Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FUNDING THE CURE - Recap & Update!

How about a little good news!?

If you're a regular follower of my blog or shop, you may remember that a little over a year ago, The Pink Ribbon Shop established The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a commitment to help FUND THE CURE for breast cancer.   To establish the Fund and keep it going, we were required to commit to donating a minimum of $20,000 to the Fund in any four-year period.  In the past, The Pink Ribbon Shop regularly donated to various organizations.  But this was an official commitment!  Could we do it?

We never imagined how successful this initiative would be!  Within the first few months, we were able to donate $10,000 to the Fund, and we were ecstatic that in such a short time, we were already halfway to our $20,000 four-year commitment.  This just ignited our passion to FUND THE CURE even more!  We brainstormed ways that we could multiply our company's donations.  We prayed that God would lead and guide us in our endeavor to make a difference.

I created The Pink Ribbon Roundup program (adorable western-themed logo and all!) in the hopes of allowing our customers to "round up" their change at checkout to be directed to our Fund as a donation.  I had seen other companies do this for other causes, and I was super excited to implement something similar at The Pink Ribbon Shop.  I thought who could really refuse to round up pennies for such a good cause?!  Unfortunately, there were limitations of our shopping cart program that would not allow this to be an option.  I even asked our software geeks if it could be done as a custom option.  Time and time again I was told that it couldn't be done (something about it not being possible on our "platform," whatever that means!)  There were private-software-company add-on programs out there, but they wanted to take 10% (and up) in "fees" from the donations.  NO THANK YOU!  This was extremely disappointing.  Seriously -- I cried.  I mean, after all, we had this really cute logo and name, and now it didn't make sense, at least not in the way I had hoped.

In the meantime, while I messed around with our shopping cart issues, God gave Danny the idea to create a special pink ribbon item whose proceeds would benefit the Fund.  Since the pink silicone bracelet bands have always been one of our top sellers, it made sense that getting a custom band made just for this purpose could be a lucrative option.  (Yay, I get to use the Pink Ribbon Roundup logo!)  Additionally, we made the purchase price of these bracelets lower than all the others ($1.00 each) ... incentive for people to purchase them over all the others.  I have to admit that this was a bit scary, from a business standpoint.  We had to trust that our business could handle this change ... undercutting our own best-selling items with an item that made no profit whatsoever.  On top of all of that, we also decided to donate the cost of the item, making the entire purchase price of this special bracelet band a donation to our Fund.  In essence, we would be using money that we would donate anyway, to purchase the custom bracelets.  Selling them = multiplying our donations!  We sold our first Funding the Cure with The Pink Ribbon Roundup silicone bracelet band on May 8, 2012.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this (not sure of the exact timing,) we also set up a way for people to donate to the Fund through other avenues.  A product page was set up whereby customers may donate $1.00, $5.00 or $10.00 to our Fund.   We also created an MD Anderson myGiving page where tax-deductible donations can be made by individuals, groups or businesses.  Trying to make it easy for anyone wanting to help fund the cure!

After exhausting the "rounding up" the change at checkout option, we decided to try a different route of having a simple question at checkout.  A "checkout question" could supposedly have a dollar amount attached to any of its answers.  Once set up, the specified dollar amount is added to the shopping cart.  But this, too, was not meant to be.  Yet another stumbling block!  Although it appeared that you could associate a dollar amount to a checkout question, it didn't work.  And we were told that it couldn't be done.  After months of back & forths and frustrations with the software geeks about rounding up and checkout questions, it looked as if neither would ever happen.  Why were my plans not working!!??  I was like, don't tell me it CAN'T be done, OF COURSE it CAN be done, you guys just won't do it!  So frustrating.  We prayed about it.  Our own efforts weren't working!  We just had to wait for God's timing.  His answer came in the form of a software update:  a dollar amount could now be associated with a checkout question's answer.  Success!  The "Donation Opportunity" was created.  To make it simple, affordable and appealing to our customers, a simple click on the "Yes I would like to donate $1.00 to The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research" box during the checkout process donates $1.00 to our Fund.  This went live on our website in July of 2012.

I want to add here that even when we think we have all the answers or best plans in life, we don't!  God has a plan for all of us.  Even our businesses!  As it turned out, the $1.00 Donation Opportunity at checkout was a much simpler and fruitful option than the "rounding up" of change.  AND, what was actually a Plan B, the Funding the Cure with The Pink Ribbon Roundup bracelets, turned out to be HUGELY SUCCESSFUL!  And as far we can see, it didn't affect our bottom line at all.  It only added thousands of dollars to our Research Fund!!!

