by Kent Wellington, Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/10/16
Give First. It's a simple mantra. It also works. As we enter the ubiquitous pink October, a growing group of friends and, more importantly, their children, have tapped into the greatest untapped resource in our nation: generosity.
It's not that we're not generous as a nation. In fact, we're statistically the most generous country on earth on a variety of levels. It's just that there is so much more we can do. If we think Give First.The Karen Wellington Foundation for Living with Breast Cancer is less a foundation and more an attitude. KWF spends no money on a cure. Not a dime. Instead, we focus on the healthy side of families living with breast cancer and put some fun on their calendars. Vacations, spa days, concerts, sporting events. Fun stuff only.
It started 10 years ago with a decision to give one vacation to a family living with breast cancer when Karen passed away at age 40 after 10 years of living with breast cancer. One vacation turned into three. Three turned into six. And then we got lift and started to fly.
KWF is a bit of an anti-cancer foundation. We have no rules. We're as unfair as cancer is. We're also not just for the sickest or the poorest. We are not the grim reaper. Just the opposite. KWF looks for women who are not done living yet. It has been more than 50 years (and $500 billion) since President Nixon declared our country's War on Cancer in 1971. We're financially supporting, hoping and praying for a cure. But we're not waiting. We know there are too many Karens out there who will likely not be around for a cure.
At our core, KWF is God-led, friend-fueled, fun-focused and, make no mistake about it, girl-powered. We'll do over 70 special vacations in 2016 alone, not to mention scores of spa days with sisters and Bruce Springsteen concerts with best friends. Although 30 percent of our vacations this year will be "last" vacations, the majority of our recipients also join in the giving fun. They nominate a friend next to them in the chemo chair, or they ask that neighbor with a vacation home to give KWF a week a year. What we've unintentionally created is a very healthy cycle of receiving and giving – which living with cancer and, life really, is all about.
We also have included our children along the way. We have college fraternities that do annual cheese coney contests or "date auctions" to put some fun on the calendars of UC or Miami University families living with cancer. Kindergarten classes do pink lemonade stands. A group of high school field hockey players gave up their Senior Night, a night usually about me, to send the school's beloved custodian and his wife living with breast cancer to the beach. I don't think I've ever seen a group of high school students happier. State sports championships or homecoming dances are no match for a young person learning the power of Give First.
Give First cuts through all the negativity. It's the great paradox of life: The more we give, the richer are our lives. KWF now has chapters in Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and San Diego – each started by a friend who approached us and applied a Give First attitude to families living with cancer in their own communities.
So when you see all the pink this October, don't just dream about a cure for cancer. Think Give First. Frankly, the reason we'll do more than 70 vacations in 2016, as opposed to 50 in 2015, is because 20 more vacation homeowners were asked to give us a week and they said sure. That allowed us to move some very deserving families off our waiting list and onto a beach, mountaintop or peaceful place somewhere. Yes, we collectively dipped a little deeper into our community's very deep pool of generosity. We think we can go a lot deeper together.