Saturday, February 28, 2009

What being a Champion means to me.

This week and for the second time, my wife Gail and I were invited to participate in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Tour of Champions. This annual event is the Society’s way of honoring and acknowledging its top fundraisers from around the country….but the truth is that the event is actually much more than that.

Firstly, it is like being at a re-union. We were thrilled to see so many of the people that we met at last year’s Tour of Champions.Some we had stayed in touch with and some not. But in all cases, we were happy to see so many of the same people again.

Secondly, and I have to believe that everyone there felt the same way, seeing everyone and being a part of this community, is tremendously inspiring. There are healthy people without MS, who got involved just because they care. There are others who are severely impaired or impacted by the disease, with little ability to move or speak, who show up and participate, and become Champions, just because they can. Everyone there has a story and a reason why they do it. Everybody there cares.

We became Champions by participating in the MS Walk. We let people know what we are doing and the response has been tremendous. What we learned from our experience is that:

People want to participate and make a difference.
They just don’t know what to do. Inviting them to join us for the Walk gave them something to do. The National MS Society hosts more than 500 Walks from coast to coast giving tens of thousands an opportunity to join in.

If everybody does a little, eventually a lot gets done.
It is not about giving large sums of money. It is about getting people to participate in the cause. The more participants we have, the more attention we bring to the cause. More attention and awareness brings in more money. More money is what will bring a cure.

If we are not asking, we are not giving people that opportunity.
Asking people for help can be one of the toughest things we ever have to do. I know because my disability requires me to do it everyday. But if we don’t ask, we are depriving people of the chance to help and everybody wants to help.

The “Tour” is an opportunity to meet people from all over the country who are making a difference in the world. Each one of the participants, perhaps by their nature as top fundraisers, is warm, friendly, kind, determined and an inspiration. Many of them (Leon, Wendy, Alan, Elizabeth, Barney, Jeanne, Debbie and so many more) we now call our friends.

Several months ago I wrote about “The Disability Paradox.” (
http://mgerber.blogspot.com/2008/09/are-you-familiar-with-french-paradox.html ) In that blog entry I discussed how this community of “people with such limited ability” are able to do so much more than many able bodied people do. I theorized that the reason for this was because they care so much about the cause itself. Now, having attended the Tournament twice, I am certain that is true.

How much these people care about the cause is what makes them so extraordinary. I am a firm believer that caring matters more than anything else. It is what drives this group to make a huge difference in the world around them and around all of us.

These Champions are a community. They have become our friends and allies. As a group we all have something in common …..working to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, a worthy cause. Being a part of that community is something that we hope to always do.

My advise is this: Become a Champion. Find a cause that you really care about, get involved and make a difference. It doesn’t matter how much you do or how much you raise. It only matters that you care enough to participate and make a difference. That is the real definition of a Champion.

You can always join us. We would love to have your participation and support. Just click here:
http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/jiggywiggits

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

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