Millions of People Surviving Cancer

28 11 2010

This post is a follow-up to a prior post. As those of you who know me will attest, LIVESTRONG is a big part of my life, so I’ll ask for your indulgence.

In January, I decided I was going to complete three of the four LIVESTRONG Challenge events around the country. Specifically, I would participate in the 100-mile cycling events in Seattle, San Jose, and Austin. I had done the San Jose event each of the last two years, which was natural since I was living there at the time and the course was familiar to me. My first-ever century was at a LIVESTRONG Ride for the Roses event in Austin in 2005.

In doing multiple events, I would try and raise $5,000, $2,000 more than last year. I was approached by my friend Hillary who was wanting to start a new team for the event in Austin in honor of Anna Basso, a 17-year-old high school junior from Plano, TX who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, one of the most insidious forms of bone cancer, Thanksgiving 2009. Later, after much prodding from good friends Gretchen and Carol from the BikeTown Africa Project, local Philadelphia-area residents, I added the Philadelphia ride to the list.

Four cities. 400 miles. Very little opportunity to train with all the work travel. OK, yes. I’m a little nuts.

[INSERT LOTS AND LOTS OF PEDALING HERE]

In looking back, the event that best summarizes the spirit of LIVESTRONG was the appreciation dinner on October 23. There was a very instructive background of how the foundation originated, led by John “College” Korioth. He spoke about how Lance brought together his friends and just wanted to “do something”. Yes, Lance has a larger-than-the-galaxy personality, but it wasn’t all that ambitious. They were thrilled to raise less than $25,000 in their first Ride for the Roses event in 1997, and well they should have been.

This year, Team Spokin’ for Anna alone raised more than $16,000, and we felt pretty good about it. Hillary and I had hoped to recruit 10 team members and raise $10,000, and across the four events we convinced 20 crazies to join us and met 160% of our goal. I was fortunate to have 70 individual donors contribute to my campaign alone. It’s a wonderful feeling to have that many people participate in such a worthy cause.

OK, now for some perspective. The LIVESTRONG Challenge event in Austin for 2010 raised more than $3.1 million. There were 26,000 donors, which is an average of about $120 per donation; $49 more than the $71 per donation than for my individual fundraising (which I was very satisfied with). For you finance types, going from $25,000 to $3.1 million in 12 years is 320% CAGR. And that’s just for the Austin event. It doesn’t include any of the other LIVESTRONG fundraising activities anywhere else in the world. Wow.

OK, that’s a remarkable statistic, but not the most remarkable one (to me). This year there were 5,900 participants in the Austin event. Of those, there where several hundred (I didn’t get the count) that were invited to the recognition dinner, each of whom raised $3,000. Now, here’s the most remarkable strength of this event: Team LIVESTRONG is a set of teams within a team. The winner of the team fundraising award, Team Fatty, raised $178,000 just for the Austin event. That’s after raising $144,000 at the Seattle event, $38,000 for the San Jose event, and $147,000 for the Philly event. That’s $329,000 for a single team. Please visit Fat Cyclist for more about Team Fatty and its founder, Elden Nelson, who started the team after his wife Susan, now tragically deceased, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The number from the title of this post, incidentally, is 28. 28 million people living with cancer. We should all want to manage it up (more people who are diagnosed become survivors) and also manage it down (fewer people who are diagnosed through prevention). Raising awareness about this number was the basis of the final day theatrics of Team RadioShack at this year’s Tour de France. Many people can say lots of things about Lance around the world, but to me personally his bullheadedness on this issue trumps it all.

OK then. In summary, I’ve decided three things:

  1. I am committed to being involved with this organization for the long term
  2. Four events was great. Five events will be better.
  3. Next year, I think I’ll train.

Some key shots from this year’s events:

Honor Wall at the LIVESTRONG Village in Seattle

Jersey names after LIVESTRONG San Jose

Start line for LIVESTRONG San Jose

Honor Wall at the LIVESTRONG Village in Austin

Recognition Dinner for the LIVESTRONG Challenge Austin

College, Doug, and Lance discuss LIVESTRONG beginnings

Patrick Dempsey, Doug, and Lance discuss the future

In case this is important to you, and it should be, the foundation reports that 81% of all donations go to beneficiaries, with 12% going to fundraising (read: reinvestment) and 7% to administration. Very respectable overhead for an organization that’s as active in the media as it is. Kudos to Doug Ulman and his team.

To get involved:

LIVESTRONG

American Cancer Society

Susan G. Komen Foundation (supporting breast cancer research)

Fat Cyclist

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