be possible.  We’ve also helped Dan silentauction2aHohenstein, a long-time high-level referee in Colorado and a postal worker who survived a horrific accident, nearly losing both of his legs, while sorting mail at the back of his truck. And this past week another high level referee had a pretty horrific accident and we want to try to help him out.  Butch Mousseaux suffered a devastating fall prior to a collegiate playoff game in Grand Rapids, MI that left him with a severe head injury. He’s in an induced coma and has yet to regain consciousness. FEM is coordinating with other organizations in efforts to support him and his family.  By the way, if you’d like to help Butch, you can go click here to either the Facebook page they’ve created for him, to their Go Fund Me page, or to the DAWG Nation Hockey Foundation website. This is yet another example of the ways in which we try to help individuals directly.

CCRP:  Careful, buddy. Keep this up and we’re going to need a box of tissues. I actually have a tear in my eye.  Wow, didn’t see that one coming. I appreciate you sharing what happened to Butch—I  remember hearing about Dan’s tragedy on the news when it happened and I recall thinking, “He’s a postal worker who was just doing his job.” And then his life was changed forever because of one stupid, tragic moment.  Lance, what you have done and continue to do is nothing short of amazing.

LJ:  I’ll tell ya, Dave, as we’re talking about all this, it’s certainly bringing back a lot of memories for me.

CCRP:  It’s incredible, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s a whole lot of work.  Ever think it’s just too much?

LJ:  No, it’s not too much.  But you’re right, Dave, as you well know through your efforts at CCRP. It’s a lot of very hard work. But when you think of the people we’ve helped, I’m reminded that it’s worth every second.

Help us keep helping others.  Please consider donating your products and/or services, giving time as a Volunteer, coming out to watch as a spectator, signing up as a free agent player or bringing your team to enjoy all of our festivities. The fun includes: online fundraising, silent auction, drawings, complimentary food & beverages, vendors, playoff beard contest and much more!

Our success with this Event would not be possible without our amazing sponsors, beneficiaries, partners, vendors, contributors, staff & volunteers.

Don’t miss the 2016 Quest 9 Charity Adult Hockey Tournament, benefiting CCRP, NHL Hockey Fights Cancer and Third Way Center. It all happens April 22-24, 2016 at the Edge Ice Arena, 6623 S Ward St, Littleton, CO. Hope to see you there!

For more info on this wonderful event, call 720.475.5740 or 720.352.8934. You can donate online here. You can find out more about the tournament and Foothills Event Managment here. Find out more about Competitive Edge Hockey here or on Facebook.

 

 

 

And the Award Goes To…

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I’ll never forget the first time I heard the words “multiple myeloma.”  Just the name alone sounds ominous and intimidating and I immediately found myself feeling so frightened, serving as a harsh reminder that one of the innate elements of being human is the tendency to fear that which we do not understand.

My mom had been to the doctor to determine the cause of the chronic back pain that had beset her for over a year.  My siblings and I suspected it was somewhat serious, given the amount of pain she had been in.  But I was thinking more along the lines of a herniated disc or degeneration of some kind that might require surgery, but certainly nothing life threatening.  The doc ran a number of tests—including a biopsy.

The next day, my dad called and I could tell by his tone and delivery that it wasn’t the best news.  He wasted no time and with a strange shaking in his voice, got right to the point. “Mom is sick.  It’s multiple myeloma.  They’re saying three to seven months.”

The first thing I felt was confusion. This was about her back. How can someone’s back result in anything that includes the words “three to seven months?” Instinctively, I played dumb as if I didn’t know what the words “three to seven months” meant. I somehow figured I could make it all go away if I pretended it wasn’t real.  I took a breath and asked, “Three to seven months for what?  Of treatment?  And what the hell is multiple whatever-you-called it?”

