Let me start by telling you a story.
One of the first non-profit events I ever organized was a marathon on behalf of the BC Schizophrenia Society. The goal was simple, recruit as many marathon runners as possible to raise funds for families impacted by mental illness. I was a young, energetic non-profit fundraiser who was more than up for the challenge.
After searching high and low for volunteers to join the cause, Guelda signed up — the mother of a young man with Schizophrenia. His diagnosis was severe, Schizophrenia is an often-debilitating mental illness that can cause continued psychotic episodes. Guelda and her family were absolutely devastated, but the marathon provided a way to channel that grief into something positive.
In an effort to learn more about Guelda and her reason for running, I asked her to share her story.
An excerpt from Guelda’s story – “Why I Run”
“I run because I adore my son, and I feel like he is lost to me right now. I run because of the pain, distress and distrust I see in his eyes every day. I run because I want somebody to figure this disorder out and tell me what I can do to help him.
I run because I want everyone to know about schizophrenia and what it is like to live with it, so they will have compassion and patience with those that do. I run because I want my son back, and there isn’t a whole lot else I can do other than wait and show love and support. I run to raise awareness and funds.”
The far-reaching impact of storytelling
As I sat at my desk, reading Gueda’s story, the tears started to well. A colleague came over to ask if I was okay, read the story too, and suddenly we were crying together. We felt Guelda’s sadness in our bones, as if it were our own. We were reminded just how important our work was to so many struggling families.
With a renewed sense of purpose, I got to work sharing Guelda’s story (with her permission). I shared her words with our email list, social media channels and published it on the Charity Village blog. I also organized a speaking opportunity for Guelda at an event hosted by the BMO Vancouver Marathon Society.
What transpired next was awe-inspiring. After many months of minimal support for the marathon, my inbox flooded with donations and volunteers. Many of them were Guelda’s friends and family offering their love and support. To my surprise, some of them were complete strangers who read her story and felt deeply inspired to join the cause.
Guelda’s heart-wrenching story is a powerful example of how words can light a fire that inspires empathy and action.
Thanks to Guelda and her family, the fundraising effort was a huge success. That year the BC Schizophrenia Society had 20 runners join their team and together we raised roughly $30,000 in support of families impacted by Schizophrenia.