No, it’s not some new dance move. Although that is an idea. I’m talking about fundraising. The glamorous and rewarding art of getting people to empty their pockets. Okay, so maybe it isn’t really glamorous. It can be rewarding. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A couple weeks ago I contacted our local Kroger to ask if we could set up a table and ask their patrons for donations while creating awareness for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The store manager, Ed, said why not and gave us the entire weekend.
June 24th, after packing up my 16 month old son and driving him 2.5 hours north to meet his Papa so he could spend the week at his grandparents house, I drove the 2.5 hours back and straight to Kroger to set up my table. I met Ed, who nonchalantly pointed me to the empty space between the exit doors. Within 15 minutes I was in business. Maybe. Of course fundraising isn’t all puppies and roses. The first dozen people passed by muttering some excuse under their breath. A little frustrating? You betcha. Then I started to get the hang of it. I must have gone through half a dozen variations of “will you donate for cancer research?”. There was one senior citizen who stopped and said her husband was sick and she could empathize with the cause. He didn’t have cancer, but 3 broken ribs and 2 fractured discs. Yikes! There were others like her who stopped when they saw the table and had their wallets out before they even got to me. After just 3 hours, I decided to call it. There is only so much of a large, sliding, automatic grocery store door one can take…especially combined with cart wheels rattling over a tile floor and wayward carts being slammed into their indoor corrals. I went home to hang with my hubby and enjoy our child free evening. It was good haul all things considered…$115.
I had high expectations for Saturday. Our group run was on the north side of town at 7am. So, I was up at 5:30 to let my body wake up a bit and make the 40 minute trek up north. Not a bad run. Nice and cool under the shade of the Monon. I think we ended up going 5.5 miles in about 59 minutes of running. As soon as we cooled down, it was a rush to get home, get showered, and get back up to Kroger. The day was to go something like this: Jessica and I would set up by 10am, raise lots o’ cash, tear down by 8pm. Well, I got there just before 10am and there were coolers and packs of hot dog buns sitting where my table was supposed to go. I tried to find Ed. The store doesn’t seem to be well staffed that early on a Saturday morning. I found someone to have him paged to see if I was supposed to set up somewhere else and was told to go find him in the back aisle. Seriously? Okay. Found Ed and he didn’t seem concerned at all, didn’t really have any reaction other than apathy and said that the person with the coolers and I would have to find a way to get along. Ooh, Loretta was not happy when she finally reappeared and our table was set up next to her stuff. After some finagling, she realized we could make it work and share the space…and became a much more pleasant person. In fact, Loretta was hilarious. Soon, she had her hot dogs cooking. The smell was almost intoxicating after our long run. I don’t eat hot dogs and it smelled good. Then again, I could have eaten all day given the chance.
I digress. Back to the actual fundraising portion of the day. About every 10th, or maybe 15th, person actually gave us the time of day and donated something. Some were more generous that others. Regardless, we thanked each and every person who walked through those doors. Our table mate was not so nice. Seeing rejection after rejection, and sometimes blatant ingoring, she started to make some entertaining comments. We would ask for a donation first, since our table was first upon exiting the store. Then Loretta would ask if they wanted a free hot dog. There was one lady who ignored us, but told Loretta that she was on a diet and would pass on the hot dog. After she left Loretta remarked “your purse aint on a diet!”
There were about a dozen or so people who actually stopped and talked with us for a bit. Some of them made me feel unqualified to be standing there asking for money for the cause when my life hasn’t actually been affected by the cancers.
I met a guy who lost his brother last year to Leukemia. He was diagnosed on a Friday and died Monday of a brain aneurism.
One lady never knew her brother, he died at the age of 5 before she was born. She said her mother never recovered.
Another man was one of 12 children, and lost one of his sisters over 10 years ago. She was pregnant and managed to deliver the baby before her body gave up. She lives on in her daughter.
An eight year old girl, Marly Salee, walked in with her mother who donated before entering the store. On the way back out they stopped at the table again. Marly and her friends had done one of those entrepreneurial lemonade stands that have been so popular this year. They were going to donate the money they made to a food bank. After seeing our table on the way in, Marly thought about it while they shopped and decided she wanted to donate the money to help the kids with Leukemia. She is an awesome inspiration, with a giant heart packed in a little body.
Then there is the guy who doesn’t believe in spending money on cancer research. “Everyone knows the cure,” he says, “even doctors.” According to this 50-something man, if you just eat the right foods and take of yourself your body will take care of itself. I should have just let him go, but was curious. Being in the health and wellness field I shot back that the foods the FDA approves are filled with chemicals and hormones and our water supply isn’t good for us anymore. What are we to do? He maintained that eating the right foods will take care of everything. I said my sister-in-law, a pediatric oncologist, would beg to differ. He said they were the worst. There was no way the conversation was going to end on a positive note, so it just ended. What I interpreted from this man is that the 6 month old who is dying of a blood cancer shouldn’t be helped because if the baby ate the right foods it wouldn’t be dying. So it’s the baby’s fault for being sick. I was so upset by this man! Who did he think he was? He must be missing something in his life to have no compassion. My only course of action now…pray for him.
For the rest of the afternoon I tried to focus more on people like Kayle, survivers and affected family members than this … man. As the afternoon wore on, Loretta packed up and left, we became more exhausted, and the negative responses (and noise) got to us a bit more. We ended up closing down at 6:00pm. Again, not a bad days work…$560.
Sunday. So glad to have a team of people working the majority of the day! Jessica and I couldn’t have done a full day again. I was there by 9:40 to set up and took part of the first shift. I didn’t have to be back until 6pm to finish out the last two hours and pack up. When I got back at 6pm, my team had set up a laptop with pictures and put out a bucket full of candy. That made the table a little more exciting. I wish we’d done it all weekend! By the end of the day though, they said they got greater responses from asking for spare change…and it was shortened to “spare change for blood cancer research?”. We would get responses like “no thanks”, as if we were offering them spare change. After tearing down, I went home to do the final count. $576 for Sunday. I was hoping for a little more to spread out among the team, it being the big shopping day before the week and adding 2.5 hours onto the day. Overall though, not bad at all.
Would I do a bucket shake again? Definitely. Will it be a while? Yep. I need some recovery time. Although now I feel like I’m almost a part of the Kroger team and should visit our new friends every now and then. I was invited by the pharmacist to be a part of their health fair on July 9th. Although, now I need to focus on my next fundraising adventure: bootcamps.
Here are some highlights from the weekend:
Smallest donation: $.04
Largest donation: $30
Favorite rejections – and the responses running through our heads:
“Oh, not today.” – how about tomorrow
“Thanks, I gave earlier in the year.” – I didn’t know you could only give a dollar once.
“No thanks, I’ve had cancer twice.” – isn’t that why you would want to donate
“Sorry, I’m not rich…I’m only 17.” – oh, you’re cute.
And then there were the dozen or so people who came back up to the table after loading their cars and donated after all.