It’s funny how our minds work at moments like that, because within a split second I became acutely aware of the most basic, intrinsic bodily functions such as breathing, blinking my eyes and swallowing, none of which seemed to be functioning properly all of a sudden.  And then dad said the two most horrible words I have ever been forced to hear. “It’s cancer.”

images40Forty seconds.  That’s all the time that had passed since the phone rang and yet it felt like I had just lived through an eternity in hell.  I don’t think I have ever experienced such a myriad of emotions in quick succession, all in less than a minute.  It was a bit like the various stages of grief we’ve all heard about, yet slightly different.  First, there’s shock and disbelief.  You think, “No, this doesn’thappen to MY family.  It happens to other
families.”  Then comes denial, often in multiple stages. “It’s a mistake—a misdiagnosis.  No, it’s a LIE!!!  Maybe just a bad dream.  I’ll soon wake up and laugh at how crazy it was.”  Close behind denial is the feeling of desperation once you begin to realize it isn’t a dream-ImageLayerman3a–and that is momentarily abated by a false sense of omnipotence, as you convince yourself that you alone possess some secret superpower that can actually remove cancer from a human body. You find yourself not just thinking but actually believing, “I can fix this. I’m strong. I’ll do it.” It only lasts a moment, though, before the real world quickly reappears around you and anger sets in. At that moment, the saying, “reality is a bitch” takes on a whole new meaning. The manifestation of my anger resulted in the phone being pummeled at warp speed to the floor, causing shards of hard plastic to be hurled across the room. My cat sprung from her nap, immediately vaulting herself into the air, batting away at each piece of what used to be our first-ever cordless phone (a technological marvel at that time) as if she were trying for a grand slam home run. The anger finally gave way to a kind of fear I don’t think I had ever experienced before, one that I felt in every bone, muscle, cell and strand of hair. It’s the worst kind of fear—the helpless kind, the one that’s so overwhelming because it suggests certain failure and doom and you feel powerless to do anything about it. And then it hits you—all of the worst emotions working in tandem, each at full force—fear, anger and despair—and each multiplied by a thousand.

Anyone who has had to brave the moment of discovery that a family member or loved one has cancer understands the shocking impact the experience delivers. In my case, the situation was exacerbated by geography. Mom was 1,250 miles away and of course, I was on the first available flight to be with her and the rest of the family. But what about next week? Next month? You begin to methodically plan the steps required to move your life across the country before you realize the magnitude of such a task. And that only makes the pain that much worse. Two siblings both lived close to mom and dad, but they also had busy lives. How were we going to accomplish this?

There are just a few of countless examples of what loved ones go through when cancer decides to kidnap your family and hold you all hostage. Unless you’ve lived it, it’s impossible to understand. You are forced to all of a sudden take on roles for which you feel so ill-prepared, but roles that must be assumed nonetheless.

In so many situations like this, one person rises above all others and assumes the primary leadership role, whether they want to or not. It’s not about “want to.” It’s about “must do.” For us, that person was my brother.  Not only did he become the general of our cancer-fighting army, he dropped almost every aspect of his own life to ensure everything images (1)that needed to be done was completely engaged. He took a leave of absence from work, dropped the class schedule he was taking to pursue his master’s degree and took complete control of the family, letting me know what weeks within the next six months I would be most needed at home, allowing me time to book my flights accordingly, get those dates on the vacation calendar at work and be as frugal as possible by not having to pay exorbitant, last-minute airline fares. He was so dedicated to this process and to the job no one ever wants—so focused that it cost him his marriage. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most solid relationship in the first place, but the added strain of becoming primary caregiver was simply too much for the relationship to survive. Because of him, mom felt a sense of indescribable security and comfort that was necessary for her to remain strong enough to fight. Only my brother could assume this role. Not me, not my other siblings, not my dad. I used to be ashamed of that, but not so much anymore. It simply is what it is. While supportive and strong in other areas, executing the duties required of this leading role was something neither my father nor I were programmed to provide.

