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May 9, 2011 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Putting the “Fun” in Fundraising

My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up.  I was always conscious of this somehow.  Even before I could tell you the difference between a dime and a dollar, I knew that money was not meant to be fooled around with.  The parental units would fight about money a lot.  There wasn’t enough of it, and what there was, was apparently being spent incorrectly.  When I wanted something (which according to my mom, was all the time, and judging from my own kids, it’s one of the things kids do…beg for stuff) many choice phrases were thrown about (I bet you remember the first one, too):

  • “Money doesn’t grow on trees!”
  • “A new bicycle…you want a new bicycle?  Whatcha gonna do when you get hungry?  You gonna eat that bicycle?”
  • “Quit nickel an’ dimin’ me to death!”
  • “Shut up and eat your hot dog.”

The Bills

My mom always kept perfect track of her checkbook.  We were never to bother her when she was doing The Bills.  Once a month, she would get out the stack of papers and sit at the table and do The Bills.  I didn’t know what this meant, other than it caused a lot of cursing, and involved a lot of math.  A few of the bills would get stamped and mailed to far away places like Weehawken, New Jersey.  After we left the post office, it was time to drive around town and pay the bills.  That’s right.  My mom dutifully drove around to drop off the bills.  “Mom,” I would say.  “Mom aren’t you supposed to mail those bills?  How come those bills come with an extra envelope?”

“You think I wanna pay for a stamp when I can just drive over to the cable company?  Stamps are expensive.  You think money grows on trees?”

Keep in mind that these were the days before three…hell, before two dollar gas and when stamps were 18 cents.  She drove those bills all over town…to the cable office, to the water company, to Sears.  I guess this was before all these offices got consolidated and centralized and before the nice ladies at the front desk were replaced by computers and people overseas.  Nonetheless, it was instilled in me how expensive life was, and how much work it was to use money.

Field Trips and Lunch

It never failed…when I came home with a slip of paper from the school indicating that money was necessary for an upcoming field trip, there were sighs and groans.  Lunch money was a continued source of panic…when we ran out of brown bags or peanut butter I needed a dollar or so for the ice-rimmed square of dough that passed for elementary school pizza.  I felt guilt each and every time I cost anyone any money.  I don’t believe anyone was trying to make me feel guilty, it’s just what I did.

The World’s Greatest Chocolate Bar

Then one day our class had to raise money for something.  I don’t remember what it was.  Something.  And due to that something, I was sent home with a box of the World’s Greatest Chocolate Bars* and instruction to sell them door to door.  I tried to leave them at school, but my teacher sent them home with me anyway.

Sure enough, the idea that an elementary school kid going door to door pushing candy to the neighborhood went over like a lead balloon.  There must have been ranting and raving rather than selling, because I remember that I hid the bars in my room and panicked.  Days went by.  Additional slips of paper were sent home from school, reminders to “sell sell sell!”  Soon there were only a couple of days before I had to hand the money in to school, and I still hadn’t even opened the box.  Two of my deepest fears…talking to strangers, and asking for money, all summed up in one stupidly-named box of candy.  This is the same reason I was never a Girl Scout.  You would never be able to get me to sell cookies.

Money day came in and I brought the box of chocolates back to school, unopened.  I handed in the unsold candy to my teacher, who frowned.  I sensed disappointment.  This was compounded by the fact the other kids were handing in wads of cash.  Some of them even won prizes from a catalog…the more candy you sold, the better the prize to choose from.  All the kids drooled over the Walkman on page 7.  If you sold 1000 candy bars, you won a Walkman.  I believe that a kid at our school actually won the Walkman, which only highlighted my zero dollar effort.  The prize thing always bothered me…how in the world were these companies paying for prizes, wouldn’t it make more sense to just spend that money on the cause?   Ah, naivety.  I hadn’t learned about motivational tricks yet.

So I’m Walking in a Meat Dress

A couple of decades later, and here we all are at this blog.  I am participating in the Relay for Life with a team of co-worker friends to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  It’s a 24-hour walk to raise dollars for cancer research.  I signed up for the team hesitantly.  I never sign up for these things because of my deep fear of fundraising.  Asking for money is not in my blood.  But the money isn’t for me, so I guess this is a bit different.  The relay has thematic elements involved, and our team is dressing up as post-millennial pop-stars.  I have chosen to create a meat-dress** ala Lady Gaga for my costume, in which I will be wearing as I walk around the track for miles and miles.

I really want to try to get some dollars for the cause this time.  I never raised any money because I never wanted to try…I spent a lot of time projecting my neurotic views on money onto everyone else, worrying that I would bother them.  That’s ridiculous.

As I grow older, the list of people I know fighting cancer grows longer.  I have a few friends with children of their own now, who are fighting cancer, which is one of the scariest things I can imagine having to do as a parent.  So I want to be counted in as someone who tried to help out, even if it’s just a little.  I guarantee you it will be loads more than I have ever fund-raised before.  And I also promise that I will never ask for money on my blog again*** cause I am cringing at the fact I asking now.  This is my equivalent of being locked in a room with snakes, if I have a snake-phobia.  But I promised my team**** I would try.

So if I have ever entertained you here in my blog I would ask that you consider clicking on my donation link below and giving $1, $5, or any amount you can share.  In return, you will be helping further the cause of cancer research.

Less importantly but more entertainingly, I will also return after the race to post a photo of what is sure to be a God-awful rendition of a meat dress.

Please consider making a donation for the Relay for Life:

Donation Link

Thank you for reading.  I hope you have a great day.

– Maleesha

*Talk about fraudulent advertising

**I’m not really going to use meat.  It’s a combination of fabric, styrofoam shapes, and Play-Doh

*** Until next time the opportunity presents itself

****A phenomenal group of ladies and cancer survivors who are perfectly reasonable and capable of raising money for cancer research, and they are all doing a great job!



Leave a Comment
  1. dennis / May 21 2011 3:36 am

    hi, maleesha,
    i get a lot of fun after i read your storys here. good writing!
    thanks for sharing!

  2. David / May 12 2011 6:50 pm

    Mmmm. That’s a nice lookin steak. It would look lovely on you, but better on a grill. I hope you post a photo of your creation a la Gaga. Have a great walk and thank you for making the effort for this great cause.

    And mind your delicate back missy! 🙂

  3. Dave Robinder / May 10 2011 8:54 am

    Just made my donation. I hated doing fundraising as a kid, too. I went to a private school, so we did a lot of them. When my daughter started selling cookies for Girl Scouts, I figured it would be similar to the candy bars and beef jerky I sold as a kid. Surprisingly, people actually like Girl Scout cookies.

    When my kids have fund raising stuff now, we usually just write a check for a reasonable amount and send it in. I figure that it’s my responsibility to pay for things, not theirs.

    Good luck in the Relay. Glad to see a post, too. 🙂

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