I'm not the only one connecting multiple sclerosis and snowflakes.
In a recent discussion on Ravelry, non-voluntary charitable contributions in the workplace was raked over the coals. This is a sore spot for me, too, because one of my very early employers required all employees to sign paperwork donating a portion of their paycheck to the charity of the employer's choice. It was not a charity I wanted to support, and I didn't like the idea of being required to donate as a condition of employment. I was still very young at the time and in an economically depressed area; I did not want to lose my job.
I asked my dad what I should do. He (wisely) told me not to sign the paperwork until it was an ultimatum, then sign if I wanted to keep the job when the demand was presented.
By the beginning of the third month, I was in love with my job, and I did not want to be terminated. I signed the paperwork on the spot when I was called into the employer's office. I'd gotten by without making the contribution for eight weeks, and my dad said I should consider myself lucky because my co-workers probably did not think to exercise that option. He was successful in helping me put a positive spin on the problem. There were many times I was resentful of the contribution over the next couple of years while I stayed at that job, especially when I had expensive auto repairs that could have been a tiny bit easier with that money, but I did try to keep the positive attitude my dad taught me.
In the end, I knew people were helped by the money I had donated, even if I didn't like everything the charity was doing. I tried to think of it as making a difference in the world in just a small way.
In the Ravelry discussion, needleworkers complained about similar dilemmas, and some people pitched in with related charitable but non-mandatory experiences. Charitable contributions, particularly in December when pocketbooks are already stretched beyond comfort, can be a thorn in anyone's side.
Most of the Ravelry crafters seemed to agree no one likes to be backed into a charitable corner without having a say in where funds go. Some said they appreciate fun opportunities to donate to charitable causes, some said they volunteer and don't have the means to donate more than time, and some said they resent being asked to donate to participation in athletic events for charity.
Specifically, they did not want to donate to someone's exotic vacation where a portion of their donation goes to some charitable cause they may or may not support, especially if the event participant is interested only in the event and not the cause. They also expressed severe discomfort about being repeatedly badgered for donations.
This got me thinking about my own efforts to raise money to fight multiple sclerosis. Sometimes I feel as if I'm badgering readers because I have a link in the sidebar and I refer to my fundraising efforts often throughout my blog. Sometimes it feels like my quest to attain High Roller status is selfish. Sometimes even I think enough is enough. Give it a rest!
So I thought perhaps it's time to clarify a few touchy spots for those who might be uncomfortable with what I'm doing.
First and foremost, no one is required to make a donation in my behalf, and no one is required to read my blog. I wouldn't have it any other way. Yes, a donation is required to receive the pattern booklets, and there are patterns in the booklets that are not on my blog. But no one is required to donate. It's completely voluntary. And there are plenty of free snowflake patterns here for those who choose not to donate.
Although I do enjoy riding my bike and I do look forward to the High Roller benefit of no long restroom lines, I'm not in this fight for the ride only. The ride is one of my favorites because so many people with MS participate either as riders or as volunteers. I'm inspired by their courage to keep trying even though it's difficult for them. I ache for the ones who can no longer ride, and I ride for them. They spray me with cool water mist on hot days as I ride by, so I know they appreciate what I'm doing for them.
Two of my co-workers have MS, several of my friends have MS, several of my co-workers have family members with MS, and we have one family member with MS. We lost a family member to MS last year.
I want to stop this disease. I can't say that enough. I want to stop this disease! I have put together a snowflake pattern booklet each year for four years now in my own personal battle to fight multiple sclerosis on behalf of the people I know who battle the disease every day.
I design snowflakes on my own time; I have never been paid to design a pattern. I buy my own thread and crochet hooks; no yarn or thread manufacturer has ever sponsored me. I pay my own way into my event. I donate to my own fund. I donate to the fundraising efforts of others. I train on my own time, I buy all my own supplies and pay for required maintenance in order to participate. I host an annual ice cream social at the office where I work, and I buy the ice cream and toppings. My office provides the kitchen, bowls, spoons and soapy water for clean-up.
My co-workers are not required to donate, and they are not required to eat ice cream. They do have to put up with my annual plea to help support the cause, but I think because we have two co-workers suffering from MS, the rest of the office doesn't mind the annual event. I know they look forward to the ice cream and social opportunity!
When the MS-150 (now called Bike MS) actually occurs in June, I pay out-of-pocket for our overnight hotel room in the host town.
Every dime donated in my name goes straight to the Colorado/Wyoming Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I do not take even one penny and never would. All donations are tax-deductible. For the record, all the money I donate is tax deductible, too, as is the money I spend on ice cream for the annual social. The hotel room probably is tax deductible, too, but I've never tried to claim that.
All of the organized rides I have participated in benefit charitable causes, with the exception of the Pikes Peak climb I attempted (but did not acheive) twice. That ride was commercial but did not turn a profit and has now been sold to another entity. We participated in that ride the first two years it was offered because that was the only way a cyclist could try to climb Pikes Peak back then. Pikes Peak now is open to cyclists year-round, and I'll probably try getting up it again on my own once I've properly trained.
We haven't participated in other commercial organized rides because we can ride without supporting a charity almost every day. We don't want to have to pay just to ride. When we join an organized ride, it's because we want to do something to make a difference in the world. We get the benefit of keeping our bodies healthy while we are doing it, and that's a big plus. But we can do that every day of the week without paying for more than bicycle maintenance.
So far, the only charitable ride we participate in that requires us to raise money in order to participate is the MS-150. I had hoped one day to ride the coast of California in support of arthritis because I battle that disease on a daily and sometimes hourly basis, but that particular ride might not ever be financially feasible for us, and that's okay, because I can help in other ways.
So for now, my MS-150 fundraising drive is the only one I'm doing, and I appreciate the tolerance readers have provided and the donations crocheters have made. Nearly every week, I receive an email from someone I've never met thanking my husband and me for what we do.
And that's why I keep doing it. Well, that and because I hope one day all this will lead to a cure...