Mom lived two and a half years longer than they said she would, a miracle that I am convinced only happened because of my brother. There are so many heroes just like him, family members who are suddenly faced with what seems like an insurmountable, even impossible task. But it only seems that way to us because the rest of us are certain we could never accomplish such a feat. I realize this is a phrase that is so overused and Academy_Award_trophyincredibly trite, but it’s the perfect way to describe these amazing superhuman beings: unsung heroes. They desire neither praise nor credit for their actions, nor are they likely to get it. Their outstanding accomplishments are usually overshadowed by the patient’s deterioration or, ultimately, death.  Only when the patient has success with their treatment and achieves remission or cancer-free status are these people likely to be presented with the verbal accolades so due them.  But here’s the thing. They don’t care about that. It’s not about them. It’s about the mom, dad, sister, brother, partner, best friend, whoever the patient happens to be. And because they are so selfless, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

I wish I had written this in November, since that is National Family Caregiver month. Oddly enough, that’s the month mom eventually lost her battle with the execrated scourge we call cancer. It’s also the month of my brother’s birthday. Pretty cool, huh?  I thought about filing this away until next November rolls around—and maybe I’ll resurrect it at that time. But for now, it’s my loving tribute to the selfless millions who are the winners of the award for Outstanding Performance by a Caregiver in a Leading Role. Whoever you are, on behalf of the rest of us who stand in awe of you, and anyone who understands what I’m talking about, thank you. I love you.

How You Can Do Something to Help.

Here’s an idea. How about making a donation to help fight cancer, but doing it in the name of a superhero or caregiver?  It’s a pretty cool way to acknowledge what they’ve done and all that they’ve given. Click here to make a tribute gift to Colorado Cancer Research Program in the name of your hero. You’ll feel good about it. More importantly, they’ll feel GREAT about it.

 

Revealing Colorado’s Best-Kept Secret

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I have no doubt that most of us remember the beloved, classic TV comedy Cheers. Without even giving it any thought, we can easily recall Sam, Diane, Carla, Cliff, Coach, Norm, Woodie and Rebecca as if they were old, trusted friends. But that’s what the show was all about—something lovingly familiar, like a second home, a place you could swing by on any given day and be almost guaranteed that you’d know someone there. It was even referenced in the iconic theme song.

patdbjcut“You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

Familiarity is something that doesn’t always come easy, particularly in the world of non-profit marketing and branding. Those of us who have chosen to work in this often challenging field understand all too well the many roadblocks organizations often face in their quest to engage support from the community. We know that people are much more prone to give to an organization or cause with a mission in which they believe and trust, one that shares similar values and one that is familiar to them. In other words, people are much LESS prone to give to an organization they have never heard of or one that they know nothing about. Those of us leading those efforts for smaller non-profits certainly have our work cut out for us. That has been one of the bigger challenges facing Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP). But we’re changing that. Big time.

Over the past year, we’ve increased our exposure on TV, on the radio, on billboards, through social media and in print. Sure, it can be a painstakingly slow process and we’ve got a long way to go. But we’re making a dent. Anytime I hear someone come up and say, “I heard you guys on the radio,” or “I saw your CEO on TV the other day,” it provides at least a sliver of validation that we’re on our way to no longer being Colorado’s best-kept secret. It’ll happen. Just takes time.

No cause-oriented non-profit welcomes anonymity, at least not the ones that rely on community philanthropy to survive. One pathway to shedding unwanted obscurity is by engaging with businesses and corporations that are involved with the community and encourage their employees to be involved as well. And one pathway to reaching those companies here in Colorado is through Denver Business Journal. Ed Sealover, DBJ’s health care reporter, recently sat down with our CEO, Pat Peterson, to learn more about our mission, our incredible work and our vision for the future. If you haven’t already noticed, the article is right over there. To the right of this column. Up just a little. To your right. What do you mean, “your right or my right?” It’s the same right. Yep, that’s it.

Big thanks to Ed Sealover and Denver Business Journal for helping to put CCRP on the metaphorical map and let Coloradoans know of this amazing and valuable leader right here in their own back yard. And with our continued marketing, community relations and branding efforts, we’re confident that we will soon be moving to the front yard.

Remember, you can support CCRP with a tax-deductible, safe and secure online donation right now with a click of the ol’ mouse….right here.

