Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why I Walk ...

Note: I am not writing this post in my capacity as an ambassador of the 3-Day. This one is personal.

Earlier today, I received a comment from Anonymous.

Unsigned. Which irks me. If you have something to say, you're welcome to say it. But sign your name to it. You don't have to have a Google account or any other to end your comment with your name.

This is what it says:

Has anyone ever calculated the cost/benefit of "charitable" events like this one? I.e. the cost of the support services for everything from the camps, to the "sweep" vehicles, to the food and water, to the paperwork? Not to mention the cottage industry in all the pink tchotchkes. Plus all the public services that also get called upon: police and emergency medical support. Now, total all those dollars up, and set them against the dollars donated, and you have to wonder what the REAL benefit is to breast cancer reasearch.

Yes, some of the costs are borne by corporate sponsors, but realize that these companies then get sizable tax write-offs that have to be offset eventually by all of us working folk.

I realize that events like this heighten the visibility of the cause, and that people desperately want to believe there's something they can do in memory of a loved one - and precious few of us are oncology researchers (the people who really CAN make a difference). But all things considered, wouldn't it make more sense just to write a bigger check (or make a bigger online donation), and reduce the impact on the environment AND the drain on public services AND the tax write-offs of corporations?

And this is what I said in return:

Here you go, Anon:

I don't think the impact on the environment is very big. We're
walking. Yes, there's camp to consider and vehicles to transport and such, but consider what a typical worldwide concert tour requires every summer.

As for police and such, many of those services are donated. Cops work on their days off to help us, etc.

There are those things that are measurable and tangible about the 3-Day, but there are also intangibles.

Like, the sense of community. The camaraderie. The empowerment.

Let's assume that some people sign up to do the 3-Day, walk, and then think, "Wow, if I could do this, what else can I do?" And then they go on to do those things.

You can't measure that.

As for people just writing bigger checks, I expect that most of the people who contribute to the 3-Day don't otherwise think to give money to breast cancer research, let alone "bigger" checks.

At the end of the day, it's an event that raises money, raises awareness, builds community, empowers people. It falls into the "good" column.

For those who think it's superfluous or otherwise not valuable, you don't need to support it.

For those of us who believe it in and who give our time and effort to it year after year, we can do without the cynicism.

I believe in The 3-Day. I believe in it with all my heart. I wouldn't do it every year if I didn't. I wouldn't walk 60 miles in Chicago's heat and humidity every August if I didn't. I wouldn't suffer the stiffness and the soreness and the sunburn if I didn't.

Because those things are nothing – nothing – compared to what those directly affected by breast cancer endure.

Many survive. But many don't.

And if my walking will save one more family from having to say goodbye to a loved one too soon, that is worth every step.

Nancy Brinker made a promise to her sister that she would dedicate the rest of her life to finding a cure for breast cancer.

And in my very, very, very small way, I am helping her to do just that. Every walker is helping her to do just that.

And we are helping to provide mammograms to those who otherwise would not receive them. And we are helping to provide education to those who do not know.

From the report card for which I provide the URL above:

"Of every dollar spent, 84 cents goes toward mission (research, education, screening, treatment); the remaining 16 cents goes toward administrative and fundraising costs."

Eighty-four cents. Out of 100 cents. That's 84% going toward Komen's mission. That's a high number.

One of my friends used to support me in this but then stopped, suggesting, for lack of a better word, that it's a scam, that the people behind this event have no intention of ever finding a cure because their business would go away.

As if there aren't a host of other diseases and causes that need our help? AIDS, hunger, disaster relief, epilepsy, lung cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, victims of genocide, you get the idea, take your pick.

So why do I do it?

Several years ago, I had the honor of meeting Brooke Ellison, a lovely woman who cannot walk. She has been confined to a wheelchair, a quadriplegic, since she was 11 years old. Christopher Reeve made a film about her. It premiered shortly after he died.

I was at that premiere. That's where I met Brooke. And after, as I was waiting for my friend, the event's publicist, in the green room, I was pacing. Pacing, pacing, back and forth.

And then I stopped. Because I suddenly realized that I was pacing, that I am able to pace, unlike the woman I'd just met, that amazing woman who despite her physical limitations, had accomplished so much more than so many able-bodied people.

I am able to walk.

And so I do.

Like I said in my response to Anonymous, those who don't believe in what we do don't need to support us.

I don't have the data to back up this theory, but I believe that much more money is raised through these events than would be raised in the absence of these events simply because these events supply a means for people to contribute.

People want to help. But they also want it to be easy to do. Consider the sudden proliferation of texting to donate $10 to various disaster-relief organizations. Look at how many millions are raised that way.

