Causes That Rock

Running for RACC Fund: Racers Against Childhood Cancer

When I started running last May, it was for a higher purpose: childhood cancer. This cause still calls to me and pushes me forward, which is why I recently joined the great team of people who run for Racers Against Childhood Cancer. This group was founded here in Milwaukee in 2007 by a couple, Cole Braun and his wife Jenny, who have been working together to raise money for childhood cancer research since 1984. {Bravo!} Cole knows from his extensive personal racing experience that many athletes are motivated by something *beyond themselves*, and has put that to work in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Racers Against Childhood Cancer logo

Supporting THREE childhood cancer causes.

THREE CHILDHOOD CANCER CAUSES WRAPPED IN ONE.

One of the many things I love about RACC is that the funds raised go to support *three* wonderful pediatric cancer causes: Cure Search, MACC Fund, and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Cure Search for Children’s Cancer funds and supports research, and provides information and resources to those affected by this dreadful disease. MACC Fund is dedicated to funding research on childhood cancer and related blood disorders; its goal is to be cured out of existence. {Gooooooo MACC Fund!} And Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is known for state-of-the-art research.

IF YOU, TOO, ARE CALLED BY THIS CAUSE, I NEED YOUR HELP.

Imagine, being a parent that has to tell your little son or daughter that he or she has cancer, if he or she is even old enough to talk. I can’t. I can’t even imagine. Yet, 46 kids will be given this news today.

My goal is to raise at *least* $1,000 – and my *dream* is to raise $2,620 – in the six weeks remaining before I run the Wisconsin Marathon for Team RACC on May 4…just under six weeks from now. Truly, ANY amount of help that you can give, $5, $20, $26 (dollar a mile, yo) or more, will be appreciated from the bottom of my heart, and will be used well by these tremendous causes. We got almost 20% of the way to my base goal the first day, which seriously made me verklempt – you guys are just amazing.

WHERE DO I GO TO CONTRIBUTE?

If you are able to help, please do so on my RACC fundraising page.

OH YEAH, RUNNING.

As for the running, I’m 275 training miles into this marathon program in the past 12 weeks, including an 18-miler this past Saturday. And I’ve got 168 training miles to go before the big 26.2. I’m feeling relatively good about it and as long as my tweaky right ankle holds out for another 6 weeks, I’ll be crossing that finish line with a big grin on my face, and a HUGE smile in my heart because of your support. Truly…I think of you, my amazing supporters, when I run. You keep me going, big time.

Love. Spaight

How far would you go for your cause?

Every once in a while, you meet someone online (usually on Twitter) who blows your mind and your heart wide open. And I’m not talking about Justin Bieber or Lady GaGa. I’m talking about Jennifer Nolan, a 16-year-old girl from New Jersey.

Just the other day, I was thinking about “how far would I go?” to raise money for my cause. Half marathon, sure. Marathon…next year, sure. Specifically, I was thinking about whether I would have the guts to shave my head. And I concluded, probably not. Then I was reading the #cancersucks thread on Twitter, and met Jennifer.

Jennifer would, in fact, shave her head for her cause. She did, just yesterday, to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and to donate the hair for a wig to be made for a little girl with cancer.

I find Jennifer so inspiring that I wanted to share her story with you. Isn’t she beautiful?

I asked Jennifer what inspired her to shave her head for cancer, and how it felt before and after.

I had to grow up a lot faster than most kids my age. I was very depressed for awhile, but I’ve been able to conquer that and see the beauty in everything and not care about what anyone says anymore.

What really inspired me was actually two things. The first was my grandmother. She passed away from what the doctors believe to be Lymphoma in May. She was 89. She was at peace and she didn’t want any treatment and she missed my grandpop so she wanted to go. And that changed my view on cancer.

Another thing was that I had a really bad concussion my freshman year of high school and I was constantly in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which is also world-renowned for its cancer research. Going in there and seeing all the little kids with cancer broke my heart into a million pieces. Every single one of those kids are beautiful and they don’t see it. They deserve to feel beautiful and giving them my hair is a way I can do that. Sure I can give money, but a four year old wants to feel normal.

