Go Meat!

I had the privilege of participating in my very first Relay For Life in 2007 as a member of the Parrot Heads of the Triad, a civic organization made up of avid Jimmy Buffett fans. We gathered in High Point, NC for an overnight event filled with celebrations, remembrances, and the drive to fight back! All participants shared one common bond… to find a cure for cancer.

Five years have passed since that first Relay. In those five years, I feel like 20 years of changes have taken place. Relay For Life of High Point changed locations and times. (I enjoyed walking overnight, and they now choose to hold their event from noon until midnight.) That same year, I was contacted to walk in an impromptu Extreme Relay For Life for the local Extreme Makeover: Home Edition new home recipient, Tricia Creasey. That cold, rainy night in November, I was reminded that Davidson County was “home” and that I should join its chapter from that point forward. Within two months, I had not only transitioned over to Relay For Life of Davidson Co. but I had formed a team, joined the planning committee, and was asked to be the Publicity chair. I recruited new committee members, helped develop new teams, earned awards for my marketing and fundraising efforts, endured devastating losses of Relay family members to this terrible disease, taken a job at the local cancer center, and eventually stepped down in my volunteer leadership roles.

I questioned if my heart was still in this battle. Five emotional years will take a toll on even the most passionate advocate. I just wasn’t sure I could handle another Relay For Life. Shortly after making the decision that I was finished with this chapter of my life, my friend/neighbor – Gina – told me that she was interested in putting a team together. She had filled my position as Publicity Chair (wonderfully, I might add) and wanted to see what she could do with fundraising. I offered to be a silent team member to help get her team started. Little did I know how that decision would change my life.

About a month after our conversation, Gina was invited to be a member of the previous year’s up-and-coming super team, BHLs – Team 217. She accepted and encouraged me to join as well. I declined at first. After all, I was only planning to be a silent teammate. If she wasn’t going to form her own team, I wasn’t needed. But after meeting with co-captain, Rebecca Sink, at her home one afternoon… I realized that I needed to celebrate my 5th Anniversary with her team.

BHLs – Team 217 was formed in 2011 by Rebecca and her friend, Kara Cody. One of Rebecca’s best friends, Jenny, had been diagnosed with bladder cancer the previous year, and Rebecca was determined to share Jenny’s story while fighting for a cure. The team was named BHLs, taken from the Hillshire Farms commercial for Beef Hot Link, and Team 217, from a number that both Rebecca and Jenny oddly loved.

The team had a great first year. They raised over $5000 and were ranked in the Top 10 as an All-Star Fundraising Team for Davidson County. This year, I am completely blown away at the growth of this team. Countless new member have joined me in becoming a BHL in 2012. Rebecca’s personal total alone exceeds the teams entire total from the previous year. The team is currently ranked in first place for fundraising, having exceeded our $17,000 goal. These guys and gals have more determination, more passion, and more hope than any other team I’ve seen in my five years with Relay For Life. There is something unbelievably special about this group. I am honored to be a BHL, I am humbled to be among such selfless souls, and I am blessed to call them all friends.

What makes BHLs – Team 217 stand out in the endless sea of inspiring teams that make up Relay For Life of Davidson County? We have an eclectic mix of teammates. You may even call us a bit eccentric. We are a force to be reckoned with. We are convinced a cure will be found. And we aren’t afraid to show our true colors!! One of the many reasons I adore the BHLs is because we will stop at no expense to spread cancer awareness. As we quickly approach this weekend’s event, cars are painted, hair is dyed, and nails are manicured in every shade of purple… hoping that someone, somewhere will stop and ask us what it all means.

I would like to invite all of you to attend a Relay For Life event in your area. To locate an event, click here.

The Davidson County chapter will hold our Relay this weekend, May 18-19, 2012 in Lexington, North Carolina. Ceremonies begin at 6pm. There will be entertainment, food, games, raffles, and more. It is truly one of the most incredible celebrations you will ever experience.

If you are unable to attend, but would like to see an end to cancer, please consider supporting our fight for a cure. Click here to make a monetary contribution. No donation is too small.

It is about being a community that takes up the fight! Together, we we can create a world with more birthdays… and no cancer!!

 

Let Us Do Good to All People

I love to give. I will donate my time, my services, and/or my money to just about any legit charity. It apparently is no secret.

