It's a simple mantra. It also works. As we enter our 13th year of GIVING, our 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 13 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've given over 800 special vacations, spa days and gifts of fun since 2007. Not to mention scores of FUN nights out with sisters, staycations, trips to Chicago, Pink, Bruce Springsteen, ZZ Top concerts with best friends and so much more. Although 30 percent of our vacations are "last" vacations, the majority of our recipients return with an attitude of Give First. 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. Kindergarten classes do pink lemonade stands. A group of high school field hockey players gave up their Senior Night, a night usually self focused, 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. As they grown up, bake sales turn in to cheese coney contests at college fraternities. When they enter the work force, they have the mind and heart (and now a platform) to 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. And our chapters are growing as well. Each one 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 think of your friend, sister or co-worker who may be having the worst year of her life because of a cancer diagnosis, don't just dream about a cure for cancer. Think Give First. Our over 100 generous vacation home donors do that every year. That allows 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.
Kent Wellington is board chair of the Karen Wellington Foundation for Living with Breast Cancer and a partner at Graydon Law Firm
This (edited) article was originally published in the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2016.