I wasn’t really scared to do it. I was really nervous about doing it in front of everyone; I was shaking and literally sweating buckets up until I got it buzzed. All of my friends are so proud of me and it feels awesome. It’s just a great feeling knowing that you positively affected a large group of people; so many people are telling me I’m their hero and an inspiration. It’s just really incredible.

Jennifer, you are my hero and my inspiration, too. You’re just an amazing young woman and the world needs more like you. Thank you for having such a big heart, and for sharing your story.

Yesterday I made a donation to St. Jude’s in honor of Jennifer, and you can too, on her school’s page.

Blogger Geoff Livingston is known for, among other things, his punish Geoff fundraiser for which he dressed up in drag. How far would YOU go, for your cause?

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight: A Day Spent With Heroes

Yesterday, as some of you know, I had the mind-blowing honor of accompanying my father, Robert Spaight – formerly Lt. Robert Spaight, United States 8th Air Force – on the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. Stars and Stripes Honor Flight’s mission is to fly WWII veterans – and terminally-ill veterans from other wars – to see their memorials in Washington, DC.

I’ve talked for years about wanting to take my Dad to see the WWII memorial (it was completed and opened in 2004). And it just seemed too logistically difficult to take an 88-year-old man who doesn’t get around that well to D.C. by myself. Which is why Honor Flight was started in the first place…because many other veterans and their families were feeling exactly the same way. Brilliant!

It wasn’t really about seeing the monuments, at least for my Dad: WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Iwo Jima, the Air Force Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery. Each a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by so many and moving in its own way.

In the end, it was about his handsome face beaming with a feeling of pure, unadulterated pride that I have never, EVER seen before.

When we landed in D.C. and arrived to a number of families, including some military families, lots of children, and others, he lit up like a rock star. And when we arrived back home in Milwaukee and stepped off the plane into a long line of servicemen and women saluting him, bagpipers piping, and uproarious applause, I lost it completely while he just got an incredible burst of energy and swelled with visible pride like a soldier 60-years younger. He was standing taller. “Look at his face.” said Mark, our incredible bus captain and Honor Flight SE Wisconsin board member. I did, and I lost it even harder. He finally knew…he finally FELT how much he is loved and respected.

“Sir, would you like a wheelchair?” said the volunteer who met him at the gate. “NO.” said my Dad, and he marched right on through that airport, waving, shaking hands, kissing and flirting with the ladies (pretty much what he did most of the day), hugging family members and strangers alike. Oh, and giving his favorite joke response to “Thank you for your service”: “I’ll be sending you a bill. Freedom isn’t free, you know.” Yep. That’s my Dad. And I couldn’t be prouder.

Here are a few photos of the day (click on the icon of the four arrows lower right to view full screen, way better.)(ah hell the embed is FLASH so won’t work on iPhone/iPad. Total fail. Sorry ’bout that.)

Beyond my Dad, it was a powerful, very humbling experience to spend a full day around this many heroes. These are men and women who SET PEOPLE FREE, which tends to put things into perspective. While there wasn’t as much time for the veterans to share stories with each as I think most would have liked, my Dad did run into a couple of other guys from the 8th Air Force, which meant the world to him. (I wonder… if Honor Flight created some sort of ultra-simple-to-use online forum for these guys to stay in touch after the flight, would they use it?)

While the emotions of the day run high, they are almost overpowered by sheer awe at the logistical accomplishments. Imagine getting 224 octogenarians and their ‘guardians’ checked in, through special security, photographed, fed, boarded, flown, escorted through a whirlwind tour of the nation’s capitol and safely back in time for a stunning display of community love and affection the same evening. NOT an easy feat, but somehow they make it feel like it is. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE this organization is. The board and staff – 100% volunteer – has logistics that put most much-larger organizations to shame and hearts of pure gold, which is a pretty stunning combination.

