Like Riding a Bike: Feel the Joy of Sponsorship Once, Feel it Forever

A cornerstone of my personal philanthropy is to contribute towards friends’ causes. I’ve been a sponsor of swims for cures & races for cures, a patron of the arts, granted birthday requests, wedding requests, and more. In fact, if, like me, you see many requests in your inboxes each month, you might feel overwhelmed….

It helps me to think about how easy it would be to say “yes” to each friend if, instead of asking for support, they were asking me to dinner. A night on the town in San Francisco runs anywhere between $10 to $100 or more…so why not consider that tonight, instead of dinner and drinks, I’m going to treat my friend to an evening of work on their brilliant new website? Or to an afternoon of swim time through the San Francisco Bay?

Still, that’s THEIR experience and while I’ve often ponied up, I’ve never felt truly connected to what my sponsorship of their passion could mean to them and to the cause they’ve chosen.

Until I received this thank you note from Meg for helping sponsor her AIDS Lifecycle Ride. She’s given me permission to share it with you:

To all of my wonderful donors!

The 545 miles from SF to LA have come and gone and I wanted to thank you, again, for your contribution. It was one of the most incredible adventures I’ve ever been on and in the process we – you, me and the rest of the riders -helped raise 13 million dollars to go toward research, education and support services for those living with and at risk of contracting the HIV/ AIDS virus. We started off with an almost miraculous break in the rainy weather from San Francisco and had dry weather all the way to Santa Cruz. It did finally rain, but only after we had finished up dinner and were all tucked into our tents for the night and only for a little bit. We made our way through beautiful agricultural and rural areas of California, areas I definitely wouldn’t have seen otherwise. California really is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We rode on freeways and bike ways and through towns. We supported another fundraiser along the way in Bradley. The students of the school district there hold a BBQ lunch for the riders and use the money they earn for various school programs. Last year they purchased new computers with the money they made, and I think this year it was to go toward their field trips and extra curricular activities.

Many of you have already heard how life changing this ride can be. It really is. Aside from the extreme miles, aside from tight living quarters with 2499 new friends, aside from the idea that you are indeed raising money for a great cause you are spending every waking minute with 2,499 of the most dedicated people you will probably ever meet in one spot.

A concentration of this size would change anyone. For 7 days straight you are on your best behavior. You shrug off jeers that you still get from a very few but random people on the road. You respect the reality of lines for the bathroom, lines for the shower, lines for dinner and dig up patience where you never thought it existed. You don’t let the hunger, the fatigue, the b.o. affect your inner calm. You don’t compete, you are gracious. You respect that there are riders of all levels and abilities and you don’t allow for any discouragement anywhere. You find stregnth where you didn’t know you had it. You cheer for riders behind you, you cheer for the riders ahead of you. And every hill you summit, every day you finish, every rest stop you arrive to are filled with roadies and riders cheering for your accomplishment.

I could feel the influence this ride has had on me in the days after we pulled into LA, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what, when or where. Rather, it’s an overwhelming clarity on what is important in life.

There is rider that always does the ride, named The Chicken Lady. On the last day of the ride, she puts eggs on all 2500 bikes with a note and a lifesaver mint. She said best what I could only feel after 545 miles. I’ll leave my thank you with her words:

Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it. Applaud yourself.

Love, The Chicken Lady ALC10

Thank you so much for your contributions. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without each and every one of your dollars and encouragement. Your generosity in this recession has been mind blowing.

Much Love, Meg, ALC 10 Rider # 4870

Wow. $13 million dollars. 2,500 riders. Total commitment. I picked up the phone that day and asked the Leukemia and Lymphona Society for information about their Team in Training Program. And thanks to her thoughtful note, Meg changed my outlook on sponsorship from one of grudging gifting to passionate philanthropy for the actions my friends take to make the world a better place to live. So, thanks to all of YOU! Ride on.