Plan B: Satisfying Your Soul

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As I write this, I know I am among millions whose hopes and dreams were deflated in an instant last night as the Powerball jackpot winning numbers were announced. We all had grandiose ideas about what we would do with such an unfathomable sum of money and many of us included significant philanthropic efforts on our multi-millionaire agendas.  For me, that wasn’t just the politically correct thing to say. It was a sincere and passionate desire.  I have actually fantasized about the moment I would walk into the office of our CEO and gently break the news to her that I would be submitting my resignation—but that she needn’t worry because I would be giving Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP) a contribution so significant, they wouldn’t need to raise another dollar for at least several  years—and they could hand out a few grand to every cancer patient who has ever been in their care.  But, as fate would have it, that particular dream sequence in my self-created fantasy wasn’t in the cards.  So, on to plan B.

To set the tone for Plan B, I’m reminded of what Arnold Palmer once said about the game of golf.  “It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”  I like that part about satisfying the soul.  Even the most inept of golfers often say the same thing. It’s a game that feels good.  The same is true for charity and philanthropy.  I often talk about one of the top reasons people give to charities—because it feels good.  It warms the heart and it satisfies the soul. So, it would stand to reason that when you put the two together, satisfaction of the soul is even greater.  But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

I’ve learned that it’s easier for people to understand what I do for a living if I simply say that I’m a non-profit fundraising professional—or NPFP for short.  For many, the title of Development Director always requires further explanation.  I’ve often joked with colleagues, who are also NPFPs, at the various, sometimes self-deprecating sobriquets we have given ourselves over the years, including Professional Panhandler, Shameless Beggar, Money-Groveler and Anything Goes Guy/Gal.  Personally, I prefer Incomparable Miracle Worker.

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I’m also a bit of a non-conformist—a rebel-with-a-cause, if you will—and, as such, I’ve never been afraid to try unconventional approaches and/or challenge the status quo when I felt it was warranted.  Sometimes, you have to bend and even break the rules.  That’s how things change and improve.  It’s how things evolve.

Back in 2005, we were first hearing about this new marvel of modern communication called “social media.”   Our team was attending a seminar presented by two rather persnickety and fastidious women who were considered experts in the public relations industry.  To this day, it was one of the most valuable seminars I’ve ever attended.   As part of their presentation, these two—the Miss Manners and Emily Post of the social media world—covered the rules of social media engagement, most of which seemed like no-brainers.  But there was one thing in the invisible rule book with which I took issue. We were told that with our Facebook posts, we should strive for once daily and should NEVER exceed two per day.  My first thought was that if people enjoyed reading our posts and they felt engaged in a way that made them want more, then why not deliver?  After putting it to the test, my hunch was proven correct and the number of people engaged with our organization through social media tripled over the next month.  Once in a while, the rules need to be challenged.

golf1a1-800Similarly, there are accepted standards and practices for fundraising, including a few protocols that have long been debated.  One of my faves is the do-or-don’t controversy involving the inclusion of remit envelopes with thank-you letters. In other words, when thanking a donor for a monetary gift, do you include an envelope as a way to subtly ask for even more money? Many non-profits do and, much to my surprise, I’ve seen it work time after time.  And then there are the theories about acquiring event sponsors.  Back in that social media seminar, we were told it was not a “best practice” to appeal for sponsors through social media (too impersonal, so they said)—so by those standards, I am now violating the rules by including a business proposal in a blogpost.  By the way, that rule has since been proven wrong , so there is no need to report me to the social media gestapo.  Since I didn’t win Powerball last night, it means I am unable to fork out a few million in charitable dollars for CCRP, so it’s back to shameless begging as a strategy.  And, with that, I’m asking for your help.  But you’ll enjoy it, it will satisfy your soul and if you opt to respond to my plea with at least a “maybe,” rest assured you will be offered a more personal approach involving coffee, lunch, a beer or just a casual conversation, all while among very charming and pleasant company.

