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Macy Stuart Swift

In 2000, my grandfather died.  He had cancer, which eventually spread to his brain, and was inoperable.  I was two and a half years old when he died. 

My family, although devastated by his loss, was determined to help others in this situation, and help those who were there for us during this time.  With another family, close family friends who had lost their mother/grandmother to cancer at the same time my grandfather passed away, established the Swift-Walker Fund.  The Swift-Walker Memorial Fund was established for the benefit of the Cancer Center at our small, local hospital, Rappahannock General Hospital, in Kilmarnock, Virginia. 

The nurses and doctors at the hospital were wonderful to my grandfather and my family.   They always put the needs and comfort of their patients first.  They went above and beyond to check on my grandfather and provide anything we needed.  We felt blessed:  We had each other and my grandfather had a good support system of family and friends.  My grandmother and grandfather had insurance to help them to cover the costs of surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation.  But we noticed something:  not everyone who was battling this terrible illness had family or insurance to cover costs.

You are wondering how this relates to a raffle….it does!

We decided to host an Annual Golf Tournament to raise money for the Swift-Walker Fund, which directly benefits the Cancer Center and individuals or families dealing with cancer who need financial help. 

The Swift-Walker Memorial Golf Tournament began in 2001.   We held it at a local golf course.  Both families were all in – we organized the entire event, from food to volunteers, to prizes and the big raffle at the end.  We started with a lunch, had a prayer, sold raffle tickets for $1, 6 for $5, and 25 for $20, and sent the golfers out.  Throughout the day, we had volunteers stationed at holes where the games and prizes were stationed, and sold raffle tickets to the golfers.

After the tournament was the big event:  We sold memory marker signs prior to the event, in memory or honor of those with cancer, and posted them at each hole.  At the end, we collected them, put them in a big circle, and had a Memory Walk while a bagpiper played.  No, there was not a dry eye after this.  We had a short prayer, and then on to family dinner, for golfers and their families, of pulled pork, cole slaw, rolls, salad, and potato salad.   We started the raffle shortly after dinner.

Everyone looked forward to this event.  We spent a great deal of time prior to the event gathering prizes.  They key is really to involve everyone:  we asked family, friends, the community, and tapped in to the golfer’s resources and businesses.  This led to a wide variety of prizes and something for everyone.  We had golf balls, a golf club, certificates for local restaurants and golf courses, small items from local gift shops, and even Mary Kay gift bags with beauty products!  The amount of raffle prizes was amazing.  We numbered each gift, and of course acknowledged each donor in our program.  We borrowed a big raffle basket from the local Moose lodge.  Everyone felt invested:  most people there had contributed to the raffle in some way, and loved to see people win their prize, as much as they loved winning a prize.  Many family members of golfers came for the dinner, but mostly because they looked forward to the Memory Walk and were excited about the raffle!  We had our local funeral home director Emcee the raffle.  He is actually a really funny guy, and he entertained everyone throughout.  The raffle raised several thousand dollars each year to benefit the Cancer Center.

For ten years, the Swifts (my family) and the Walkers sponsored this event.  The Swift-Walker Fund provided money for several large pieces of equipment over the years, like a Stereotactic Breast Biopsy Table, furniture to help families feel comfortable, computers for the Cancer Center, and money for individuals going through cancer treatment who were in need.

It felt really good to be a part of something so meaningful. 

I think the experience of growing up, being part of an event like this, taught me that we can make a difference in our communities, especially when we all pitch in a little bit.  Yes, my family organized and sponsored it with the Walker family, but it was successful only because of the golfers, the families who came to support it, and the people who donated prizes.  It made raising money for such a serious cause fun and really brought the community together.  I feel grateful to have been a part of such a worthwhile event and understand the power of how everyone contributing just a little bit (time, money, donations) can become a big contribution to an important cause.