Honor Flight is the perfect example of how the vision of an individual and the shared passion of many individuals coming together can impact the lives of thousands and thousands of people. My gratitude for their commitment, their hard work and their spirit is inexpressible. Dear Honor Flight founders and staff: THANK YOU. From the bottom of our hearts. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. You gave us an experience together that we will never forget.

If you want to know more about Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, read their backstory. If you know a WWII veteran who hasn’t gone yet, strongly encourage them to apply. The waiting time is getting shorter (sadly, because 1,000 WWII veterans die each day). If you have the means, make a donation. You can also apply to be a guardian, traveling with a veteran who needs someone, which requires a $500 donation which falls far short of what it is worth. And you can apply to be an Honor Flight volunteer. If the fact that sometimes there is a waiting list even to be a volunteer doesn’t tell you how spectacular this organization is, well I don’t know what will.

You can also just show up at the airport next time an Honor Flight comes in (there are hubs all over the country!), experience it yourself, and give the Greatest Generation some love. I promise you, it will be time VERY well spent.

Or, if you’re in or near the Milwaukee area, you can go to the Honor Flight Field of Honor event at Miller Park, August 11. They will be premiering their documentary film about Honor Flight, which is sure to be incredible.

You can also follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook to hear more of the story.

Do you know anyone who has done Stars and Stripes Honor Flight? What was their experience like?

Results of G’s Save the Cheetahs fundraiser, and the true gold

Yesterday was G’s big day: his first fundraiser.

(And, as I write this, wishing I could somehow mainline caffeine directly into my veins, he is now full-out begging to start his next campaign which will evidently be for the almost-extinct tigers. But that’s a project and a topic for another day.)

We had a solid turnout yesterday, with 31 climbers and dozen or so other attendees. All in, between our share of the climbing fees (31 X $9 = $279), sales of special Stone Creek Coffee, and donations, we raised $478 for World Wildlife Fund, which combined with the $145 previously donated through G’s World Wildlife Fund fundraising page puts him at $623, solidly over his $500 goal.

Wooooo-hoooo! Go G!!! And thank you, everyone.

Equally important, it seemed like everyone who participated had a good time.

At the end of it all, in addition to doing our little part to help endangered species, the real prize is THIS:

A kid that, at the end of the event, said “I have a rule. I don’t stop until I meet my goal.”

That, my friends, is gold. Pure GOLD.

Many many thanks to all who participated, climbed, donated money, donated prizes, showed up, donated food, ate, laughed, and cared.

HUGE thanks to Adventure Rock for being a great partner with even greater staff. And to Steve Hawthorne and Stone Creek Coffee for the super special coffee that helped push us over goal.

Much love. (a very tired) Spaight

A fun chance to show a bunch of kids the power of community

A few months ago, my six-year-old son Griffin and I were goofing around online together (as has a tendency to happen, oh, once in a while. ;] ) We ended up on the World Wildlife Fund site and he decided, completely of his own volition (seriously), that he wanted to start a fundraising page to help save the cheetahs. He pretty quickly raised $145 and immediately pronounced that he wanted to do more. He LOVES him some animals, this one, as so many kids do.

So, I told him we could do a fundraising event, and asked him to think about what he would like to do. Having had his birthday party at Adventure Rock, a great indoor rock climbing gym located near Milwaukee in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, he decided he would like to have his fundraiser there. Great idea, kid!

There are many different ways you can be of help.

One big way is to come to the event, Saturday, March 31, 4PM – 7PM. There is a Facebook event here and it’s helpful if you RSVP so we know how many people to plan for; right now, a week out, we’re guessing 30-ish people. We could use more. :]

For the event, Adventure Rock was awesome and didn’t hesitate to let us have their big party room for three hours and for half of the proceeds from party climbers to go to the cause. It costs $18 if you plan to climb and $9 goes to G’s cheetah fund which goes to World Wildlife Fund. Adventure Rock is open until 10PM and you can stay until then/after the party to keep climbing if you want. If you plan to climb, please fill out this waiver and bring it with you.

