The V Girl

I am the V girl. I am a volunteer. I volunteer like it’s my job. In many ways, I guess it is. At my day job, I fundraise and organize events for a nonprofit that serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In my spare time, I am a committee chair for my local Relay For Life event for the American Cancer Society and will soon be a mentor at Loray Girls Home through my local Junior League chapter.

I have always been a bleeding heart. Some people say that makes me overly sensitive, but I think it makes me empathetic. For me, volunteering and supporting causes that speak to me has been something I’ve always felt compelled to do. Like, it wasn’t even an option for me not to. I can remember a time when I was little at church one Sunday when they were having a canned food drive for the Salvation Army. As my family was leaving, I looked down at the ten gallon buckets, not quite full of cans. I’m sure many people saw the cans and thought, Wow, look at all those cans! We did a good thing. Even at that young age, I remember thinking, Really? That’s all you’ve got?!

I am in no way belittling those people who donate a few canned goods here and there or give a few dollars every time an organization asks for it. If I’ve learned anything working in the nonprofit sector, it’s that every little but helps. But for me, it’s always been about what more could I do. Some people buy cans and donate them. I solicit (don’t cringe, it’s not always a bad thing…Girl Scouts solicit for cookies 🙂 ) every grocery store around to get more donations until my trunk is full. I guess that’s why I have a career in fundraising…

I’m the kind of girl who cried throughout the movie ‘Blood Diamond’ and then, infuriated, immediately went online to research the blood diamond conflict. (FYI, Brilliant Earth is the leader is certified conflict-free diamonds and they’re gorgeous). What can I say? I believe in causes. I stay up nights thinking about the man that knocked on my car window in a parking lot to ask for a place to take a shower because he hadn’t had a place to stay in 6 months. I think about children in Africa who die from curable and avoidable diseases because they don’t have access to clean water. I think about the men and women serving overseas and those they love at home, constantly worrying about when they’re coming home and if they’re safe. I think about children who can’t afford to go to school or have big dreams for their lives. I think about women all over the world who are forced to marry men they don’t love because they’ve reached that age and their father can’t or won’t provide for them any longer. I think about the women in the Middle East who must hide behind headscarves and men because their culture deems them inferior says they must. I think about those people battling diseases and fighting to have hope. For some reason I always picture the eyes, in despair yet still smiling in the creases. Their eyes are both haunting and hopeful.

Me and Dana (former boss, cancer survivor and inspiration) at Relay in 2010

Last night we had our annual kickoff for Relay For Life. Every year it serves as a passionate reminder of why I have supported them for so long. Every single person on God’s green earth is affected by cancer in some way. They have/had it or they know a friend or relative who has battled cancer. It is definitely a disease that doesn’t discriminate. It is widespread across borders, cultures and backgrounds. Our guest speaker last night shared an acronym to remember when telling others about the American Cancer Society and what they do – EARS (Education, Advocacy, Research, Services). Since I first began volunteering with Relay in 2007, I’ve had many friends who have had famly members diagnosed with cancer and come to me with questions. ACS offers an abundance of services and programs that so many people don’t even know about (mostly because they prefer to use as few fundraising dollars as possible for marketing). Look Good, Feel Better provides wigs for women and teaches them how to cope with skin changes and hair loss using cosmetics and skin care products. Road to Recovery provides rides for patients who need transportation to and from treatment. Reach to Recovery provides support for women with breast cancer and Man to Man provides support for men with prostate cancer. All of these programs are possible because of donations and fundraising dollars through events like Relay. This year alone, over 4 million people will participate in Relay For Life all over the country and in 20 other countries. Just click on the link below to watch the video…it will pull at your heartstrings.

The Relay Story

The American Cancer Society isn’t the only nonprofit I advocate for. The nonprofits I support by word-of-mouth, monetarily, with my time, through prayer, warm thoughts, etc:
Holy Angels – the organization that pays me to do something I love
American Cancer Society – former employer and the organization I give my volunteer spare time to. If you’d like to support me and Relay For Life, please visit my personal fundraising page by clicking here!
Loray Girls Home – my upcoming volunteer placement for Junior League
Charity Water – an organization I would totally relocate to NYC to potentially work for someday…
Compassion International – I used to sponsor a girl named Gelmy in Central America
Diyana’s Hope, aka Someday We’d Like to Fund a Children’s Cancer Center in Sri Lanka – a nonprofit in the works with my bff, Jayni (pictured below)

Diyana & Jayni (before Diyana's diagnosis)

To learn more about any of these organizations, please visit their websites (by clicking their name) or contact me. There are a million nonprofits that are doing amazing things to make the world a better place. I’m not saying that you should go out and volunteer for all of them. I’m also not saying you should be the same bleeding heart I am. Although it would be great if everyone gave their time and money to help others, I also know that we need those rational thinkers (realists, pessimists) that take a step back and think, What are they really going to do with that money? Are they going to buy food or drugs? I give whatever cash I have to someone if they look like they need it, but those people think about the cause-effect relationship and find other ways to do good. The world needs those people, too.

I volunteer because, for me, it’s something I have to do. What would (or does) compel you to give? Whatever your cause or fight, I hope you let it fuel your passion for giving and making the world a better, more peaceful place to live. Despite what you might think, one person can make a difference. Relay For Life started with one doctor who ran around a track for 24 hours straight, raising $27,000 all on his own. Today, Relay is the single largest not for profit activity. Inspiring, isn’t it?

I’ll leave you with one final quote to ponder: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

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