Don't be afraid to ask for help!

Written by on May 8, 2009 at 12:45 pm

One of the most difficult and most rewarding aspects of our family's first Challenge Walk was the process of actually asking for money. It seems strange that we should be nervous about asking others to give to a charity, but for us, it was difficult.  We felt that our struggles were private and personal, we are after all New Englanders (renowned for our extroverted nature).

When we began the fundraising process, we decided to keep it simple: we would send letters to our family and friends asking them to help fight a disease which had struck our brother (actually my brother-in-law, but after all these years of dating and being married to his sister, he is my brother Gordy). As we went through the list of those we might send our letters to, we began making excuses for why we  shouldn't ask certain people. "They don't have a lot of money," " I don't know them well enough," or "He's just cheap" were ways of disqualifying them from our list. There were inevitably those that we doubted but decided to send anyway.

When our responses started coming back, we had what I consider one of the most powerful moments in our Challenge Walk experience. Many of them said things like "Thank you for considering us part of your friends and family," "We too have a family member with MS," and "What else can we do to help?" We not only brought in more than we thought we would; we expanded our team. Some of our friends and extended family decided to walk and send letters to their friends. Soon, we didn't just have a few siblings and spouses walking — we had a team that spanned the length and breadth of the United States. Gordon's Team was born.

We learned so much that first year, not only about how far we can walk on blisters, or how nice it is to put the cell phone down for three days, or that after twenty miles, a foot soak is pure bliss. We learned that so many people want to help, want to feel connected to someone on a personal level. When the response from "He's just cheap" came back to, our surprise it not only contained a check for $10 (every bit counts!), but a note that read "Thank you for allowing me to contribute to your lives."

Now, every April vacation, my wife Kim creates the Gordon's Team Newsletter and donation request filled with info and photos about Gordon himself and the activities of our team. We make sure that we send it to everyone we know whether they are friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances. We no longer discuss why someone won't help; we just assume the best.

Our little story comes with a word of advice: don't be surprised if some people don't respond. That's OK too, two of my three siblings have never donated to our team. I don't question why, as everyone has their own story, but I send them a letter every year just in case.

This is truly a Challenge Walk. We are challenged to believe in ourselves and more importantly to have faith in others. Keep the faith, and allow people to contribute to your life: it not only helps the cause, but you will feel better about the world and yourself.

Tim is a member of Gordon's Team, named for his brother-in-law, Gordon Mellis. Tim signed up for the Challenge Blog in the hope that his story is both personal and at the same time common enough to be useful to others.

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Ken Ken says:

    I'm so glad to have been able to walk as part of Gordon's Team, Tim. Thank you for letting me be a part of your walk family.

    I too have found that people can be more or less generous than predicted, but I don't know what to expect in this economy. I printed my letters last week, days before my workplace had a huge layoff. Now I'm not sure if it would be rude of me to ask the recently unemployed for donations — or would it be ruder of me to assume they can't or won't donate? Should I ask anyway and let them decide? What do you think?

  2. Tim Tim says:

    Ken, I would send the letters regardless, perhaps a line noting the difficult times so many are facing these days to aknowledge their plight. Not to ask, however excludes those that may have unknown resources or a personal connection to MS. There is no harm in asking for help. Good luck on your fundraising this year!