So now that it has been established that no rules are being violated, here’s how you can help. Charitable golf tournaments are always popular, in part because players’ proficiency levels run the gamut, from highly skilled to “are you sure you’ve played this game before?”  It’s a day of fun with friends and colleagues, old and new, getting away from the office all day and doing it in a typically beautiful Colorado setting—all  while making a difference in the world.  It’s playtime for a cause.  So that brings me to the 10th annual Drive for a Cure, benefiting Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP). We would love to have you there.  Additionally, we need to expand involvement from the business community.  On Monday, May 23 at Valley Country Club in Centennial participants from all over metro Denver will come together for 18 holes of bogies and birdies, hazards and handicaps, all in support of a very important cause.  Starting right now, you can scoop up a foursome for your business, your golf pals or your organization.  And one more time—WE NEED SPONSORS.  I like to ask people to look at it from a slightly different perspective: that it’s a win-win for everyone.  Your company benefits by getting involved with an organization as important as CCRP and by doing something that truly matters.  And you benefit by having your soul satisfied.  It’s a chance to be part of the team that will, one day soon, make history as we finally achieve the ultimate goal of a cure for cancer.

Aside from your soul being immensely satisfied, there are some rather nice perks involved, in fact too many to list individually here.  Suffice it to say that sponsorships include foursomes, impressive promotional and marketing opportunities (who doesn’t love their company logo prominently displayed on a billboard at a high-traffic location in metro Denver?), fun freebies and so much more. Plus, it’s a great way to network your business, to court potential new clients, to thank current clients or to reward staff for jobs well done—and to be able to say, “We’re helping to cure cancer.  What did you do today?”  You can’t put a price tag on that.

To become involved with Drive for a Cure, for sponsorship details or to find out more information, please give me a call at 720.475.5740 or you can shoot me an email here. If you’d like to make a donation to CCRP, click here.

The Twenty-Five Buck Conundrum

bylineWe’ve all experienced it, that puzzling quest to figure out how we could have possibly gone through twenty-five bucks so quickly.  As you backtrack in your mind, you begin to realize that it was spent mostly on non-essentials that aren’t even significant enough to register in your memory.  Those quick stops at the neighborhood convenience are enough of a menacing pickpocket to my wallet.  I’m sure you know the drill…you run in for just one item, but you get sucked in by those little things that catch your eye before you’re able to escape with just the snack you originally stopped to get.  The lottery scratch tickets are the worst.  I often wonder if they possess some ethereal, controlling powers that not only force me to get one, but to get at least three—along with two Lotto and one Powerball quick-picks because it somehow doesn’t make sense to buy just one scratch ticket.  Of course, my hopes for instant wealth are always dashed upon the discovery that each ticket is a loser.

Before I know it, twenty-five bucks is gone and I repeatedly have to wrack my brain to figure out where it went.  I know I’m not alone in this.  I’ve often commiserated with friends over this and while the specifics and the amount for each of us may vary, the outcome is the same.  Even after sharing tips on how to be more frugal, we’ve come to the conclusion that the weekly conundrum of the disappearing twenty-five dollars is simply one of life’s many enigmas, much like the one sock that is apparently sucked into the black hole of the laundry universe shortly after it enters the dryer.

I realize I am not the penny-pincher my mother was.  That woman was the champ of frugality and could have easily settled the national debt in the course of an afternoon.  But I’m also not at all cavalier with my finances.  On the contrary, I try to keep a relatively balanced budget and I set aside a fixed, disposable amount each week—but it’s usually gone in record time.  So it occurred to me that most of us would feel much more satisfied with the disappearance of that money if we knew it went to something more meaningful.

I don’t hide the fact that my passion for Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP) is derived in large part from losing my mom to cancer and the ensuing determination that I would somehow avenge her death, almost as if I were relentlessly hunting down an at-large assassin.  And in a way, I am.  The advancements and breakthroughs that stem from the work done at CCRP are unprecedented.   The result is that people are living longer, more lives are being saved and we are closer to a cure than ever before.  So, of course, I’m sold on the mission of CCRP.  If you haven’t already—and harsh as it may be to hear— odds are that you will experience a loved one battling cancer at some point in your life and the war against cancer will become a cause in which you, personally, have a vested interest.  So it begs the question:  isn’t that something worth supporting now—with— oh, say, twenty-five bucks?

