A volunteering story by: Jeremy Tecktiel
Tom didn’t know much about nonprofits, and he needed to choose a charity to donate his book sales. He knew that Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the leading organization in leukemia research, so he reached out to them first. Tom learned about the amazing advances in research that were stalled inside of biotech companies because they had low potential to make these companies a profit. Among many other things, LLS funds the development of these advances so they’ll be available for those that need it, regardless of profit. Tom was excited about this work, and thought, “This is something tangible my readers can really get amped about investing in.” Tom describes LLS as being incredibly easy to work with. He was able to get a real window into the workings of the nonprofit. Tom felt the need to continue Amy’s selflessness, so he decided to donate all the proceeds from the eventual hopeful sale of his book to charity. With this decision, Tom became a volunteer. He volunteered his skills at writing and connecting with people on the page, he volunteered his time, an he volunteered his money to help others that are dealing with similar struggles. Tom loved writing and went to school for journalism, so this was the perfect way to donate his time to a cause he feels very strongly about. Even though his book doesn’t necessarily directly help a single organization or charity, he feels that, if published, it will help raise awareness and maybe help find a cure. “You never know who will read your book and be inspired by it.”
When Tom Lenz was seventeen, his girlfriend, Amy, was a pretty, very intelligent girl with a smile that could light up a room and a constantly optimistic outlook on life that brightened Tom’s own broody poetic moods. So when Amy was diagnosed with leukemia, and when it became clear that she would not survive, Tom struggled to understand how such a fate could take such a wonderful person. They grew closer over the course of Amy’s illness, depending on each other and becoming adults before either of them were ready. When Amy passed away, Tom knew this experience would shape the rest of his life.
Tom decided to start writing a book that chronicles that time with Amy and how the disease that brought them so close together also took them apart. He wrote it for Amy, and he wrote it for himself. “I wanted a record of Amy’s life through my eyes,” he says. “I wanted other people to know her and understand her courage.” For some, perhaps, writing a book would have been catharsis enough, but Tom knew he had to do more. Amy inspired Tom to think about other people. “When she was announced terminal,” he says, “Amy requested that any useful remains be donated to science and to the cause. To help other people avoid her fate.” Amy hadn’t been outside in weeks, which is actually years in hospital time, so she skipped as we walked along. I can still see her now, in her sky blue slippers with the white clouds on them, stopping every so often to smell a flower or touch the leaves of a tree. She looked like she was in a fairy tale.
The Aha! moment…
Tom used to have a lot of doubts about nonprofit organizations, but now he knows how effective they can be. “Having always worked in the for-profit sector,” he says, “I used to think of nonprofits as bureaucratic and not well run.” Now he’s become much more informed and less jaded about what’s actually being done on the ground to fight leukemia. Not only that, he’s more likely to encourage other business leaders to learn about nonprofits and to find common ground with an organization that they could potentially help. Tom is now in the process of getting the book he wrote published. This will help not only his own career, but will also provide more exposure for what LLS is doing. His dream is for the book to become a bestseller and LLS to reap the benefits. As he says, “I’d like to have a more significant contribution to make to the doctors and researchers battling leukemia.” By giving of his time and talent, Tom will surely accomplish his goal.
To summarize it in three words…
- love, loss, memories
Why should you do this
I recommend that everyone find a way to volunteer that they can be passionate about. Everyone knows someone affected by a disease and their stories need to be told because that is how they will live on.