When I think about it, it seems to me that holding fundraisers is an odd idea. Not that I am against raising support for good causes, it is just that money raising events are an inefficient way to do it. Form a committee, hold dozens of meetings, send hundreds of invitations, spend a lot of money and then pull people from their lives to eat rubber chicken and listen to stale speeches. Why not just say, “Hey, we need money for widows and orphans,” and everyone sends a check.
You may answer that people are not that giving; most will not respond to a simple request for donations. The fundraiser, with its music, food, auctions, honorees, tricky-trays, tuxedos and special events like running, walking or sharing a sports venue, is a more devious way to pry dollars from wallets. Given the success of this philanthropic institution, it must work. Still, frankly, I was starting to have my reservations about this method of fund raising, until I received my invitation to next month’s Bike Ride for Amy.
The Amy Foundation Ride is the yearly outing to raise dollars to pay for mammograms for the uninsured. Established six years ago in the honor of a patient of mine, a Central New Jersey woman who died from breast cancer, the Foundation has paid for several thousand mammograms in the New Jersey and saved multiple lives. The ride draws bike riders from all over the region to cruise 25 flat miles, push 35 rolling miles or crush themselves over 50 miles of hills.
What I have come to understand is that the Amy Ride is not just about raising money, getting some exercise or sharing a beautiful spring morning together. The real point is not just to protect women in the future by bringing in cash, but to honor women and men who have suffered from the disease and to remember those that have died. The entire event, from gathering in the cool of an early morn, to the clatter and clink of bikes lined up during brief welcoming words, to the whirr of wheels down hills or the pain of burning thighs, is a ceremony of remembrance, and a celebration of lives lived and lives lost. We do not ride alone, we ride with ghosts.
Thus, the purpose of many such events is not just to raise funds, but to raise consciousness. Not just to bring in the big dollars, you can do that with email and crowd sourcing, but to educate, share and celebrate life. We create awareness and a deeper understanding of the importance of certain causes, the sacrifice of those that have lead and those that have fallen. Whether we are raising money fight cancer, poverty, abuse or even to support a political belief, we come together to share in the vision and in memory.
Therefore, again, on Sunday, June 1, I will climb on my ancient bike and wheel my way through several hours of challenging rises and exhilarating descents. Hopefully, I will contribute not only my sweat, but raise valuable dollars, which will save lives. I will not be alone. Next to me are other riders, decked in bright colors and garish helmets. But, on the road ahead, around and behind me will be stories, dreams and hopes of the ghosts that fought against breast cancer and lost their lives. We will never forget their sacrifice and will use their memories to ride forward so that soon the dread disease will be no more.