Friday, April 21, 2017

a world of fragile things

Remember, at this time of year...think before you pink. While I do hold with many of the statements in that article, I also realize that without advertising, big events, and splashy, attention-grabbing colors, many of us won't tune in. Most of us are dealing with crippling emotional overload, whether or not we realize it. Billboards, commercials, phone spam, text spam, targeted computer ads--it's all trying to get in, trying to push us to buy, consume, spend, invite others to do the same.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has improved over the last few years; it used to be far less than half of donations went back to administration and fundraising efforts. Now, donations going directly to research institutions, hospitals, and patient needs are clocking in at a little over 80%.

Relay for Life, on the other hand, is an event run by the American Cancer Society, and their scores are...lower. As of the last figures published on Charity Navigator, their donations to research, hospitals and cancer patients aren't even 60%. The larger half of their funds raised go towards fundraising efforts and advertising, with 6% going to salaries and administrative concerns. That's not ideal.

Which brings us to SLRFL, the conglomeration of events that lasts for roughly half the yeare to raise funds for Relay for Life. And the Relay for Life event, at the corporate level, is a woefully inefficient charity sub-group. Some quotes:
"Relay for Life spends an egregious amount of funds promoting its own brand."
That was written in 2012.
"If you take a look at ACS, you soon understand that they are simply being intellectually dishonest on several fronts."
That was from 2013. And finally, this damning statement from a 2016 article:
"Relay for Life money does not go towards helping cancer patients."
Ultimately, both Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society, the organization responsible for Relay, have a great deal of scandal associated with them. This cannot be denied. And, while in recent years there have been pushes towards more global efforts, there were far too many years where the focus was solely on US cancer fundraising/services, even though Relay runs had sprouted up in several other countries.

So, knowing all this, why have I donated to SLRFL for the last few years, have I made charity items to sell at Fantasy Faire each year for the past three years? That part, at least, is simple: community. I don't run--in SL or RL--so I've never actually Relayed, but I've supported friends who ran. And more than that, I hear very personal stories of people reaching out to other people through this event. This goes beyond the malfeasance of the original charity, because this is now the human face of loss and hope: people struggling to survive connecting with other people struggling. And together, while their struggles are still occasionally mortal things, they are supported. Connected. Befriended. Helped, in that sense that sometimes big-money charities forget. Because at this level, the level of Relay, it's no longer about how much money was raised, beyond the organizers. For the people in the teams, it's about word getting out. It's about support from other people. It's about how everyone on that Relay ground understands why they're there, why they're involved, and why they're Relaying.

There are better cancer charities out there. There are much better charities devoted to childrens' cancers, absolutely. But there is nothing quite like Relay, and that's why it, at least, is important.

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