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One Small Thing
The following is an expanded article by Lori Peterson, Development Manager, from our Fall 2012 edition of Mind Matters.
I know. You appreciate the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance. You support our efforts - sometimes with your time, other times with your money. You have every intention of finding a way to give back, to help us make a difference because you value the work we do in raising awareness, offering prevention education and providing services such as Resource Facilitation and Multicultural Outreach, just to name a few.
Intention is wonderful; it is the first step in achieving great things! One thing about intention: alone it doesn't get the job done. It takes action to bring intention to life. What stops us from putting action behind our intention? For many, it becomes scary to think about failing. For others, it is overwhelming to figure out what to do, how to proceed.
Well, Brian Eder took his intention – an idea for a simple fundraiser – and turned it into something great.
Brain is a Northwestern Mutual Life Financial Advisor and a big brother to Christine, who lives with a brain injury caused by an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) - an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain. Brian serves on the Development and Public Awareness committee on the Alliance's Board of Directors and is also our hero - although he would say he is just an everyday hero - because he was given the seed of an idea and grew it into an opportunity to raise $10,000 and awareness through his effort for the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.
"A good friend of mine approached me about the concept of an all-day golf-a-thon," Brian explained, "and how to basically take the thing we love to do and use it as a means of generating money for organizations that need it. So that was kind of the birth of it. From there, it was find a couple of friends that love to golf who have circles of influence, partner that onto the fact that the summer solstice is the longest day of the year and put all that together and it becomes kind of a neat story to tell which hopefully lets you raise more awareness."
Brian planned the small golf outing to take place on June 20, the longest day of the year, to raise money for the Alliance. He recruited a few golf buddies and had individuals pledge one to five dollars per hole golfed that day. Their goal was to get 75 dollars in pledges per hole. Four guys played 90 holes of golf on that overcast, cloudy, sometimes rainy day. They started at 5:58 a.m. and finished - dirty, wet and exhausted - at 8:50 p.m. The sky was pitch black by then, so the summer solstice idea sort of backfired. They were the last souls off the course; the only one there to cheer their success was the bartender on duty.
"You look at what we did," Brian says, "it was my golf foursome. It just turned into something. If someone had told me at the start that it would have done so well and that I should do this and that, it would have been overwhelming.
Initially it was me and a few buddies who love to golf anyway so why don't we figure out how to golf all day and raise some money? It wasn't super human, it wasn't that much work. It maybe took 20 hours on the front end and some work collecting on the back end. But the idea was to bite off something small that you can jump in and manage—something small. It doesn't have to be huge. You can do something. Everybody has time to do something.
"I think what is true is that most people have good intentions but they don't have good actions. If they just do something the cumulative effect of that is great. What we did was nothing big, but it was one thing and it will have good impact--and it could grow into huge impact."
What Brian did seems like ‘just one thing,' but what it created was impressive.
"It already touched so many people: your coworkers [at the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance] and others at your Northwestern Mutual Life office, the folks at the White Eagle Golf Course that donated the golf, your family and friends and our organization. It opened many more doors of opportunity to let people know that the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance exists, learn about brain injury and what it means and how people are affected by it - the potential of that ‘one thing' has trickled down."
I asked Brian what he got out of this.
"A sore back!" he teased, "No, I mean it was a neat feeling because you realize how much power is involved in a small thing like that - what we can do with this concept. This event could be something that raises six figures. With the right people, the right companies supporting it in the right situation, there are so many things that can spawn off a simple day of golf with friends."
Looking back, he said, "It was overwhelming to see that you could have this huge impact without a lot of effort. I did not organize a 200 person run! I think about that. When you see the number - we're going to do ten grand - without the overhead of the traditional fundraiser."
Brian shared his sister's experience and how that affected him, his family and how it changed his perspective.
"She is 100 percent the reason why I got involved. I would like to think that I would naturally be drawn to spending more time giving back and volunteering. The reality is it's always on my 'things I want to do list,' and then after what happened to her, it became a thing on my ‘have to do list.' She really is kind of the center for all this."
Christine, who will turn 26 this September, was in her senior year as an economics major at the College of St. Benedict near St. Cloud. Five weeks from graduation, she was found unconscious by her roommates having suffered an AVM. She came out of surgery and needed to relearn everything. Today, she lives independently, works at USBank as a senior teller and is doing very well. For how unlucky she was to have this happen, she was very lucky at how she came through.
I wondered how Christine feels about Brian's participation.
"She is excited. It kind of makes her a bit uneasy because it is still recent for her. I don't know that she is uncomfortable with it, but it is easier for me to talk about it about what she's going through, than it is for her to be comfortable to talk about this stuff. It's not like shame or embarrassing. You are struggling to regain who you were, struggling to accept where you are and there is a disconnect. It's part of the grieving process. There is a lot to overcome at a young age when you are just on the edge of your life. It's a crazy thing. It is her new normal. She will go on to do great things. She will be at the Walk."
I asked Brian about how this experience has changed him or his perspective especially now that he is about to become a father.
"There are two things, I think. One: all these things that I pursue everyday, while they're important, they really don't matter. A nice suit, a nice car, a nice house; all of it doesn't really matter. What really matters when you get into it, is family. That is one thing that just opened me up. When this happened, I was 25 - the age Christine is now - and pretty selfish and I'd say still pretty selfish. But it kind of pulled me out of that age and maturity and made me more aware of what's really important.
The other thing it made me think about is that if one is fortunate, how important it is to get involved. I'm very blessed; I have a very good business, a healthy wife, and a healthy baby on the way. I don't have very many things to be upset about. Everyone has their ups and downs, but when you think about how fortunate I was to even come out of college and get a job, to think how poor I was and how hard it was.
When I compare that to my sister's experience - she was about to come out with a degree she couldn't really afford, now she can't even use the degree, and she has all this [student loan] debt. She basically had to restart her life from zero and work it all back. So how do I not figure out how to help other people?"
He added almost as an afterthought, "I just used some influence to get some dollars raised."
There are all sorts of ways to turn your talent, your passions, your desires into something good. We struggle with getting people to understand just how simple it can be. It doesn't have to be a huge commitment to do something you'd never even dreamed of doing. The Walk for Thought is a good time to check with your employer to see if they do matching donations to nonprofits or if they take part in a workplace giving program like United Way or Community Health Charities. Just doing that - a very simple thing to check into - you can help us make a difference and multiply your fundraising effort. Brian has shown us the possibility! And bottom line: his gift has made a huge difference. Yours can too!