This morning, I awoke to a text message asking me if I’d like to purchase a tub of cookie dough for a preschool fundraiser. This is the 5th tub of cookie dough that I’ve been asked to purchase in the past week. Apparently, people freely spend $15 on 3lb of frozen lard & sugar. Although I have graciously declined everyone’s offer to purchase something so incredibly unhealthy, I don’t mind sending a check over to the schools to show that people actually DO give without expecting anything in return…

…or do they? Am I the only person who does this? My mind became cluttered with so many thoughts, and I suddenly questioned how (and why) these fundraising efforts work.

I have been fundraising for various charities for 15 years now. I have raised thousands of dollars for well-known nonprofits. The most successful fundraisers have been those where people purchased something, knowing that a portion of their proceeds go to charity. No one stops to ask how much; they seem fine with just knowing “some” of it does. The more I pondered over that, the more I became frustrated. Why do so many schools hold these fundraisers? Why cookie dough? Shouldn’t we be promoting a healthier society? Are these fundraisers really necessary? What is purchased with these donations? Why won’t people give just $5 to MY kids?

There… I said it. Perhaps part of my frustration is that I see healthy children going to private schools here in the United States of America trying to raise money – and succeeding – while “my” kids in Haiti struggle to have food to eat. Most of them do not own shoes, and their families (if they’re blessed with families) do not have transportation. That means these sweet children have to walk barefoot over rocks and through unclean water. So many Haitian children are still living in tents, having lost their homes to the 2010 earthquake. The “fortunate” children who live in houses still do not have running water and electricity. A large amount of children in Haiti never get an education. There are also a lot of children who have medical problems that cannot be cared for in their country. They have to go through a long application process and waiting period to see if they are even eligible to come to the US to receive treatment. Since when did a human life fall short to luxuries of education here in the States?

It is so hard for me to understand why I can’t even get small donations for our mission. I’m not asking for much… less than a tub of cookie dough! I am asking folks to please give up a McDonald’s combo meal or a Starbuck’s Venti Latte for just one day. Then, donate $5 a month to Invest Hope… or another charity in a country stricken with poverty and disease. If you’d prefer to stay local, please find a Children’s Home, Food Bank, Shelter, or Special Needs program in your area. Look for the small, struggling nonprofits who have a greater and more direct impact to their communities. Give to them without expecting anything in return… and I promise, you will receive more satisfaction from it than you will ever get from cookie dough.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
– Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)

To learn more about Invest Hope, click here. For details on how you can invest hope in the future of Haitian children, please contact us at info@investhope.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

The Downside to Social Media

I sat down at the computer tonight to blog about Social Fresh and the tiny couple of seconds it felt like I was involved in the two-day conference, when I noticed a Tweet in my stream that stated, “All: @NBCNEWS was just hacked. DO NOT RETWEET THEIR TWEETS. They are FALSE…” I stopped in my tracks and went straight to the NBCNews Twitter account. What I found were Tweets from a band-of-idiots who had illegally-accessed the account and stated an attack had been made on Ground Zero.

This being the weekend of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, I immediately became disgusted by the hackers, their comments, and sadly, yes… social media. Who finds it comical to make such terrible accusations? Who has so much time on their hands that they sit around guessing the password to accounts? And why is social media such an open target for these opposing situations?

Lately I have noticed an increase in negativity via social media. Let me be more specific; this isn’t the hate that an angry teen posts on her Facebook status about her cheating ex-boyfriend. The conflicts that I mention are those that impact society on a far wider scale; conflicts that are created by malicious hackers, devious businesses, or even so-called-gurus. Although we all see the potential that social media has, we cannot lose sight that it is simply a FREE, open forum with no real rules, just waiting to name its next victim.

Don’t get me wrong. From a marketing and customer service stand point, the world has really struck gold with social media sites. It allows us to engage with our audience of clients and potential customers in a quick and cost-effective way. Yet, I feel the industry is largely, if not solely, relying too heavily on these sites. I’m not saying those of us who use social media for the good are at fault, but we have to question if we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

What are some of the problems that we face by using these free, open sites?

