Saturday, November 15, 2014

Give What You Have

I had the honor of going to the National Philanthropy Day luncheon yesterday with most of the staff from Rose Community Foundation. The people honored are true philanthropists, giving of themselves through sharing their money, their resources or their time (or all three) with those who are less fortunate. My boss, Sheila Bugdanowitz, won the award for Outstanding Professional in Grantmaking, and though she would avoid the spotlight if she could, she deserved every minute of it. It’s amazing to watch her work. Relationships are the backbone of everything she does. She treats everyone she meets with the same curiosity about who they are and desire to help them get what they need, from Board Members to committee members to staff to anyone who visits or even calls in to the Foundation. Not only does she exemplify this focus in everything she does, but she’ll be quick to tell you how important it is. I feel so privileged to watch this style of leadership, to see how others respond to it, how loyal they are and how highly they think of her. I’m taking constant notes.

But I have to say the highlight of the luncheon was the children. They honored a group of kids who thought up ways to give back to those less fortunate. Some of these children couldn’t have been older than 5-years-old, and the oldest was 14, a girl named Allison who got cancer at age 7, fought through it and came out the other side a philanthropist. When she was going through chemo (which she hated so much she called it the “Stink Bug”), she wanted to get a dog. Her parents said “no,” thinking that having a new animal on top of everything else would be too stressful for her. Eventually, they relented, and the puppy Allison adopted had the opposite effect. Allison now had a best friend to “help (her) feel better and get (her) through the yucky stuff.” So Allison took up the charge to make sure that other lonely children in the hospital could experience this same upliftment. She called this The StinkBug Project, and through the baking and selling dog cookies at farmers’ markets, she has raised over $80,000 to help connect sick children with dogs.

When she finished telling her story, I was on my feet, hands clapping and eyes tearing. I felt a rush of inspiration at seeing Allison and the other children being better people, seeing them raise the bar for a room full of philanthropists. It made me want to rush home to Elo and Dash and tell them: Be the best you can be. Raise the bar for yourself. Connect with those around you and give what you have to offer, give it to everyone you can.

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