Erica Ruble’s Symposium Story

erica_rubleFive years ago when my dad said, “I have mesothelioma,” I sat in disbelief. What was this disease? I could barely even pronounce it. What did this mean, for my dad, for me, for our family? A flood of emotions ran through me and the panic set in as I read about this orphan disease on the web. Within weeks my dad and mom were flying to New York for treatment while I was in Florida caring for my newborn baby, who was just a few weeks old. Our lives were changed forever.

My dad underwent every treatment option available but lost his courageous battle to mesothelioma in just 12 months. Feeling sad, angry, and wanting answers, I flew to my first Symposium in Washington DC. Three days later, I left DC with a purpose and plan. Following the lead of Shelly Kozicki, who lost her husband to mesothelioma, I decided to fund a research grant. In my heart, I felt my dad suffered and died for no reason. This was my chance to give meaning and purpose to his death by helping others. My dad was the type of man who believed in “doing the right thing.” Now it was my time to follow in his footsteps. To date, with the help of my family, I have raised over $207,000.00 for mesothelioma research. Each time a dollar is raised, I think of my dad and how his life is helping someone else’s life.

Attending the Symposium four years ago was one of the best decisions I ever made. Connecting with the community and sharing stories made me realize two things. First, I am NOT alone. Second, we CANNOT give up. We have to keep fighting for not only those who are sick but also for ourselves. If we don’t do this, who will?

I encourage the mesothelioma community to attend the Symposium in Las Vegas on March 7th and 8th. It is undeniably the only Symposium to encompass all facets of mesothelioma through advocacy, community, and research. Whether you are a patient, caregiver, supporter, or have lost a loved one, the Symposium will touch your life. We all have an opportunity and a chance in life to help others. This is your chance to not only help yourself but to make a difference and leave your imprint on the mesothelioma community.

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.