  1. Although some of us use social media from a business standpoint, there are plenty of folks on these sites, bored and ready to cause problems. Take for example, the hackers who compromised NBC’s Twitter account. We cannot take any material on social media sites for more than face-value. You may ask, “Doesn’t this contradict using social media to promote the validity of a business?” Yes, to a degree. This is why we shouldn’t depend solely on Twitter, Facebook, etc. until there are ways to control them.
  2. Prior to social media, businesses primarily gained visibility by means of radio spots, television ads, or print space in a magazine. All of these marketing efforts cost a significant amount of money, required skill to execute, and were heavily managed. It made retaliation difficult, which made a business really “think before they spoke” negatively. Although word-of-mouth cannot be regulated, it takes a great deal of time for your opinion to reach an audience of 100 people. An individual or business can now say whatever they want about a business to a broad audience, whether their statement is true or not, changing the actions of their peers almost instantly.
  3. Some self-proclaimed social media ‘gurus’ have a tendency of sharing information, often aggressively, in an effort to sway friends, followers, or clients into believing that their way is the “right way” to use social media. The only right way to share in social media is with effectiveness and etiquette. After all, the last time I checked there is no written rule of how Twitter must run, or how often a business (or individual) MUST use their accounts. We should share why it would benefit an individual to use social media etiquette – i.e., too many similar posts will look like spam, avoid language that could be offensive, etc. – or how effective it can be for a business to engage with their followers. There are many people who are still unsure about social media and someone coming across as the Twitter or Facebook police, only looks arrogant.

Social media makes it very simple for an average Joe to express their opinion and influence a large crowd. What once took organizing a rally in a large area with a p.a. system (and guts) now only takes 140 characters and the click of a mouse. We are a far braver society now that we can voice our opinions while hiding behind our computer screens, smart phones, and tablets. We need to be reminded, as professionals and as humans, that our words can be hurtful when presented irresponsibly. I am just as guilty of this. Who hasn’t had an email they’ve written be misinterpreted? Who hasn’t Tweeted bitterly about poor service in the midst of disappointment? Who hasn’t told a little white lie as a joke, not considering the consequences?

I will find myself, at times, being disgusted with social media. The term alone “Social Media” can turn my stomach on certain days, like today. Why are so many people comfortable with it? …so reliant upon it? …completely fascinated by it?

Then I have to remember, this is all still relatively new… the businesses and even the social media professional are still learning. Sure, the shiny-new has worn off to some of us but others just created their account last week. There are even businesses who jumped in, completely oblivious to social media and struggled, and left their accounts dormant while re-evaluating their decision. For myself, in just two short years Twitter alone has brought me so many positives to my life. I have met so many terrific people, learned so many wonderful things, and been a lot of great places because of it! However, I once abandoned my account too. It was the encouraging words of my brother, not a series of aggressive or negative Tweets, who coaxed me back on to use the site to it’s full potential. Had I received from him the response of “You’re doing this all wrong. You suck. You’ll never get it.”, then I would have missed out on a lot. There is no capacity for social media. We shouldn’t try to scare off people who aren’t as knowledgable as we are, we should help them.

…which brings me back to Social Fresh. It’s a conference spear-headed by some of the most helpful faces of social media. You can truly see the real professionals shine during conferences like this one. They stand out.

Although I was offered a free ticket by one of social media’s brightest stars, DJ Waldow, I regretfully still wasn’t able to rearrange my schedule on September 6 & 7 to attend. Instead I waited patiently on Tuesday for the first Tweets to start popping into my stream, and shortly after lunch, I was already recapping the events from earlier that day. Around 4:30pm, I left work and headed to Charlotte. I had planned to meet my dear friend, and social media’s most sparkly star, Stephanie Wonderlin (whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year) for dinner. We were joined by my brother, Dean, and a table-full of outstanding folks from Justin Levy and Carly Durham to Eric Boggs and David Horne. As I sat across the table from Stephanie, catching up on [and giggling about] real life, I wondered what my life would be like had I never started using social media. I hope that the positive impact Stephanie and some of the others have made on me, I am making on someone else. I really love to learn but I equally love sharing my knowledge with others. There is no reason to be negative in life… and certainly not in social media. If you have time to hack into an account and Tweet poorly-executed jokes or blog about how terrible someone is for not being as cool (i.e.; knowledgeable) as you are on Facebook, then perhaps you should step back and re-evaluate yourself. The time you spend being negative could be spent, instead, teaching others about social media, offering your time to show someone how Twitter or YouTube works, volunteering your time in the community, or spending time with loved ones. There is always a handful of positive options to counteract one negative effort, even in the midst of social media sites not having sufficient rules to keep others from being negative. Thank you to the crew of Social Fresh for pulling me out of my disgust and allowing me to see the good in social media often outweighs the bad.

Since my blog took a turn from it’s original path, please take the time to visit the Social Fresh Facebook page to read more about the sessions that took place on Tuesday & Wednesday in Charlotte. Hopefully you will take from this blog, and their notes, the positive impacts that social media can have in our society if we choose to share it.