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Monday, January 16, 2012

Important Life Lessons on Giving

Last year, when I lived in Germany, I read on Facebook that one of my friend's daughters was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a life-altering moment for me. I kept thinking of my friend; my heart breaking for her. That saying "Good things happen to good people" kept repeating in my head over and over again. My friend is one of the nicest, most giving and most positive women I have ever come across. I couldn't believe that she was handed this dreadful fate. I had the opportunity to teach with her for one year, and I ate lunch with her everyday. She was drama-free, free-spirited, and I loved her outlook on life. I remember thinking to myself many times when I was in her company, just how much she glowed and how her happiness radiated onto others.
When I found out this dreadful news, it really affected me. I thought non-stop of my friend, her daughter, her family, and the long year they would have. I thought about life, and how unfair it can be. I hugged my kids a lot closer, and thought to myself how unpredictable life can be.
My son came home from school one day and was very excited to tell me of a movie his teacher had shown them. It was about Ryan, a young boy, who wanted to change the world by raising money to built water wells in Africa. The boy was around 7 or 8, and he raised enough money to do this! Riley found a video on U-Tube about Ryan's Well, and after I watched it, he looked at me seriously and said, "I want to have a fundraiser." We had just found out about my friend's daughter days before, and the kids and Tim knew I was distraught. Riley didn't even know my friend's daughter, but he said, "Maybe we can raise money for her."
Riley went to the computer and wrote a letter from his heart, urging his school's student council to start a fundraiser for our friend. The response was huge. Riley's teacher was so impressed that Riley was influenced by the movie Ryan's Well, and Riley wanted to help someone in need, that she convinced both the student council teachers and the principal of Riley's school of Riley's idea for a fundraiser. Later that week, the student council agreed to have a bottle drive, with all proceeds to my friend's daughter.
In a matter of 2 months, Riley and his school managed to raise $900! It was amazing. On top of the bottle drive, they also had a bake sale. My husband's friends at his work also got on board, and Tim often came home with lots of bottles. My upstairs neighbor collected bottles. My daughter's first grade class helped to make and put up posters around the school. Everyone wanted to help; and none of them even knew who my friend was. People, literally, from all around the world, helped my friend since people from all around the world attended my kids' International School.
In Germany, the bottle deposits are 25 cents each, and with the Euro/Dollar exchange, it was to our advantage with the conversion. (We raised 600 euros, but with the conversion, it was $900). It was amazing to see a community of kids come together to help a little girl.
Back home in NY, many other fundraisers were being planned, and the whole community came together to help this great family that I think the world of, and so do many others. I think sometimes when these horrible events occur, you can see so much good come from it. In this case, it was how our community and friends helped a friend in need. It taught me that I have so much to give. Reading my friend's blog brought tears to my eyes each time I read it, but I was learning what really was important in life, through my friend's words, a world away. She wrote about how the simple things in life are what's important. It's the simple things that got their family through the chemo and the temporary move to Boston, where her daughter received her care.
My son wants to continue his fundraising ways, and this year, he's decided to raise money for childhood cancer. I'm helping him, by spreading the word on my facebook page. He's trying to think of other ways to raise money, so we'll see what he comes up with. I'm sure my daughter will come up with some ideas, as well.
If you would like to donate, visit the St. and search Riley's name. Another good friend of mine is organizing the event, in memory of her cousin, who died in his early 20's of leukemia. Another amazing friend, who puts in endless hours to make the St. Baldrick's event a success. This year, we hope to raise a $50,000 at the City Tavern in Saratoga Springs. Last year, almost $30,000 was raised. Simply amazing.

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