Saturday, September 27, 2008

Here are the fundraising details

After months and months, weeks and weeks, days and days of thinking, I have finally come to the realization that it is time to stop thinking and get busy with actually writing this letter. I have a big project coming up and it is time to take it out of my head and put it onto this paper.

In May of this year I turned 54. I was born in 1954, which means that this is my Golden Year, the year when my age matches my birth year. This past May I gave myself a one week bike ride on the Outer Banks and celebrated that birthday riding, thinking, and wondering.

This year also marks my 20th anniversary of being an ovarian cancer survivor. Additionally it is my 29th anniversary as a uterine cancer survivor. I am grateful to be alive and grateful to be celebrating this Golden Year.

Finally, these times feel scary to me. My country is in flux. The economy is wobbly. The news is filled with things that frighten me. As I write, we have only weeks to go before election day. I feel the need to do something that will be positive, good, healing.

In honor and appreciation of these things I have decided to take it all outside myself and attempt a very large challenge. In March and April of 2009 I am going to ride my bicycle across the United States. And I am going to dedicate this ride to spreading the word about the importance of understanding the early detection signs for ovarian cancer. They are subtle, but they do exist and I, though I didn’t realize it at the time, am alive because I was lucky enough to have had some of those signs and, most importantly, to have paid attention to them. My cancers were caught very early, in Stage 1 in both cases. I am incredibly lucky, deeply thankful.

I will be teaming up with existing national cancer organizations whose goals are in line with mine: spreading the word about the early detection signs for ovarian cancer. I am also teaming up with Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), on whose board I serve, to help spread this word even farther. I am anticipating doing events in cities with WCR members as I make my way across the country, educating our members and other women about the early warning signs. I will also be present at some WCR dinners and fundraising events before and after my ride which will give me even more opportunities to get my message out. Finally, I am working with local organizations to get the word out in this community. I anticipate a number of speaking engagements, both before and following the ride. Education about the early warning signs will be my focus.

The details of the ride are this:

I will dip my rear tire in the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, California on March 4th and will ride until I can dip my front tire in the Atlantic, in St. Augustine, Florida on May 4th. The route will take me through Arizona and New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

In all I will ride over 3100 miles. I will ride for 50 out of 58 days. I will ride approximately 60 miles each day with one day off each week to rest, do laundry (!) and, I hope, connect with women and men along the way, sharing my message.

I will ride with others, a group of around 30 women. This is a supported ride: our luggage will be carried for us, we will stay in motels, and our breakfasts and dinners will be provided. If we can’t make it one day, a van will give us a lift. I hope to ride all of the miles. This is my intention. This is my goal.

The fundraising aspect of this ride is optional. It is safe to say that I will probably be the only one riding for ovarian cancer awareness as this disease continues to be under publicized and under funded. Most women miss the early warning signs and their illness is not discovered until it is very late in the game – frequently stage 3 or 4. Most women die of this disease, if it is discovered at all. I hope to change this. I hope to make a difference. I hope that this ride and this overt attention will help people, women AND men to pay attention to early warning signs. I hope to help educate people about early detection. Early detection can really make a huge difference, the difference, frankly, between living and dying.

The ride will cost me around $10,000.00 which will cover the ride fees, my airfare, transporting my bicycle, and my ancillary expenses. My commitment is to pay for the ride on my own from my savings and with some assistance from my sisters and one or two other key individuals. One sister has been taking me out to dinner already, supporting me by pumping me up and telling me she’s my biggest fan. This is her pledge. She is my self-proclaimed cheer leader. The other sister has pledged her support too. I am grateful for that, and am also committed to paying for most of the ride on my own.

I am also very intent on raising a significant amount of money for my cause. That, as you have no doubt guessed, is the reason for this letter to you. In years past, when I rode for AIDS Vaccine Research, I was able to raise over $50,000.00 in the three rides I did. To me that was a huge amount of money. I’d like to raise more than that this time. And I’d like you to help me.

I pledge to you that every single cent I raise from this fundraising will go directly to ovarian cancer education. The groups I am working with and for whom I am raising funds do a number of things: print pocket-sized cards, brochures, and other informational pieces which describe the early warning signs. I will be handing these out along my way. These groups also do advocacy work, conduct educational seminars, and provide support to women in early diagnosis and treatment. They are bringing ovarian cancer out into the public eye. I am working with the key people in these groups. I cannot say, at this moment, exactly who is going to get what. But I promise you that I will only contribute to organizations who are doing exactly the work I want to support.

I have worked out an arrangement with Jubilee! which is the spiritual community I belong to here in Asheville. They have agreed to accept all funds for me. Donations in support of me will get sent to Jubilee. At the end of the year, you will get a listing of your contribution, along with the ability to claim the donation on your taxes. Once I have collected all the funds, Jubilee will write donation checks directly to my chosen recipients. Again, just to be clear, this money will not go to me.

I would love to have your support on this ride.

Thank you so much in advance. This is a huge challenge for me: not only the ride, but leaving my work, my home, my dog and my cat. I have not been away for this length of time since I started my business 21 years ago, so this is a personal sabbatical of sorts - a time to reflect on these blessings I have. And a time to give back.

Thank you so very much for sticking with me. Thank you for considering joining me. Thank you for helping me make this positive contribution to life.

Thank you very, very much.



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