Of all the success stories I’ve heard here at CCRP, there’s one touches me more than any other.  It involves Nicholas, a six year-old boy whose father passed away four months after being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that attacked and spread quickly.  After that, there was no gray area for marie4Nicholas.  Cancer of any kind meant death.  Three years later, his mother got the devastating news that she had stage 2 ovarian cancer. When the time came to tell her son, it didn’t matter that her oncology team was optimistic about treatment options; it didn’t matter that she had been enrolled in a promising clinical trial through CCRP and they had every reason to hope for a successful outcome. Throughout her treatment protocols, Nicholas remained doubtful and hopeless, certain he would be an orphan before too long.  A year after her CCRP treatments began, she heard two of the most incredible words she could imagine: full remission.  The unforgettable moment when she shared the miraculous news with her son is difficult to adequately put into words, as his deepest fears were shattered and his entire outlook on life suddenly changed.  It’s a moment I recall whenever I’m having a bad day.  It puts things into perspective and makes me remember what’s important.  And it’s a moment I often think of when I’m feeling frustrated about the missing twenty-five bucks.

Next Tuesday is Colorado Gives Day, the annual event presented by Community First Foundation to celebrate charitable giving and to raise funds for approximately 1,200 non-profit organizations.  It’s a day that can make or break some organizations, and for others, it’s a day that can be the deciding factor on whether or not a necessary program is added or whether or not additional clients can be served.  It’s just one day.  And for that one day, I’d like to issue a challenge—to take that $25 you would otherwise spend on meaningless friffle (one of my mom’s invented words) and use it to make a difference. Give it to any one of the nearly 1,200 Colorado Gives Day charities.  Of course, I’m going to suggest you give it to Colorado Cancer Research Program.  But regardless, the challenge is to take that twenty-five bucks—or more—and help make your corner of the world a better place.  It will make you feel good—and you’ll have no trouble remembering what you did with this particular twenty-five bucks.

So there it is—my holiday challenge to you.  I’m hoping that, next Tuesday, you’ll include CCRP on your charitable giving list.  In my last blog post, I mentioned something my mom used to say that has been one of my guiding principles for life: “Nothing feels quite as good as knowing you’ve made a difference.” Today, let’s make a difference.

The Twenty-Five Buck Conundrum – By Dave Sevick

Go to coloradogives.org/ccrp and follow the instructions to give. And you don’t have to wait until Dec. 8.  You can pre-schedule your donation today.  It’s that simple.

It’s OK to hate cancer. My mom even said so.

For America, November 11th is Veteran’s Day.  For my family and me, it’s also D-day—the day in 1992 when my mom finally lost her battle with cancer.  Unlike Veteran’s Day, there are no parades to commemorate my mother’s life. The day usually passes with some quiet reflection on her life while fondly remembering the things that made her so remarkable.  A few standing traditions have developed over the years, such as re-reading the letter she wrote a few days before she died, sharing deep, motherly thoughts and melting the heart in a way that could transform even the coldest soul into a blubbering mess.  Even after 23 years, it still takes multiple attempts to get all the way through that letter. And yes, even after all this time, the tears still flow. But there’s also laughter as my siblings and I will share a few favorite ”mom” memories over the phone, along with an occasional “do you remember that time she…” story.

Let me be clear about something.  I hate cancer.  I have ever since mom died.  Over the years, I never really did much with that hatred other than make annual donations to the American Cancer Society as well as occasionally supporting a friend’s mom or sister in one of the local run/walk breast cancer fundraisers. I always told myself I was too busy with my job and personal life to do more.  And perhaps that was true. But I can’t use that excuse any longer because now it’s my job to hate cancer—and to help others understand that they should hate it as well because the odds are that, one day during your lifetime, someone close to you will be attacked by this monster. So my primary objective is to raise funds that, quite simply, will help save lives.