Another exciting thing that started happening in 2012 was that groups were fundraising for our Fund!  Local schools, youth football leagues, cheer squads, and even a senior living center hosted/held events whose proceeds were donated to The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research.  We feel beyond blessed to live and work in such a generous, giving community!  Thank you, Kingwood, Texas!  There were others, outside of our community, that donated directly through our myGiving page.  We don't get all the details when that happens, but we appreciate it nonetheless!

Lastly, this past October, our Fund had its first "corporate sponsorship" of sorts.  Haydel's Bakery in New Orleans, Louisiana (our home town) created a pink ribbon king cake (for those of you who don't know, it's a New-Orleans-style pastry treat most popular during the Mardi Gras season) whose sales would benefit our Fund.  Woohoo!  May we have many, many more partnerships such as this!

I kept the Pink Ribbon Roundup as the umbrella name of our entire Funding the Cure fundraising program. No matter how you donate to our Fund, you've participated in The Pink Ribbon Roundup!

Whew!  So are you ready for the good news!?  The numbers are in!  Drumroll.....................
A whopping $31,150.22 was donated to The Pink Ribbon Shop Fund for Breast Cancer Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2012!!!  This surpasses our wildest dreams of how we would contribute to FUNDING THE CURE for breast cancer!

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! to all of our customers and everyone who contributed to the Fund in any way!  We couldn't have done it without YOU!

In just 13 months, our Research Fund at MD Anderson Cancer Center now has over $41,000 in it.  We are in the process of choosing a research project to support.  Yes, we actually get to pick one!  So, so awesome.

Thank you again, and thanks for reading.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hanging in there

Not been the best couple of weeks...

Still having pain behind knee.  As long as I do virtually no activity, I feel good.  Any time on my feet causes pain.  I am not doing well with this!  I am usually on the go and active.  I haven't exercised in months, so have gained weight and am seriously deconditioned.  I thought being home over the holidays and being able to take it easy while the kids were still off from school would be good, but it hasn't been good for my psyche.  Saw orthopedist at MDA who confirmed Baker's cyst from ultrasound report, but could see nothing on my knee x-ray that would cause the cyst (which I figured, because I'm not having any knee problems.)  So he ordered more tests:  MRI of the lumbosacral spines, MRI of right leg, and x-ray of right femur.  I've only had the MRI of the spine so far.  The others had to be rescheduled because when they were scheduled, Danny was out of town on a church youth trip.  Everything is delayed now, so I won't have the complete results and follow-up visit with the doctor for a couple more weeks.  I had a horrible initial visit with the ortho doc, so the other issue that is delaying everything is my report to the Patient Advocacy Department and a physician change request.  Uggh, long story, I'll explain later.  Very much NOT like my usual MD Anderson visits.  Oh I'm such a bad patient!

One good thing, yet bad thing, about the mymdanderson website, is that you can log in and view your medical record online.  Seven days after having any test done, you can see the report.  Generally, when I have anything done, I am seeing my doctor to get the results within that 7-day period.  But because of the ortho issue mentioned above, it's been 7+ days since my spine MRI and my doctor appointment is still a ways away.  So I looked.  I probably shouldn't have.  Of course I've always known of my bone mets to the spine from my frequent CT scans.  But the MRI report sounds awful!  Any time you start reading "widespread metastatic disease to the lumbosacral spine and posterior [bilateral] ilia," you know it can't be good.  It was very upsetting, to say the least.  I'm on chemo, but is this a new development or has it always been there, just not seen so well on my previous CT scans?  Being that I've never had an MRI of the spine, there isn't anything from my past record that can be compared to it.  Fortunately I did have an appointment with Dr. Coscio, my breast cancer oncologist, as a chemo check-in.  She made me feel a whole lot better about the MRI findings.  She showed me that the mets documented on the MRI were previously seen on the CT scans, just not in such detailed, high resolution as the MRI shows.  And also, even the documented issues in the spine and ilia do not explain the leg pain.  So, still no explanation for that.  Not time for a treatment change, yet.  Scheduled to have all my regular CT's, chest x-ray and labwork in February.  Other than my leg discomfort, I am feeling pretty good physically.  Passing my lung self-test!  Not expecting any changes in the chest department.

Mentally, though, is another story.  I think I have serious chemobrain, or else serious psychological and emotional issues.  Maybe both!  I can't remember anything anymore.  It's like I'm in a fog.  And I don't sleep well.  Don't feel like doing anything.  Danny says it's been difficult communicating with me.  And we're having trouble getting along.  I'm not nice.  Just what a cancer patient needs, is a troubled marriage, right?  It's a pretty sucky position to be in, but we are working through it.  Praying a lot, just taking it day by day.  We wouldn't have lasted over 20 years without getting through some ups and downs.  Hopefully this, too, shall pass.