An Incredibly Moving Day (Part 3): Hometown Pride

So while I was at Mitzi’s stuffing my face with their awesome food on Sunday & celebrating their cookie drive proceeds, my hometown was holding a pancake brunch, silent auction/live auction & raffle for me.  About an hour after I got home (just before the auction began) my cousin, who is an area teacher, skyped me in so I could update them on my fundraising progress & thank them for holding this benefit.  I have to say what followed was nothing short of remarkable….

I had told them that even before the benefit, it looked like we might be close to half of my original fundraising goal.  But I know so many area businesses,  friends & family from all over the state,  & a few out of the area along with schoolmates & a local service club all pitched in to make this day a special one, and it was one for the record books.

My town is a typical small rural community. Close knit, hard-working, small-business & agricultural based community in the Midwest. There are about 900-1000 people in my town alone, but outside of that many pockets of the state in which I was raised, I have friends & friends who now live elsewhere but grew up with me that made sure they showed up. Even a few close cousins from other states, all of whom I love like brothers & sisters because I grew up with them (and am an only child).

My aunt & mom own a local business & it was mainly my aunt & few other friends & employees that formed the initial committee to get this off the ground for me & my entire family.

I will point out that I have done fundraising for many organizations, not just my rare disease nonprofits, for several years, even as far back as selling Girl Scout cookies & nuts as a kid (door-to-door the old fashioned way). I usually do better than I expect to in any of these fundraising attempts & try not to be overly pushy about it. I also time it to a few times a year during an awareness month or important campaign & then personalize the message about how when they help a fellow organization they are helping me as well.  I truly believe in giving what I can & paying it forward every chance I get.  I have often myself tried to make small donations to people as I could to help with a worthy effort.

But I say that, because in the over 30 years I’ve been doing such things & have always enjoyed doing so….I have never seen such a IMMENSE wave of support occur on a single day.

The final tallies aren’t possible because they are still wrapping things up.  But I can say that the rough estimate was over $12,000 for my secure transplant fund through HelpHopeLive.  I cannot believe it, but then again I can.  This small town I still have ties to. I often keep up with many families, (my own included) & several classmates & friends.  Many of the local business owners are people I grew up with or have known me quite awhile.  The auction list for both the live auction & silent auction was huge – over 100 items.   This is truly an amazing feat.

(Keep in mind, this is a secure transplant fund that this benefit was done for so it won’t affect my disability or count against me as income. ) I (like most transplant patients) have a lot of expenses that will occur from now until even well after I’m transplanted.

When I was on short-term disability, my insurance premiums were covered. That expired at the end of October. So now,  I have that to pay those premiums myself monthly until I become eligible for Medicaid which usually takes 2 years after being eligible for Social Security Disability.  This does not include my deductible expenses re-starting in January or my out-of-pocket & co-insurance costs even after the initial deductible is met.  So I was very happy & relieved to have such a great start.

I caught a glimpse of the room on Skype, but I know it didn’t do it justice. I had a few friends texting updates & pictures, but then friends back in here in Bethlehem were so excited to see what transpired too.  What an awe inspiring day!  One of my friends from the local service club told me that she thought it was one of the biggest benefits they’d ever done.

I sent a thank-you over to my community that should appear in the paper this week. But wow, what a dynamite effort!

I’m very fortunate that my medical fund is off to a great start, so I won’t have to worry about how I’ll keep my insurance or pay my ongoing medical bills.  It’s a true relief.   I know that this is only a start & I’ll have these worries at least a year post transplant until I can hopefully return to the workforce, but it gives me such a huge comfort that I can focus on other things.  I admit that at first, I felt the original fundraising goal was intimidating but I knew that I would need at least that much & felt I could raise it if I asked for help from everyone I knew & had partnered with throughout my life.  But now I can really not worry about NOT being listed due to lack of resources.

I just wish everyone who has to undergo this journey was equally as fortunate as I am.

I will say though, it wasn’t even about the money.   It was about the entire spirit that all of November 1, 2015 embodied.  A spirit of pure love, admiration, respect & friendship.  Gifts like that can never be measured in dollars.

Additionally, I found out that in an adjacent local community there was someone who needs a new liver.  He was having a benefit the same day as mine. I think a lot of people were giving to his benefit too which was encouraging to see.  I can only hope his did as well so he will not have similar worries either.  I had given him a shout out in the thank you I made for the local paper & I hope he sees it.  I also shared an encouraging story of a recipient I met during my transplant testing that I hope brings him comfort in rough days.

The featured image (on the homepage accompanying this blog entry) shows a photo of one section of the room. It really doesn’t do it justice. Yet it gives an idea of how neighbors band together & have each others back when someone really needs it.  The building where the benefit was hosted was originally a grocery store, so one can imagine how large a crowd there really was. People were also coming & going at points to make room for even more.



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