Why I Give Back by Andy McCleaf

I met Andy months ago in the blogosphere, and the more I got to know him, the greater my respect for him and his involvement in his community grew. I was delighted when Andy agreed to provide a guest post for The Other Bottom Line. Andy’s story illustrates so well the importance of building authentic relationships with the people who support your organization. Please see his story, in his own words, below.

A few years ago I ran a 5K race on a hot and sunny Saturday morning. The scene was picturesque, at a park bordering a local river.

100_0782It was a nice day. The race was for a good cause. There was a very tasty after race party including some southern grits and red velvet cake.

100_0786It was a fun, casual run with very little competitive aspects to it…

100_0778And so I wondered, ‘Why not a larger turnout for this event?’

The race was sponsored by the American Lung Association (ALA) in efforts to raise money for their group and a local camp for kids with asthma. I met a few of the nice ladies that organized the event. Great people! One actually reminded me of an old friend. I talked with them a bit as I was actually doing an article on the event for our local running club.

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I was so taken by this group of young ladies that I offered to go back to my car to write them a check, as I did not do such a great job of raising money for their race. I just wanted to run!

I told the ladies I would be right back. As nice as they were one of the organizers actually volunteered to drive me to my car so I wouldn’t have to walk. Maybe I had that face that said I wasn’t coming back!

In her car I told her how I enjoyed her event. That I had some experience in running in local races and how I looked forward to doing the event next year. Out of the blue she asked me if I would like to help them set up a new event in our area that they were trying to organize, a Stair Climb to raise money for the ALA. Feeling quite honored that she would even consider me for setting up their inaugural event humbled me. I told her, “of course“. And so a life of giving back to my community began.

I was invited to be on their ‘Leadership Board’ (hmmm, nice title) for this new event to my hometown. This was an opportunity, finally, where I could put my good ideas, my background and my education to use for a great cause and a great company. I loved it!

After researching the group a little bit more I found yes, they do raise money for their parent company but most of their funds stay in my home state. They do sponsor a week every summer for kids with asthma (Camp Puff and Stuff) and teaching them how to cope with it. They funnel some funds to their parent company for research. And they are also paired up with a local hospital network, Kindred Healthcare. where they can work with kids and adults on lung related issues.

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I thought if there was anything I am, it was a kindred supporter to those with asthma and lung related issues impeding individuals their right to use clean healthy lungs. You might be interested to know, our inaugural event went off without a hitch and exceeded its goal in raising money for the ALA.

Checking our times to see how we did

Checking our times to see how we did

Not much later we adopted our first child. To say this event was life changing is so much of an understatement the term really doesn’t apply. We were overwhelmed with love for our first child. We felt so lucky to find her. She came from a great family. Things could not have been more ideal.

However the experience had us wondering about all the other children out there that were not so lucky, through no faults of their own. Our new daughter had touched our lives in such a way we wanted to adopt them all!

Knowing that was not very practical or likely we signed on to do the next best thing we thought. We became volunteers for a very special area orphan and foster care group that sought to help and support orphaned, fostered and abused kids.

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While this job was not as glamorous, bagging and tagging new and used clothes donated for all the local orphaned kids, you could tell the need was great and far more necessary in our area than I ever would have imagined. It was quite sad actually, the number of forgotten and /or abused kids in our area that live for little more than a smile from a stranger on some days.

I would see the big smile on our little girl and that had us signing up for duty more and more often. It was a great feeling, believing we could make a little bit of a difference in these young kid’s lives. It was a feeling we hoped to share with our kids when they were old enough to appreciate the work we did.

So that is the story behind two of the organizations I have volunteered for. I have donated time for other groups from college to church to other running causes as well. Volunteering provides me with both the feeling that my background can help or improve the lives of others less fortunate plus it gives me the opportunity to put my mind and good ideas to use in many more ways than I can contribute at work. It feels great on both fronts. And when you see some of the smiles of the recipients you can’t wait to get started all over again.

So did our kids take notice?

This past week my oldest daughter’s elementary school told them they were going to do a fundraiser for their school, a Fun Run! Every child was sent home with a packet on how to set up their website as well as how to ask for money. (sigh) If only she would have read that part of the brochure!

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The day after I came home from running my big 1/2 marathon Dylan took the bull by the horns and tried to imitate Daddy. She got excited about participating in the Fun Run for the first time. SHE set up her own web site to track her progress. And SHE used mommy’s phone to start calling friends and family for donations.

“Hello! Yes Grandma, I am running in our school’s Fun Run to help raise money for our school. How much money do you want to give me? “

Word for word that’s what she said for each call she made; even after some coaching from Mom and Dad.

You know what? This little girl in Kindergarten, with her lack luster approach to fundraising, earned exactly $100 for her school. I know from experience, trying to raise any kind of money in today’s economies is tough business. She never saw it that way. She was determined to do HER FAIR SHARE for her school as well as bask in all the praise and adoration from her parents. Not a bad reason number three to donate your time and talents to doing some charitable volunteer work, people notice!

So, putting your own good ideas to use (when all everybody has told you all your life was no) was a great reason for me. Seeing the smiles and the great results from my efforts is another great reason why I love to do charitable work. And friends, peers and family really notice your good intentions! Maybe they would want to do the same. Right?

So the next time you are just sitting there, muddling around on the Internet or on your smartphone, or texting or tweeting and you look up and wonder what else there is to do?

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Pick a cause. Pick one that is special to you or a loved one. Donate some time instead of fumbling for that next ‘update’. The investment is small. The returns are great!

Pay me in smiles. I love a good smile!

Pay me in smiles. I love a good smile!

Thank you so much for sharing your story Andy and kudos for teaching your kids about philanthropy at such an early age! By the way, I think Dylan has a really bright future in fundraising! 😉

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5 comments

  1. Our Life In 3D

    Reblogged this on OUR LIFE IN 3D and commented:
    The following is an article I penned for a long time favorite blogger and supporter, Diana Schwenk. We have been following each others blogs now for over 2 years. She’s in my Top 5 Commenters list! Diana does a lot of work for charities and fundraisers. She spent a large part of last year helping out flooding victims in and around her area in Calgary. So when she asked me if I would like to share my experiences in ‘giving back’ I jumped at the chance. OK, it took almost a week , to write it but by my latest post drought that is practically overnight! Her network reaches far and wide. She wrote me the day after she posted my article to tell me it had been picked up and shared by a major online charitable newsletter. I was thrilled.
    You can checkout some of the good things Diana does on this charitable site or check her out where I frequently find her, http://talktodiana.wordpress.com/. Thanks everyone! And thanks to you Diana for the opportunity. How’s the weather now?

  2. brickhousechick

    Great story, Andy! Why am I not at all surprised with your desire to help others and to get involved? How wonderful that you are passing that down to your beautiful daughters. MUY BUENO, AMIGO! 🙂

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