FOR THE FOUNDATION: A Look Back at the 2nd Annual Lance S. Ruble Poker Classic

In case you missed the 2012 Symposium held here in Washington, D.C., Erica Ruble presented a standing room only presentation alongside fellow co-chair Shelly Kozicki, and there was a good reason Erica and Shelly’s presentation was in demand — they not only know the facts of fundraising, they practice what they preach. Erica, for example is just coming off a very successful poker tournament, a now-annual event that plays the odds and doubles down in the search for a cure.

The 2nd Annual Lance S. Ruble Poker Classic took place on Saturday, May 12, 2012, with proceeds benefiting the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.  The event was held in loving memory of Lance S. Ruble, Erica’s father, who passed away from mesothelioma almost four years ago. Erica, determined to make this event a success, rallied the support of not one but two communities. “I called on my friends in the meso and poker community to come together and support this great cause for an unforgettable night.” A professional poker event company was hired to run the tournament. There would be limited spaces available to play, but Erica made sure the event would be open to the public. The tournament was sold out with 40 players (each buy-in or cost to play for the card players was $100.00 with the option to re-buy or keep playing for $25.00), and over 100 people attended the event. For those not playing, raffles and a live auction were offered, with drawings every ten minutes.  Local businesses and large corporations all contributed, and the items raffled and auctioned off were wide and varied. “We auctioned off a donated painting,” Erica said, looking back on the generosity of the event’s donors. “27 corporations or businesses in our community donated to the event. 1st place prize was a 2 night stay at Shula’s Hotel in Miami Lakes, Florida with a complimentary golf foursome.  2nd place was a 1 night stay at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Resort in Hollywood, Florida. 3rd place was a $500.00 gift certificate to Beverly’s Jewelers. All of these prizes were donated. The generosity still overwhelms me.”

Once the last card was dealt and the final bluff called, the 2nd Annual Lance S. Ruble Poker Classic tournament raised over $8,500 for the Meso Foundation. This was $1,500 more than last year’s tournament. “We chose poker because our friends and family enjoy playing poker,” Erica states. “My family wanted to bring everyone together for a good cause, and make it a really fun night out with friends and family.”

With their experience as the Foundation’s Fundraising co-chairs, Erica and Shelly have developed their own tips and techniques to offer the community when it comes to hosting a fundraiser:

  • When you are choosing a fundraiser, pick something that your friends and family will want to participate in and is a good fit for your target audience.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask businesses to donate to your event and also encourage them to attend. The worst a business can say is “No.”
  • To make the event more personal, more poignant, find an event that can serve as a tribute to the loved one’s life. (The Rubles also host an annual roller hockey tournament as Lance Ruble was a roller hockey coach.)
  • Time your events to coincide with significant days of your cause. (The Rubles host an annual walk for National Mesothelioma Awareness Day in September.)

You can find more fundraising tips by visiting our website and contacting us.

“Most importantly,” Erica states, “don’t ever think you can’t make a difference. Our family has raised over $170,000 for mesothelioma research in honor of my dad, all going to research grants established in his name.” Whether it is a donation or a successful poker tournament like Erica’s here, it is all a step forward in finding a cure.

Whether it is to volunteer your time, participate, or simply make a donation, you can find out more about what meso fundraiser is coming up next by checking our website. The next event coming up for the Meso Foundation to raise awareness and funds for research is the “Ridin’ the Wind with Rob”, happening in Pekin, Illinois, on July 28. The event promises to be a mix-and-match of vehicular mayhem where participants will enjoy a group ride for a cure. Bikes, trikes, cars and all types of transportation — even rollerblades and skateboards — are welcome!

For more information and more upcoming events across the country, take a look at our events page on our CureMeso.org website.

6 Tips on Planning Your Own Fundraiser

All the way from the Southern Hemisphere, the Meso Foundation received a question from Katelyn Yates:

“Hi there, I am wondering if you have any suggestions for raising money or awareness for this terrible disease? I am very keen to help in any way.”

