Inflammatory Breast Cancer and The Fundraisers That Can Help
The Bigoski family presents a check to Ginny Mason, Executive Director of the IBC Research Foundation during the 2006 bowling day. (l to r: Amanda & Tom Bigoski, Ginny Mason, Jack & Julie Bigoski, Stephen Bigoski, Amy Bigoski Saporetti and Mike Saporetti)
When Julie and Jack Bigoski of Eagleville, Pennsylvania, learned about her inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) diagnosis in 2003, they were devastated. Although she is a registered nurse and he is a pharmacist, they had never heard about this aggressive form of breast cancer. Jack headed to the computer and found the website of the IBC Research Foundation: www.ibcresearch.org. He joined the mailing list and asked questions about treatments. He also called the toll free number 1-877-STOP IBC and talked to Ginny Mason, the IBC Research Foundation's executive director.
Jack says talking to Ginny calmed him down and "made me feel more at ease." Julie continued her work as a nurse throughout most of her eight months of treatment, and the whole family pulled together. As the first anniversary of Julie's cancer diagnosis rolled around, her son Tom wanted to do a fundraiser to help the organization that helped his family. The IBC Research Foundation provides information and support to IBC patients through a mailing list and toll free number, and it pushes for research into this little understood cancer.
Tom and his brother Steve brainstormed possible fundraising ideas and came up with a Bowl-a-thon. It seemed simple. People would pay $25 dollars each for three hours of bowling on teams five per lane. The Bigoskis would pay the bowling alley $25 per lane, and net about $100 per team for the Foundation. None of the participants would have to solicit donations or compete for prizes. All they had to do was show up and have a good time. That first year the family raised $9,656 for the Foundation.
The idea grew beyond their wildest imagination. Many of the people who come are not regular bowlers. Some don't even keep score, but they fill the lanes with laughter.
This year the Bigoskis have already sold out all 50 lanes at the alley. They raise money not only with the bowling, but with corporate sponsors and raffles. Everyone in the family has a role. Julie's daughter and son-in-law Amy and Mike Saporetti write and put together the program. Steve created the logo and maintains a website about the bowl-a-thon, www.ibcbowling.com.
Julie's sister and nephew Jeannie and Jeffrey Messantonio call on local businesses for sponsorships and donations of raffle prizes. Jack does the data entry for the donations, and Julie tries to keep all the raffle prizes and the gift bag supplies in some kind of order in their dining room.
In the first four years of bowling, they raised $80,328. This year Julie is in treatment for a recently diagnosed metastasis of her cancer, but the event is still on. This year they hope to go over $100,000. Pretty impressive for a family fundraiser! In a recent phone conversation with Jack and Julie, I asked for advice for other people who might want to raise money for their favorite cancer charity.
Here are their suggestions:
1. Have a strong desire to help. The project will probably be bigger and harder than it sounds.
2. Divide the labor. Everyone needs to have a clear role. No one can do it all.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for money. "All they can say is ‘no'", says Jack, "and if you are nice about it, maybe they'll say ‘yes'" next year." But usually the Bigoskis don't hear "no" for an answer. Jack says over 75% of the time they get a donation of cash or an in-kind gift.
4. Start with the contacts you know. Tom knows people who work with the Philadelphia Eagles, and every year the team items the Eagles donate draw great interest in the raffle. Everyone calls on their employers for gifts in kind or donations.
5. Keep careful records to document where every penny comes from and where every penny goes. The Bigoskis make it clear that the money is not for them but for a recognized charity. All checks are made directly to the IBC Research Foundation, and if people hand Jack twenty-dollar bills to buy raffle tickets on the day of the event, he's nervous until he gets it properly receipted and documented.
6. Use your event to raise awareness. The Bigoskis give every bowler a gift bag with a T-shirt, brochures about IBC, pink ribbon items and pencils with the Foundation's web address.
If you are in Norristown, PA August 16, drop in at the Facenda-Whitaker Lanes. The bowling spots are sold out, but you could still win a prize in the raffle. You could also meet an amazing family-the Bigoskis.