I’ve always been happy to help people out when asked, but I’ve never considered myself particularly pro-active about it. I’ve supported causes, but I’ve always just kind of fallen into them…the causes have found me…and really, how hard is it to stand on stage and sing a few songs at a fundraiser, or donate a few CDs to a charity auction?
But over the past few years of touring and performing at charity events, I have been spending a lot of time with people who have accomplished incredible things, just through the power of their own passion and vision. They’re just normal people like you and me – not celebrities, not people with any qualifications or experience for event planning. But they have built fundraisers from the ground up…dreamed them up while sitting at their day job…recruited volunteers…asked for help…worked tirelessly…and ended up creating something that has changed people’s lives.
So when I found out that my friends and co-writers Rachel Proctor and John Lancaster were struggling under the weight of the medical debt for their baby Olivia’s heart surgeries (she was born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot), the first thing that crossed my mind was that somebody should put on a benefit show for them. And then I thought…wait…why does it have to be someone else? What if I actually took responsibility to try and change things for this family?
Over the next few weeks as I planned the event, there were a lot of little doubting voices in my head, saying things like: “What qualifies YOU to do something like this? What right do you have to think you could take this responsibility on? Surely somebody else could do a better job. What if you botch this and ruin this family’s chance for getting proper help? What makes you think anyone is going to call you back when you ask them to contribute? How much do you wanna bet that this whole thing is going to fall apart at the last minute because you don’t know what you’re doing? I bet nobody’s even going to come to the event.”
Well, the doubting voices were wrong. People came, and the seats were filled. Six massive hit songwriters called me back when I asked them for help, and they performed their songs for the cause out of the goodness of their hearts. Gary Allan agreed to headline the show, and also to meet and greet two auction winners who paid over $1000 each for the opportunity. Facebook friends from far and near donated at the fundraising site we built online, many of whom had no connection whatsoever with Baby Olivia or her family. Twenty-five people donated their services and items to a silent auction that raised thousands of dollars. Audience members donated at the door – some gave as much as $1000 – because we didn’t ask for a cover charge, we just asked people to give whatever they could.
Now that the event is finished, and with just a couple of online auctions left to close, we have raised over $16,000 for Olivia’s fund. That’s enough to pay her existing medical bills off entirely, and to save a little towards her final heart catheterization scheduled for this summer.
Yesterday, Rachel texted me and said “I woke up this morning and felt like a giant weight has been lifted off my chest.” She and John have been in tears, unable to find the words to express their gratitude. But the truth is, I’m the one who’s grateful.
I’m grateful for the little voice that said “Vic, why don’t YOU do it?” I’m grateful for a huge network of friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers who answered when I asked them for help. I’m grateful for the chance to stand with Baby Olivia in my arms beside a stage full of incredible performers and feel her little head rest against my shoulder, almost like she knows that I’ve been a part of something that will make her life better.
I’m grateful for the knowledge that you don’t have to try to change the world, because the world is changed when you just help one person. Kindness brings kindness. Love brings more love. And because all you can leave behind when you’re gone is the mark you have made on other people’s lives, so it’s nice to think that my little mark will be carried around next to the surgical scars somewhere inside Olivia’s tiny, beautiful, incredibly strong heart.
For more information about baby Olivia, or to donate online, visit http://www.youcaring.com/oliviasfund