Perhaps the best way to raise money and awareness for mesothelioma research is, not surprisingly, a fundraiser. Mesothelioma research fundraisers of various kinds happen not only in the United States, but around the world. Just recently, the third annual Miles for Meso South Florida 8K, organized by Meso Foundation volunteer, Larry Davis, brought together hundreds of runners and raised nearly $50,000 for mesothelioma research. This weekend, James Brennan, the Meso Foundation’s own Endurance Events Volunteer is running a 100 mile Ultramarathon in order to raise awareness for more research into mesothelioma while honoring his father who is a mesothelioma patient. Erica Ruble just organized a poker tournament benefiting mesothelioma research and the Meso Foundation. And many other events are already in the works in anticipation of Meso Awareness Day (September 26)

Whether it is something as epic as a 100 mile Ultramarathon, as simple as a letter writing campaign, or as creative as a writing a cookbook, the Meso Foundation believes that fundraisers serve two purposes: they raise money for research, and raise awareness. Fundraisers are also a chance to expand your creativity, putting personal resources, interests and skills to the test in developing a success.

But where to begin? And what do I do after Step 1?

Here are a few tips from the Meso Foundation on putting together a successful and fun fundraiser.

Decide on the kind of event you want to host and if the event will help you reach your goals. This is the part that is usually the most fun, but also the most infuriating — what do you want to do to raise money? Ideas bandied about between friends can be in endless supply, but eventually it should come down to one fundraiser (with a handful of others set aside for a follow-up if your first outing demands it). What you need to find is the kind of event where donors will (eagerly) give their money for something in return. Some of the more successful fundraisers have included, but are not limited to:

  • Runs/ Walks
  • Silent Auctions/ Raffles
  • Sporting events (golf tournaments, soccer games, etc.)
  • Poker Tournaments

The important thing in fundraising, whether as an individual or as part of a group is finding something that appeals to you. For example, one meso volunteer is an avid kayaker, so he is kayaking the Hudson River to honor his young daughter Linda, who was diagnosed with meso at the age of 16. The event can truly be anything you want it to be, provided it is clear for what organization or cause the money is being raised.

Give yourself time to plan. Fundraisers should never be planned on a whim. There are many factors to consider — date, time, location, publicity, and (of course) goals. All of these factors come into play when planning a successful fundraiser. Your planning should begin with a “To Do” list and “Timeline” for you and your team, or just yourself, in order to keep your fundraiser on track and on schedule. A planning schedule can be anywhere from two months to half-a-year, depending on the resources and scale of your fundraiser.

No matter how solid your plan appears, have a contingency plan in place. When planning your fundraiser, make sure your budget has a reasonable, manageable buffer in case of unforeseen expenses. If your event is reliant on the weather, find out if you can plan for a rain date. Try to imagine every worst-case scenario you and your support staff can think of, and then try and prepare for the problems you least expect.

Give your event a realistic goal. Telling people that you are trying to raise $25,000 is better than saying we are trying to raise as much money as possible, but make sure that your goal is reachable. You don’t want to have your goal be too modest (Raising $1,000 is easier than you might think.), but you also don’t want to make your goal unobtainable. ($500,000 isn’t a million dollars, but it is still half a million dollars.) Having a goal will motivate people to help you get there. If, perchance you find yourself reaching the goal early, discuss with your group the good and bad of increasing your goal; and, as mentioned before, let people know how those dollars will be spent. People like to know where their hard-earned dollars are going.

Publicize. Take advantage of any and all appropriate publicity opportunities to get word of your event out there. Press releases to local papers, free public events listings, email lists, public service announcements on local and university radio stations, and social media all work together to publicize your event. It is important to check in advance for deadlines of listings to ensure your event is publicized, and publicized at the appropriate time. We at the Meso Foundation are also happy to help spread the word through our own website, emails, newsletter, and social media channels, provided we are given proper notice. Again, this goes back to planning and time needed to properly publicize your event.

Contact our Community Fundraising Co-Chairs. Erica Ruble and Shelly Kozicki have been there and have done that. Between the two of them, they have raised nearly half a million dollars (that’s $500,000!) for mesothelioma research through events like trivia nights, golf tournaments, quartermanias, letter writing campaigns, poker tournaments, roller hockey tournaments, community garage sales, triathlons, and partnering with local grocery stores. They look forward to helping you hit the ground running and get your event started. If you would like to learn more about being mentored by one of our Community Fundraising Committee Co-Chairs, please email Jessica Barker at jbarker@curemeso.org.

There are still other things that you can do to plan for your mesothelioma research fundraiser, and we at the Meso Foundation offer you checklists and other resources to make sure your paperwork is in order, the donations are recorded correctly, and that the money reaches the right people.

For more information on planning your own fundraiser, contact Jessica Barker at (703) 879-3819, or email her at jbarker@curemeso.org. You can also find out more information on becoming involved by visiting www.curemeso.org/events.