When my mom was diagnosed in 1989, this country was just beginning a new and long overdue effort to better understand the disease through groundbreaking research.  Organizations such as Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP) were still in their infancy and we were diving headfirst into a new frontier.  We really had no idea what we might find or how that effort might change the landscape of how we look at cancer and how we treat it. I often wonder how my mom would have fared had such an effort started 20 years earlier.

Mom had stage 3 multiple myeloma, a rare type of cancer that attacks the plasma cells in the bone marrow.  In ’89, funding and research focused on only the most common cancers.  Unfortunately, something as rare as multiple myeloma was barely even a blip on the radar and, as a result, a diagnosis was akin to a death sentence, regardless of what stage a patient was in. She was given three to seven months to live—that’s months, not years.  momgraphic4aThat’s a hard pill to swallow. That means no more Christmases, no more birthdays.  Not even one more. Initially, she was shell-shocked, not at all surprisingly exhibiting a mix of anger, desperation and even self-pity. But then she managed to find a strange sense of peace with it all. She said, “At first, I was angry and asked God, ‘Why me???’ The answer I got was, ‘Why NOT you? Why anyone?  Cancer doesn’t care. That’s just how it works.'”  Fortunately, my mother had a strong inner spirit that, when the right buttons were pushed, could be rather indomitable.  Because of that, she lived almost three years.

One of the most touching moments with her happened near the end of her battle.  She and I were sitting on the front porch engaged in the kind of trivial chit-chat that covers an array of topics and includes random, often-meaningless thoughts verbalized as they pop into your head. During a momentary lull in the conversation, I felt another emotional wave hitting me—something that had become more and more frequent as time with mom grew shorter.  I reached over to squeeze her hand as a tear streamed down my cheek, and I said, “I don’t know that I’ve ever hated anything as much as I hate cancer.”  She looked at me with that one-of-a-kind reassuring smile that is so precious, life only allows it to be given by the most loving mothers and replied, “Honey, that’s OK.  There are only three things in this world you’re really allowed to hate—war, prejudice, and cancer.”

In just the six months I’ve been at CCRP, I’ve learned so much about the field of cancer research and about how far we’ve come since my mother’s death.  Multiple myeloma is no longer the ignored step-child that lacked attention simply because it only affected a handful of people, compared to the numbers of those diagnosed with lung, breast or colorectal cancer. Life expectancy has increased dramatically and in many cases, patients live well past the 20-year mark.  And that’s the result of the research we do at CCRP, research that leads to cutting edge clinical trials, groundbreaking new treatment protocols and patient successes that we could only dream of when my mom was diagnosed in ’89.  But such life-saving innovations cost money—and that’s where our hatred for cancer can actually be a good thing.  We’ve come so far in the last 20-plus years and we’ve built a momentum that has us on track for actually making cancer survivable—even curable—within our lifetime.  And I hate cancer enough to do whatever is necessary to make that happen. That’s my job. Your job, in regards to cancer, is much simpler and I can sum it up in one word: SUPPORT.  Your financial support is the key to getting us to the finish line even faster.

Nothing will bring back my mom.  But we have the opportunity to ensure that your mom or someone else’s mom—or dad, or sister, or brother or best friend—has a much different outcome than my mother did and, when the day comes that you are faced with a loved one hearing the unfathomable words, “You have cancer,” it won’t be followed with, “three to seven months.”

Finally, there are two things you need to understand about my mom.  First, she was very charitably-minded, no matter how tight the family budget was. Second, she always had little sayings, maxims and proverbs that she’d toss at you from time to time.  Two of her favorites come to mind right now.  “Nothing feels quite as good as knowing you’ve made a difference” and “Never put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today.”  Today, you have the chance to make a difference, to be a part of the process that saves lives.  Don’t do it tomorrow. Do it today.

Yep, my mom was a wise woman.  I think she’d like what I’m doing.  You can make a donation to Colorado Cancer Research Program right now…with just a click right here.

It’s OK to Hate Cancer – By Dave Sevick