Despite being the Benefit Coordinator, 90% of the time I never meet people who plan benefits for TWLOHA. But sometimes I do. As I stepped off the plane at Cincinnati Airport (which is in Kentucky, I discovered), I was very excited for the chance to visit 2 new states, our fall intern Lindsey who helped with the event, and also for the rare opportunity to meet the benefit organizers of Fashion for the Cure.
Fashion for the Cure is an annual fashion show at a high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was in its sixth year of existence, but this year is the first time it benefited TWLOHA along with the local chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
I first got an email from Tricia, one of the co-organizers, way back in July 2011 and was immediately blown away by the level of advance planning and her attention to detail. After corresponding with their advisor quite a few times, we set the plan for my arrival. Months later, the day was finally here.
We arrived at the school around 3p.m., giving us 3 hours of set up time before the doors opened. The raffles were set up, decorations were hung, and there was a nervous but good energy throughout the room and the planning team. I noticed the banners — quotes from our vision, displayed for all to see. “The vision is hope, and hope is real.” I was inspired by how clearly these girls and the parent volunteers embodied that message. They were fighting to spread hope and to break the silence that surrounded suicide at their school.
Standing in the room setting up our table, I was struck by the memory of the first experience that set me on the path that led me to this moment. Haley and Tricia reminded me of me — when I was in high school, I was on the executive team for planning a similar benefit to spread hope in a different way.
Almost exactly 5 years later, I still clearly remember setting up for that event, all the hours upon hours of time that went into preparations and details. At 17, I had the privilege of sharing a positive message with my community, and now I had the experience of watching a new generation of high school seniors do the same. There are a lot of people who don’t take high school students seriously, but I can tell you first-hand that Fashion for the Cure is just one example of the many, many wonderful events I’ve seen planned primarily by high school students. I am impressed every single time.
There were over 500 people at Fashion for the Cure that night. It was by far the largest and most profitable benefit ever hosted for TWLOHA, raising more than $25,000 in just one night, half going to TWLOHA and the other half to AFSP. Regardless of the numbers, the thing I was most impressed with was the speech given by one of the students.
He just got up on stage in front of all those people and told his story, honest and true. He had struggled with suicide and many other things, he said, eventually spending six months in an in-patient treatment facility. He was fortunate, he noted, to have had the support of his parents, counselors, and friends; not everyone is that lucky, he told us, which is why it was important to talk about these issues and let people know that hope and help are real. Nothing I said that night, nothing the AFSP psychiatrist said, could have possibly been more powerful and important than what this young guy in high school said. I didn’t get the chance to meet him, but I am truly privileged to have been in that room and heard his words.
Supporter hosted benefits like Fashion for the Cure financially support the other programs of TWLOHA, while also bringing awareness to communities throughout the country and throughout the world. They’ve taken the shape of fashion shows, concerts, art exhibits, 5K Walk/Runs, penny drives, friendship bracelet sales, bake sales, and more. I’ve had the honor of working with more than 117 organizers and their benefits since I started at TWLOHA part-time just over a year ago, with another 20 or so in the works right now.
Every day I hear the most amazing stories of why people have chosen to begin to fundraise for us and why it’s important to them that the message of hope reach their community. If you’re thinking about hosting a benefit for TWLOHA, or want more information, I’d love to hear from you, too! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell me what you’re thinking, how you want to bring our story to your community. We list all events on our Events to Benefit TWLOHA page on Facebook — come “like” us to find out about upcoming benefits in your area!
Five years ago, running around organizing my own fundraiser as a high school student, I never thought that one event would bring my heart so close to fundraising and event planning that it became my job. Consider hosting a benefit and maybe you’ll surprise yourself, too.