The Human Cause

Raising awareness of HIV and AIDS one mile at a time.

Beyond Bake Sales and Bumper Stickers

I still remember. It was my first year at UC Santa Cruz, the spring of 1982. The gray skies were visiting less and less, the sun shimmering gold in the meadows. T-shirt weather had arrived and everything was in bloom, including my sense of myself as a woman and a feminist. Within the year, I’d begin to understand why I felt so different from the other girls growing up. I was exploring, barely scratching the surface of activism, social justice and the peace and freedom movement. Walking up to a booth at a women’s faire in downtown Santa Cruz, I came upon a table filled with buttons and bumper stickers. This wasn’t the first one I saw, but it was the one that stuck with me, and some 30 years later, the sentiment is at the heart of my passion and purpose to give back and make a difference.

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I didn’t buy the bumper sticker. I didn’t have a car, and let’s face it. Being a “starving” student in 1982 was a different reality than it is today. Spending $2 on something I didn’t need meant skipping my breakfast of oatmeal and bananas for a week, not simply passing on a soda. I did, however, immediately “buy in” to the concept. The idea struck me hard.

I began cycling in 1998 as part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training fundraising program. TNT started in 1988 with just one man wanting to run a marathon to honor his daughter, a leukemia survivor. Since that landmark marathon fundraiser 25 years ago, TNT has raised $1.3 billion for blood cancer research and patient services. That sounds like a lot. It is. But to put it into perspective, that same $1.3 billion buys only four B-1 bombers.

There are over one million charitable organizations in the United States. Individuals like you and me account for 73% of all charitable donations. Bequests account for another 8% making 81% of all donations from “we, the people” in this country. With as much advertising and sponsorship as we see from the business world, one would be inclined to think corporations are the leaders in the “giving back” game. Not even close. Corporate giving accounts for only 5% of all charitable donations. Here’s a visual.

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average household income in 2011 was $50, 054.

♥ 27% of Americans volunteer
♥ 65% of households give to charity
♥ 81 percent of philanthropic dollars are contributed by individuals and bequests (That figure rises to 88 percent if you include family foundation giving)
♥ Corporate giving accounts for only 5% of all charitable giving
♥ The average household contribution is $2213, about 4.3%

(Source: National Philanthropic Trust)

Charitable giving continues to rise, even in this sluggish economy. It doesn’t really matter where you give of your time or your money, or even how much. What matters is that you give. Give to causes that matter to you and your family. Teach your children the value of giving back. Two thirds of all Americans give to charities and one quarter volunteer. It does take a village.

A button I saw on that same day all those years ago sums it up. Wearing buttons in not enough. To affect change, to make a difference requires commitment and action. And courage. Sometimes, taking that first step, raising your hand to say “I will” presents the biggest challenge. The beauty of it is you get to choose how and where you will change this world. I choose stopping the spread of HIV and creating an AIDS-free generation. THIS is why I ride. This is why “the Ride to End AIDS” doesn’t end until AIDS ends.

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