This post comes from AJ Chalom, Foundation Beyond Belief’s humanist giving program coordinator and an active member of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
In May, I was asked as a member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) to endorse Foundation Beyond Belief and encourage our communities to participate. I affirmed, and hoped people would participate, but was not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the project. I hadn’t found a reason to walk.
In June, I found myself working for FBB as an intern. One of my jobs was to encourage new teams to register during our registration week, so I encouraged my own Humanistic Jewish community, Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation, to join the effort, and I signed up my family and pledged to “fundraise”. But I hadn’t found a reason to walk.
Sam became my reason. Sam is six. He goes to my daughter’s school, and in June he was diagnosed with leukemia. While I didn’t know his family well, we have many of the same friends, and I started following the daily trials and tribulations of having a child with leukemia through the family’s blog. They are inspiring. They have handled adversity with humor, strength, flexibility, and truth. While they are not humanists, their actions are, and I admire them. Sam is my reason to walk.
But fundraise? Ask people for money? Everyone dreads it. I decided to just do it. I sent 80 emails, 20 for each member of the family, to personal friends. I made the emails personal, asking them each to give what they could, and the donations came rolling in. I raised my goal from $100 to $250 to $500 as I raised more money. I raised my children’s goals from $100 to $250 as their friends’ families contributed.
One of my son’s 5-year-old friends got out his piggy bank and found $2.50 in it. He volunteered to donate it to the effort, so his 3-year-old sister matched his $2.50, along with their parents. We received a $10 bill in his school folder the next week.
All the fundraising had stalled when Light the Night Illinois reminded me that the walk was 20 days away. They said, if I raised just $12.50 every day, I would raise another $250 before the walk. Really? Is it that easy? So I found some of the heroes photos on their Facebook page and shared them on my Facebook timeline, with my network, asking for just $12.50 from one friend every day. I learned people are generous – just ask.
My family turned a fictional goal of raising $400 into actual donations of more than $1,200, all of which will be matched through the generosity of Foundation Beyond Belief and the Steifel Freethought Foundation.
I walk because of Sam, I fundraise because people are generous, I give for science, research, and family support in the face of cancer and illness–all of these reasons are at the core of my own humanist values.
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Humanist Giving (Q2)
LLS Giving (2013)
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