Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I do what I do

Four years ago today I was on an airplane back to Portland from my hometown of Spokane, Washington.  I hadn't been home since the summer of 2010 when my Dad passed away unexpectedly.

Truth be told, I never thought I would go back.  But 18 months and another death later, there I was.  And this time, the life we celebrated was also a good man, father, husband and a generous human being.  And his name was James, too.

Being home for his celebration of life impacted me in ways I never imagined.  He was my friend's husband and their children are almost the same age as mine.  I watched my friend say goodbye to her husband and best friend after a brief and fierce battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer.  And, in my hometown where I was raised, where my father spent most of his life, I found a piece of my heart that I never thought I would get back.

On that plane ride home (it's less than an hour) an idea came to me, in an instant.  It was relentless, like a two year old begging for another cookie, and I finally grabbed a pen and started writing down all the thoughts jumping in my head onto an old file folder from my carry on bag.

Both men, named James, were kind and giving people.  In the later years of my father's life he put his amazing God-given carpentry skills to work for the local Habitat for Humanity.  He supported the Custer County Historical Society, and he gave of his time, talent and treasure in many ways.

James Bennett, my dear friend's husband, also had a list of places he wished for donations in his memory to go.  Not one, but many.  That struck a chord with me.  I've always wanted to be a philanthropist, but unfortunately I'm not in a position of having a treasure trove of financial resources at my disposal.  But, as is my way, I figured out a way to come as close as I can.

On that plane ride it occurred to me that nearly every single 5K or 10K road race I was registered for had it's own cause that it supported.  But there wasn't a venue for ME to choose, at least that I knew of.  Even if there was, I felt compelled and drawn and almost REQUIRED to do something.

My plan was to create an event, a 5K/10K/Half marathon road race where the runner could choose the cause THEY want to run for, and a portion of (and someday the WHOLE ENTIRE) registration fee would go to that cause.  I didn't have a name yet, but I wrote down every damn detail of what I wanted in about 15 minutes on that plan.

Call it luck, call it genius, call it divine intervention, but whatever IT was, it wasn't going away until I put my plan into action.  I don't believe for one second that this idea just popped into my head accidentally.  No, I believe it was placed there for a reason.

And that reason is that just under four months later in the middle of planning for the inaugural Cause + Event Portland, I would be diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, an experience that has forever impacted me both physically and emotionally in ways I never could have imagined.

Four years later as I reflect on all of this I realize this: Cause + Event is MY way of leaving a lasting legacy when I do finally leave this earth.  It is MY way of being a philanthropist and supporting causes all over the world, even in a small way, as best as I can.

It means that I will, in a very microcosmic way, have done something good out there in the universe.  I will have made a difference.  I will have shown my children the value of giving back without the expectation of something in return.   And that is at the very heart of why I do what I do.

Four years later I almost can't believe that this little dream that WE had (my friends and I) is actually coming true.  Our plan for world domination, while coming along slowly (which is part of the master plan) is happening.

We now have events in three cities: Portland, Boston, and Boise.  And we are going to announce a fourth city to open an event in the spring of 2017.  So here's the scoop.  When my Dad died a little piece of me died too.  But going back there made my heart whole again.  It made me stronger.  It made me ready to face more challenges in the last four years than I ever imagined possible.  But my heart was whole again in some strange way.  Even in the face of loss, we can still find a way to heal our hearts.

I am proud of our events and the parent organization we founded, the Cause + Event Foundation.  I'm thankful for every friend that helped along the way, every sponsor, every cause, every runner, every team.  This whole crazy train wouldn't leave the station without all of you.

This blog post isn't about tooting my own horn, that is never something I wish to do.  But I DO want to celebrate the collective efforts of people worldwide who have come together to help us realize our vision of raising as much money as we can for as many causes as we can in as many communities as we can.  THANK YOU.

And I would be a TERRIBLE "founder" if I didn't take a moment to ask every single one of you to help us spread the word about our events and what we do.  And to register.  Even if you don't live in one of our race cities, you can still participate virtually and run for YOUR cause.

We have an amazing new website created by our friends who organize the Boston race.  And we have a very special YouTube video I hope you will watch. 

Please know that we are also 100% run by volunteers.  Eventually as we grow, that will probably have to change, but our goal is and always will be the same:  to someday have enough sponsors to cover our race costs in every city so that we can give 100% of every registration to the causes our runner's choose.

This is my opportunity to give back, to say thank you for the second chance that I received in the summer of 2012.

So thank you.  All of you.