If you’ve never climbed rocks or faux rocks before, not to worry. 1. If you want to learn, there is a very safe clip-in system at Adventure Rock and instruction on how to use it. 2. Climbing is totally optional. 3. There’s plenty of party room for climbers and non-climbers alike.

If you don’t plan to climb, you don’t have to pay the $18; we just ask for a small, optional donation of whatever you can comfortably afford.

If you can’t make it to the event but would still like to help, you can make an online donation.

If you can’t afford to donate cash right now, we completely understand. Maybe you can get creative and think of something cool you can do within your resources, like my amazing friend Steve at Stone Creek Coffee, who is putting G’s picture on bags of top-notch African coffee beans and letting us sell them at the fundraiser. (How cool is that?! The kid is on coffee!)

Maybe you can bring a food or beverage item to share. We’re donating beverages (bottled water, Sprecher sodas and Gatorade) and a ginormous tray of taco dip. Several other kind souls have said they will bring treats ranging from a fruit tray to Cheetos (Chester the CHEETAH, yo!) to sweet treats and other assorted deliciousness. I’m pretty sure no one will go hungry at this point, though we could use some additional nutritious choices like a veggie tray, maybe a meat/cheese tray, that sort of thing.

Maybe you have a new or gently-used toy sitting around that you can donate for a door prize for the kids, like another generous six-year-old boy and his Mom did with a cool Lego Ninjago Mountain Shrine set. Chili’s in Franklin also donated some gift certificates and a TON of free kid’s meals, so that’s cool. And Adventure Rock even donated a couple of climbing certificates for us to give away, which rocks (pun totally intended)!!!

Maybe you have or know of a business that can donate some small animal toys for the kids or sell them to us at cost…we’ll be happy to set up a table to share/promote the business in return, as long as it is local/sustainable/cheetah-friendly. : ] (Talking with the Milwaukee County Zoo about this…fingers crossed!)

Anything you can do is equally appreciated. Most of all, we’d love to see your smiling face and have your positive energy in the house with us next Saturday.

While we hope G can meet his goal of raising $500 (so an additional $355) to help protect his beloved cheetahs and other critically-endangered wildlife, the biggest thing that I am hoping he will get out of this experience is a taste of the sheer power of community. I believe that if we want our kids to fix problems in this world, we have to show them how to do that: TOGETHER. It does, as they say, take a village to raise a child; so I’m asking for your help showing this one, and a bunch of other ones, that people care enough to show up, take action, and unite for a cause.

Questions? Comments? Always welcome.

Peace. Spaight

G’s cause of the month: Food Fight MKE

Here’s an easy way to do your good deed for the month: just Text FOOD to 52000. Let me explain.

We recently put ourselves on a new family budget, which includes a little bit each month to donate to a great cause. I’ve asked G (my 6-year-old son, Griffin) to help pick the cause each month. During this month of Thanksgiving, we’re giving what we can to help BEAT HUNGER. Which, here in Milwaukee, I’m sorry to say includes the HALF of children who live below poverty level. That just can’t be acceptable, right? So please do what you can to do something about it. If we all do, we can make it right.

G and I have chosen to donate through Food Fight MKE, a movement initiated by young adults to educate, engage, energize and inspire citizens to help beat hunger in Milwaukee. (Disclosure: the young ‘uns powering Food Fight MKE are part of the OrangeAid internship program at Jigsaw, the agency that pays for my family’s food. This post, I promise you, is purely my personal opinion/beliefs.)

To participate, just text FOOD to 52000 and $10 will be donated to Hunger Task Force, which is expert at making money go as far as it possibly can to help local families. You can donate this way up to three times, and I strongly encourage you to do so. I did.

Semi-secret tip: You can also have some fun and help kick off Food Fight MKE by coming to the Bradley Center this Friday, November 11th at 6:30 PM and participating in a Beat Hunger flash mob. Hope to see you there.

What are you doing to help BEAT HUNGER during Thanksgiving month?

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