- This blog post was written by Lexi Powers -
Stress. As a college undergraduate, you cannot imagine a life that’s more stressful: difficult classes, extra-curricular activities, sports, job applications, even boys.
Then life gives you a peek at what real stress is and it changes you forever.
Anna is a 34-year old mother of two whose world changed in an instant. One day she’s a financially-stable preschool teacher. The next day she’s battling a rare cancer. Anna moves to Atlanta for an aggressive three-month treatment. She has to quit her job, and her family faces both substantial medical bills and the added living expenses of her stay in Atlanta. They go into debt and Anna finds herself fighting for her life and worried about how to make ends meet.
That’s where I enter the story. It was Christmas Eve 2014 and I was preoccupied with buying last minute gifts, packing to visit family and studying. When my mom woke me to say we were running a 5K, I wasn’t sure how to fit it all in my day. And as it seems to happen, the best opportunities present themselves in unexpected moments.
When I completed the race, I noticed people donating money and asked what cause it was benefitting. It was going toward A Giving Spirit Foundation (AGSF), and the woman I asked was a board member. She told me that AGSF was a non-profit founded in my hometown of Davidson that provides grants for expenses like rent and utilities that allow mothers facing life-threatening illnesses to focus on their family and health. Unfortunately, AGSF struggles to fund the high amount of requests they receive. Anna is a perfect example of a mother who AGSF assists, but the help that she so desperately needed was almost denied her due to insufficient funds. I asked how I could help.
This started an extended conversation, which ultimately resulted in the formation of the AGSF Teen Council.
In early February, just a few weeks after that initial conversation, I found myself elected chair of the new Teen Council, consisting a group of 11 teenagers from area schools, that brainstormed ideas for a new fundraiser for AGSF. After exploring many options, we landed on one concept: “Walk Around the Clock.”
This walk was an event where teams of teenagers pledged to walk around the Town Green for 24 hours. A fundraiser like this had never been done here. To make this a reality, I led a diverse committee of peers, gained approval from city officials, solicited donations, addressed risk management concerns and managed complex event logistics like timeline and facility design. I had no idea what a time commitment this would be.
But yet here we were, 11 teenagers who would’ve never told you we had any time to give in our stressed lives, enthusiastically dedicating countless hours to this project because we couldn’t imagine disappointing mothers like Anna.
All those hours and stress were worth it. We set an aggressive goal to raise $3,000. When we deposited our final check, we had raised over $12,000. Because of this, AGSF was able to fully fund Anna’s request and many others’ like hers. I’ve never been so proud of an accomplishment. Yet, as important as that is, it is nothing compared to how it feels to see this event continue long after I left, even though I knew it would. Because people saw how successful the Council and Walk were, there’s now an incredible interest in joining committees. We are aggressively seeking ways to improve upon our past successes, and our successors are currently being trained with the singular focus of ensuring the legacy of this organization and event. Since the initial walk, we have executed five more successful events raising hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively for women and families suffering from debilitating diseases.
Stress. I thought I knew what stress was. I thought it was balancing exams and career planning. Those things are stressful, but compared to a woman trying to figure out how to keep a roof over her kids’ heads, I’ll take an exam or paper any day of the week.
Supported by a Robert E. Bryan Fellowship from the APPLES Service-Learning Program, an offering of the Carolina Center for Public Service at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.