Raising a Glass to Raise Funds
By Tim Meadows
Each year we hold a memorial fundraiser for our scholarship fund, the Christopher Meadows Memorial EMS Education Fund. It is equal parts a memorial to our son and a fundraiser for paramedic and EMT scholarships that our fund awards.
We chose a wine tasting and silent auction format, which works well for the 200 guests we have each year. For a modest ($30-40) registration fee, they get to taste wines from 6 local wineries (who donate the wine) which are paired with appetizers, and they get a commemorative wine glass etched with our fund’s logo. Recently we added craft beer to the event. We intentionally keep the fee low so as to not discourage the first responder community from attending, and in hopes that people will spend their money bidding on the 150-200 items we collect for the silent auction. We have been very fortunate to be the benefactors of incredible community generosity
The fundraiser costs are defrayed through sponsorship donations from local affiliated organizations such as the local ambulance company, hospitals, emergency physicians groups, firefighters’ unions and such. We even get free advertising from the local TV station and newspaper. Before the event, I send out letters to anyone who has contributed $100 or more in the past. I also send emails (using MailChimp) to our database over 600 names encouraging them to register online for the event (using EventBrite) or donate if they cannot attend. It may seem a bit pesky, but if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Featured Fund – The Mary Lou Fisher Memorial Fund
A Lifetime of Caring
Growing up, Mary Lou Fisher (née Schulz) had starry-eyed dreams of becoming a traveling nurse.
After graduating high school in 1962, she moved from her small farm town in Iowa to nursing school in St. Louis where she earned a Diploma in Nursing from Lutheran Hospital Medical Center in 1965. Her 50-year nursing career took her to various hospitals across four states (Missouri, Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland) and in various capacities.
In the 1980’s Mary Lou decided it was time to return to school to further her dream. While still working full-time and raising three teenage children she attended East Carolina University and received her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.
After moving to Baltimore in 1989, she transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital where she served as a nurse in the Emergency Department, largely caring for patients from Baltimore’s inner city.
Her pursuit of education didn’t stop there, and in 1996 she earned a Master’s of Science in Nursing from the Johns Hopkins University School and become a nurse practitioner.
In 2006 her childhood dream of working internationally became a reality with an opportunity to work with Samaritan’s Purse, a medical and missionary non-profit that sent her to over 24 countries including Haiti, Kosova, Afghanistan, and Western Sudan. She provided general care, nutritional assessments, and training to indirect and direct victims of war, poverty, natural disaster, and disease.
In honor of her incredible life, the Mary Lou Fisher Memorial Fund was established by her three children. She cared for so many others throughout her 50-year long career, and this fund seeks to continue that legacy. After announcing the fund at a memorial in Baltimore, the family plans to host an annual event there to remember her life’s work.
This fund will benefit organizations she loved, many of which she worked for, and will carry on the legacy of these four life principles:
- You should always care for your fellow human beings, no matter color, country of origin, creed, economic status, religion, or sex.
- You’re never too old to do anything (including earning your Master’s degree at age 52).
- Never become jaded.
- Pass on what you have learned, be a mentor.
Good Lives, Well Remembered:
How a Founder Grows With an Organization
I created CharitySmith in memory of my dad, Douglas F. Smith, who was killed in a commercial airplane crash at Aspen Airport in 1970. We know that CharitySmith is committed to the creation and management of memorial funds and since its inception in 1994, the intention of CharitySmith has been to honor the memory of a loved one by helping others achieve their dreams.
Our first endeavor, the Douglas F. Smith Memorial Fund, was created to assist students, artists, and athletes. I know my father would be proud of the work we have accomplished and the change we have made possible for families across the country. By contributing to the lives of others, we remember and honor the lives of those who have passed.
I am committed to the growth and continuous improvement of operations in support of the mission at CharitySmith. My focus now is on growing our board to reflect a great cross section of philanthropists and business professionals. It is exciting and inspiring to manage the growth of our organization and to see the positive change created in communities as a result of the work of our Fund Administrators. Each Fund Administrator is first someone who has loved and lost, someone who desires to do good in the memory of their loved one, and someone who has taken action as a result of their loss. I couldn’t be in better company.
Please join me in celebrating our success as an organization and in looking toward a future where we continue to honor the lives of those lost while make a positive difference.
I never intended to start a national organization. The intent was much more simple than that… to honor the memory of my father, who, as time went on, was slowly becoming more of the past and less of my present. A memorial fund offered the opportunity to honor and remember him. So I created one. That was nearly 25 years ago.
What wasn’t apparent back then, and is so clearly evident now, is that so many people want to honor their loved ones with a memorial fund. People came to me with questions, “How do I do for my loved one, what you did for your father’s memory?”
We now administer over 150 memorial funds and millions of dollars. The cumulative goodness of people’s desire to edify others thru constructive grief still amazes me. CharitySmith is a testament to the beautiful efforts of genuine people making contributions to the goodness of this world.
What now? It’s necessary for us to further build together. The group’s future is in communication and community. We must share with each other our successes and our missteps as memorial fund administrators.I envision a future at CharitySmith with an annual administrator retreat and conference. A time to learn from each other, inspire and motivate. A gathering for all of us to share our stories, our missions, and our hopes. And in doing so, become a tighter knit community that makes even greater contributions to the lives of others. With Stacey Spain as our new executive director, and with the high-quality memorial fund administrators that we continue to attract, I believe this will all happen.
Brooks H. Rohlen, MD