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Working Hard For a Good Cause by Haylan Teel

Working Hard For a Good Cause by Haylan Teel


I have had opportunities to work with several non-profits, whether it was employment or volunteerism, and through these experiences I’ve participated in and even lead many fundraisers.  There’s nothing like working hard for a good cause, it’s both self fulfilling and meaningful to the community around you.  


I worked for American Cancer Society (ACS) for 11 years, starting when I was only 19. First, I was on the Tobacco Quitline, helping people boot the habit, and spent my final years there as a Patient Navigator, guiding patients through treatment, insurance mazes, financial hardship, and access to care.  Although this could be an emotionally taxing job, it could also be very rewarding.  If you are not familiar with Relay For Life, it’s a national, yearly fundraiser where the community bands together for an all night event, relaying around a track, enjoying games, food, and raffles.  Before the event, participants join a team and have to meet a monetary goal of how much they can raise.  This is often done through bake sales, garage sales, and at my workplace, more creative things, like a day of dunking booths, and pay-to-play with puppy dates.  We would not only fundraise for Relay For Life, which directly supports ACS and their mission to fund research and offer services directly to cancer patients, but especially during the holiday season, the building would usually choose to run a campaign to help smaller local charities. This may be to support low income families Christimas’ and Thanksgivings, food banks, coats for kids, etc.  It’s hard to pick the most successful campaign I lead or participated in during that decade.   Many were raffles or silent auctions, where we would solicit businesses to donate items (like gift cards, movie tickets), work with local artists or craft makers to have one of a kind items to bid for (like paintings, embroidery, cakes), or offer up work incentives (like a day of extra vacation time, when targeting our coworkers to donate). 


Since, at a nonprofit, you rely on the kindness of others to spread your good to the world, it was really all about being creative with how you approach fundraisers.  What do the people want? What will they be willing to spend their hard earned money on?  Sometimes you can rely on the traditional methods of “everyone loves food” and other times, you have to get really creative, crocheting roses for Valentine ’s Day or dying your hair pink for breast cancer awareness month.  These fundraisers benefited ACS and their constituents greatly; just like I would tell my own patients, “every dollar counts.” It’s hard not to see the value in every penny we raised all those years when you directly work with the people the research helps, and the patients benefiting from it.  One thing these donations and fundraisers pay for are patient programs, like Look Good, Feel Better.  This is a 2 hour class held for free across the country at different hospitals, local offices, and community centers that help women affected by cancer learn how to deal with appearance related side effects, many of which people don’t know about until they are diagnosed.  They may have to learn how to deal with scars, hair loss, skin/color changes, wig care, etc.  ACS created this class, lead by a professional beautician, to help women become more confident and comfortable through their treatment, leading to a more positive attitude, which will help them successfully survive their diagnosis.  This is just one example of how the funds I raised went directly to the patients themselves.  Although it was before my fundraising time, ACS funded the research that helped create chemotherapy, one of the most useful and successful treatments for most cancers.  It’s never been easier to see how the money you raise helps the world around you when you work directly with its affected population, hear their stories, and see the results.


Although I became a staple in most fundraisers for my area with ACS, it was not a job requirement. It was something that I was volunteering to do for a cause that was close to my heart.  I’ve seen in my years that volunteering is the best way to further your education, humility, experiences, and to learn more about yourself.  Every time I have done fundraisers with ACS or another organization, like Equality Texas, I leave with something new and self benefiting. I have heard the old rhetoric that people only volunteer or fundraise to make themselves feel and look good, and although there’s certainly some selfish satisfaction from it, that idea misses the point.  Fulfilling yourself in this way makes you cleverer, experienced, creative, and it can’t be denied that these fundraisers have put out good into the world.  The satisfaction I feel from fundraising will not be known or recognized by the person or organization ultimately benefiting from the profits, and that’s a lesson you never learn enough; to put good out into the world any way possible and walk away with only your emotions rewarding you.  Those emotions stay within you, but the money you raised, the good you spread, will resonate throughout the community in an endless echo. 

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Contributed by Haylan Teel

November 7, 2015