On Fundraising

First of all, let me just start by saying that this post is going to be super short, because I want to update my two previous posts, which I’ll link below.

But first, some thoughts on fundraising.

I was taught to never ask people for money. Well, not for myself, at least, but still…to just leave people alone when I came to opening their wallets. Fundraising for charity, however, is one of those things that kind of breaks this rule, but you can still come off badly from it. No one is obliged to give money to charity, so if you raise any money at all, consider it a bonus; it’s money that did not exist before but exists now. Some people do, and some people don’t. Some people don’t even respond.

The reason I bring this up?

Relay for Life.

The American Cancer Society hosts this event called Relay for Life, where you walk around a track all night, sponsored by friends/family/people who donate to cancer research through your website. They have it set up so that anyone can donate to you/your team through a website, and they suggest a minimum $100 donation, which is not too much to ask. I mean, I probably would have paid for it all myself, but there was something clawing at me to just ask people and see if I could raise $100 for charity really really quickly, because the event is tomorrow night.

So, I registered for my team, APO, and started my campaign with $10 of my own money – the only charity requirement, like a registration fee – and then took to Facebook to ask my friends. I messaged around 50 or so friends who were online, some people I see every day, some I have not seen or talked to for months or years. I was straight up about it, just saying:

“Hey [friend], would you consider donating money to my American Cancer Society Relay for Life team?”

And to my surprise…some people just gave.

An hour or two later, I had more than my $100.

It was so interesting; a few of the people who gave were people who I thought would do it, who are people currently in my life who have golden hearts, but then there were a few who surprised me with their generosity. One girl, who I haven’t talked to or seen for the better part of a decade, not only gave money but wrote me a nice note about how proud she is of my successes and was glad to help out. And another friend who I also haven’t talked to for about that same length of time, he and I had a nice little conversation; I never knew him very well, but now I know that he’s currently doing AmeriCorps in the small town of Alamosa, Colorado until July, and enjoying every bit of it. Which is totally cool. And now I have a friend in Alamosa, Colorado.

But anyway…what I wanted to conclude with is that, sometimes, people care more than you think. You know what else, they say that high school is the best years of your life, they say that college is the best years of your life, but I think the best years in your life are those when you can give $10 to charity, on a request from a friend whom you haven’t talked to in awhile, and just plain feel good about it. I did it a few weeks ago for someone else, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Even if you’re not made of money, giving just a little bit – what you’d spend on a coffee or a few beers – can give you a good, warm feeling for the rest of the day.

And it’s fewer calories than beer.

And it doesn’t give you the Starbucks trots, either.

Oh, and even though I’ve been writing less frequently of late, hooray for my first six-continent day in April! Big hugs and warm feelings to North America (USA and Canada), South America (Ecuador and Venezuela), Europe (UK, Lithuania, and Spain), Asia (Israel, India, and my first ever visitor from Bhutan!), Africa (Kenya) and Oceania (Australia).


I Won’t Back Down

Sometimes, you have moments where life just stops you in your tracks, and I had one today.

Recently, I’ve been worrying and fretting and just being a fearful, nervous wreck about so much – school, the show, dancing, my self-image – that I just lost sight of reality, the here-and-now. This morning, I got out of bed at 11 AM, finding every excuse I could to not do anything but stay in my warm cocoon of blankets.

When I did get up, I went over to my computer, logged on Facebook, to be met with some unfortunate news; the death of my friend and fraternity brother, Brendan Conway.

I normally don’t give out real first and last names of people in my life here on That’s So Jacob, but I feel like I must salute this friend and gentleman. A strong Irishman from Dorchester, Massachusetts who could drink you under the table, he had beaten cancer once, and we all thought he’d beat it again. I knew he was in trouble, however, when he posted on Facebook a few weeks ago that he was back in the hospital, at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston, and the doctors were saying “we’re trying to make you as comfortable as possible.” That is never a good sign. And then late last night, it happened; his 32 years on this Earth came to an end. I only hope it was truly peaceful, as peaceful as is humanly possible for an individual with debilitating cancer.

My first instinct was to call Dan. Dan, my grandbig, was Brendan’s big when he pledged APO, and I knew that the two of them were close. After a rapid fire texting session while I was on my way to Modern Indian Theatre class, I told him to call anytime to talk, and he said he would later on tonight. When he called I was in dance class, but as soon as class let out I grabbed my sweatshirt and phone, and we talked for over an hour, mostly about Brendan and all the good times we had with him. It’s always sad when something like this is what makes people crawl out of the woodwork and reconnect with one another, but at least we had plenty of happy memories to laugh about, which made the fact that he is no longer with us seem more palatable, and in a way, almost made it seem like he still was with us. Someone who was as boisterous and opinionated and upfront as Brendan never really dies, I suppose; his body and soul are no longer with us, but his spirit certainly is. He told it like it was, but for a big guy, he had a big heart, a servant’s heart, one that was loyal and true and really cared deeply about his friends, more than he cared about himself.

I talked about one aspect of my undergrad APO experience awhile back, one that was not the most positive memory, but talking with Dan made me realize something about Brendan, about friendship, and about people in general. A lot of the people who gave me a hard time also gave Brendan a hard time, and some of the more “Popular Patty” types in the chapter were less than kind to him because was unique and he did things or said things that were very honest and not always the best choices, and they didn’t even attempt to get close to him or even give him the time of day. For those of us who got to know him – we loved the guy. Honestly. Once you got to know him and understand his sense of humor, he was the perfect big brother/frat bro/drinking buddy who was always up for a party and a beer but was very compassionate, reverent, and gentle in private. For those in the chapter who didn’t get to experience those sides of Brendan, they missed out. And I’m talking about a big time missed opportunity, an opportunity to really get to experience a different kind of friendship. A Brendan Conway doesn’t come along every day. I wouldn’t say that I feel sorry for them, because I don’t, that was their choice. But if anyone asks, they just really missed out, and now his true friends and brothers, like me and Dan, get to laugh and revel in the happy and fond memories while they…well, they don’t.

So they’re really the losers here.

I like that.

But back to Brendan. One of the things I liked about him the most (and I took advantage of the most) was his game face. Being 100% Irish Catholic, he never backed down from a dare. It’s like it was coded in his DNA or something; just a complete inability to say no, no matter how ridiculous. Whenever a bunch of us from the chapter would go out to eat, I would find the grossest sounding item on the menu and dare Brendan to order it. And to my surprise, he always, always did. One time, at Panda East in Amherst, I found “sushi nachos” on the menu. I said the magic words, “I dare you,” and he actually followed through. When the waitress brought over a roll of mushy fish slathered with orange cheese, I couldn’t do anything but laugh and feel sorry for making Brendan order this failed fusion that barely qualified as food. He didn’t have to take the dare, but he’s Brendan, so no harm, no foul, all in good fun. He never backed down from any dare or any challenge in life, and I can say with confidence that he went down fighting with all he had.

This song’s for you, Brendan Conway (6/22/1982 – 3/23/2015).

Miss ya like a brotha.