Let's assume someone wanted to contribute to breast-cancer research. How would they go about it? Should they send a check to a research hospital? Perhaps. Would they actually do that? Perhaps. I'd like to think they would take the time to find out where they could contribute and then follow through and write a check and send it.

But through the 3-Day and other such endeavors, people have a clear avenue to help. And they don't need to feel as though they have to make a large contribution.

Let me tell you, nothing is more heartwarming than someone who contributes $5 when you know that that $5 means a lot to them. A former co-worker, a single mother of three who earned a very modest hourly wage, once contributed $5.

I burst into tears.

People want to help. Some people want to walk. Some people want to volunteer. Some people want to give money. The 3-Day enables all of those things.

And in so doing, for three days, in each city, humanity gets a little boost. For three days, thousands of people come together to support each other and cheer each other on.

As my friend Devereaux once said, "I want to live in the 3-Day universe."

So do I.

So for three days, every year, I do.

Because it's a beautiful place. Because it fuels my spirit. Because it gives me hope.

Not because it displays a lucrative bottom line.


Blogger ~*~ Beckie ~*~ said...

I love you, Beth! I just want to reach through my computer screen and give you a HUGE hug! I am so proud of you and so encouraged by what you do. You know, there will always be people in life that think they know it all, their ideas are the best, etc. And sadly, dear "anonymous" is one of them. I hate it when people hide behind that no-name-nonsense... but it goes to show how insecure they clearly are.

So, dear sister-in-PINK, you're right! We walk because we CAN! And we are darn proud to do it. Dear anonymous should've known this is a sisterhood you don't mess with. There is too much good that comes from this walk and if one irritating person doesn't like it, well, then I guess it's a good thing they are hiding behind that "anonymous" title.

Oy-vey, girl! You're seriously awesome! I'm so glad to have cyber-met you and look forward to getting to know you better!

Sisters Forever...

~*~ Beckie ~*~

7:32 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Love right back to you, Beckie.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

Bravo! I 100% agree with you in terms of the "unmeasurable's" that the 3-day brings.

I walked the DC walk last year. One of the cities we went through was Bethesda. Before the walk, I would have classified Bethesda-dwellers mostly as rich, elitist, careless yuppies. But on the walk, it sure as hell wasn't. It was full of cheering, loving, kind-hearted neighbors, out to support and show appreciation. Walking through that town gave me goose bumps because I never expected that feeling, in THAT place. So, my eye's were opened (as I'm sure a bunch of other walkers' were as well) - the people in Bethesda opened their hearts - and I've got to think that has to have made my tiny little patch of earth a much better place.

And by ME standing up and doing something, I have, in turn, inspired other people to do their own "something." My friends are more willing to donate time and money. My family have stepped up and started fundraising for causes close to their hearts. I've been told I've inspired people to get more fit.

So, pretty much, YES! You are SO RIGHT! The value of this walk - and events like it - are not just weighed in monetary value, but in the benefit it adds to the human experience, to the benefit it adds to just plain old goodness.

I think we have the scales in our favor, either way.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Starchy said...

Oh wow! I'm so awed by your response to such a horrible comment! You couldn't have said it better!!! Thanks for sharing this!

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Cat said...

Wow, Beth. Just WOW. I can't believe Anonymous. (I'm with you on putting your name on tings. If somebody is going to take the time and express an opinion, he or she should own it.) I am just stunned but the -- I don't even know what to all it ... ignorance? -- of Anon's comment. Your response was incredible. Your post so perfectly expresses why people choose support the 3-Day in whatever manner they do, be it walking, volunteering or donating. I'm not a scientist or a medical researcher, so I clearly can't help that way. But I CAN walk and I CAN raise money so the researchers do their jobs. Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. And thanks to the 3-Day, I CAN do something. And it will make a difference. Applause, standing ovation and a big hug. Thank you for this post.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Dave Tutin said...

There will always be those who get it and those who analyze it.

Just as some people don't get Obama and sadly never will.

Great response.

And I'm with you on the anonymous comments.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thank you, ladies and gent. Thank you.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Kristen Sager Cincotta said...

What a great response! As someone who actually does science, I can tell you unequivocally that what we are doing with the 3 Day is making a difference. People don't walk into labs and hand you $10. It doesn't happen. In fact, if you just let people donate money to whatever lab they like best, you would be wasting a ton of money on crappy science. There is a reason there is a grant application process. Money for research is so valuable that there needs to be a process to ensure that it gets to the very best and most promising research. THAT is why it is important to funnel money through organizations like Susan G. Komen.

On top of that, we're PAYING to do this. It's not free to sign up for the privilege of raising money for SGK. There's a reason it costs $90 to participate. That's how SGK ensures that these events turn a profit. Duh, stupid anonymous poster.

Anyways, that was my long way of saying right on, sister! Great, great post!

~ Kristen

8:14 PM  

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