It was right around this time back in 2001 when I was inspired to create what would become bigger than my wildest imagination. I had completed the 2001 Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer walk in May of 2001, and although it was a wonderful experience filled with emotional rewards and personal triumphs, it also left me unsettled. For I was one of over 3,000 walkers but also one of only 88 men. I had seen breast cancer touch my family and touch my friends. It was a touch, not unlike the touch of a freight train barreling down on you as you are tied to the tracks like in some sick antique movie. I knew I couldn’t be the only one to feel this. I knew I couldn’t be the only male that felt so out of control and helpless, yet desperate to do something. Yes, I had done things, the same things most men in the situation do. At home I became the support system, the care giver, the nurse, the cook and the maid. And outside the home to friends afflicted with this disease, I attended support groups, lent a loving hand and performed duties of a friend. But there must be more, right?
I had signed up for the 3-day, inspired to make a bigger difference. A difference to those tortured by disease. A difference to those who might not need to know the agony. A difference to those who have not yet come into the world, so that cancer may be a legacy from long ago. I wanted to be part of something bigger than me. And I was. The walk was terrific. I personally raise a large sum of money, but together with everyone, we raised a staggering amount of money. I personally made a statement of support by walking through the towns from Fitchburg to Boston, but together we inspired people to cheer, to cry, to remember and to hope. But I was also left a bit empty, for I knew that my situation couldn’t be that much unlike everyone else’s. I am a man and just but that doesn’t mean it touched me any less. But where were all the other men… like me?
So the months past, and things stewed inside of me. Then right around the holidays of 2001, I decided I needed to do something. We men needed to do something. Something bigger than ourselves. We would walk together as a team to show our support, to all of those touched by this affliction. You see, I thought we would walk. As I found an appropriate team name, a domain name, built a website, crafted a logo, and begun to recruit… I thought we were building a team to walk in 2002. That was it, that was the only expectation I had. That would have been good enough, wouldn’t it?
Well, seven years later, here we are. And no vision could have predicted our path. Since 2001, we have raised over $850,000. And in 2009 we are well poised to break the $1million mark, a true milestone in this organization. Over the years we have been featured in countless articles, and have been recognized with local and national awards. In 2008, we were recognized by Oprah and The Big Give as they awarded us with a new Ford SUV. We have given numerous grants to both local and national organizations, in support of both eradicating this disease as well as supporting those that are fighting for their lives. We have come together as an organization to mourn those who have succumbed and we have inspired many many others to keep fighting.
We have grown, and with our growth we have lifted the community. We are now over 150 members strong. Members with the strength of love, with caring, with generosity and compassion. We will continue to grow, as more men look to do something beyond themselves. Each man inspires more men, and in turn we secure our ability to help more people. That is what we are about, being part of something bigger than ourselves. All one needs to do is look to any place Men With Heart is, and you will see the sum greater than the parts. Each one of us builds on the selflessness of the one before us. And although some members come back year after year, event after event, others participate in only one event but that stays with them for the rest of their life. Together, we have made a difference, but it doesn’t have to end there.
This year I am calling out to all members, whether you have participated in 10 events or one event 5 years ago, to dig down deep. Remember what inspired you, remember what it felt like to be part of something bigger. And ask yourself if you have the strength to do it again. Be with us in the important year. In 2009, we will be looking to recruit new members, but our main focus will be on fishing under our own docks.
Each of the 150+ members is a man with heart. Each of you have what it takes to do it again. I call on each of you to help us collectively have our biggest year ever. Help us once again, touch more lives, make a bigger difference.
In anticipation of a banner year, and in consideration of our past successes, we are rolling out more resources to help us achieve our goal of 2009 being “the year of the greatest good.” This letter is included in the inaugural edition of our new newsletter. We have been refining the website, with more good changes to come. We will be implementing a new online fundraising platform, that will assist members in requesting, receiving and managing donations more efficiently. We will for the first time, be accepting online donations. We have installed dedicated “team captains” for each of the events this year, allowing for more coordination and communication. We are setting the stage, all we need to reach our goal is… you!
So please join me celebrating our 2009 kick-off. Please welcome back old faces and new. Please relish in all the good we have done together and let that be the inspiration for continuing to make a difference. I want to thank every one of you for helping me be a better person, and for helping make this world a better place. I look forward to serving you and the community through the next year.
Men With Heart