On a chilly evening in mid-March, I was sitting at my dining room table. The table had piles of coloured papers, stickers, envelopes, a surprise gift and stamps on the surface. I’m stuffing envelopes with some family members. This is the assembly line effort to put together my annual JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) fundraising letters. Each year I send out approximately 200 letters to my wonderful sponsors. Each campaign is created with a specific theme and slogan and is based on a personal motivation.

The JDRF annual Walk to Cure Type 1 Diabetes fundraiser event was scheduled for Sunday, June 14th, 2020. This year would mark my 40th year of involvement with JDRF. I love this organization. We have a lot of history together. It’s my goal to help cure diabetes, hopefully within my lifetime.

Back at the table, I was writing personalized messages on the campaign letters in permanent marker. To my right, the letter was then being stuffed into an envelope with a donation sheet, a special gift, sealed, stamped, and stickered. Eventually to be placed into a mailing box for the big post office deposit on April 1st. The letter stuffing team was situated around the dining room table. Everyone had a specific wonderful role to play in creating these passionate letters.

We were about half way done in assembling the letters when I received an email from the JDRF Montreal office.

Due to the current pandemic, we are not certain about holding the annual walk in June.

My stomach dropped…STOP THE ASSEMBLY!

I waited a week or two.

Then it was definite; the walk was cancelled this year. I felt horrible.

Now what am I going to do with my beautiful letters? How are we going to raise funds this year? How are we going to finance research?

Stay home. Stay safe. These were the real time priorities.

With dismay, I looked at my half-finished campaign letters for weeks. April 1st came and went. I didn’t want to box the campaign as I thought maybe something would be resolved. Maybe something would lift this situation.

It was definite…

There would be no letter campaign. No Walk to Cure Diabetes event. Stay tuned as something was going to happen. Not sure what it’s going to be, but head office is currently working on it.

So, I boxed up my campaign letters and cleaned up my dining room table to make room for a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Disappointing. The first time in 40 years… I guess there is always a first for everything.

I felt like crap. Worried. Anxious. Fearful. I couldn’t fall asleep. I wasn’t eating much. I just didn’t feel any motivation. I was jammed. We are in a serious situation. Stay home. Stay safe continued.

NEWS!!!

On June 14th, JDRF will be hosting an online event called, “JDRF House ParT1D for a Cure”. Many celebrities, sports personalities, community members and fundraisers will join an online Canada-wide party. Bringing together the community to help educate, support, and raise funds for T1D research.

After hearing the new party plan, I was still unmotivated. How was I going to raise funds when I wasn’t being my creative and passionate self?

The JDRF office asked me to do my magic. Problem was I couldn’t find my top hat and magic wand. I didn’t even want to look for them.

I continued to work on the damn puzzle.

My dear friend Jessica Carter from the Montreal JDRF office called me. “How ya doin?” she asked. My response was, “Nothin. I don’t feel like doing anything. This online stuff is not the way I roll. I just can’t do this with the same motivation. I can’t get started. I feel like crap.”

Jessica said, “Send out a few emails. You know the way you write them. See what happens.”

I agreed to do that.

I composed a sweet email letter to my sponsors. I set up my personal and Team Suzie’s Sweethearts fundraising pages. In June 2019, our team raised over $35,000. I figured this year was unlike any other year, so I went the hope of raising $20,000.

I pressed send to 50 of my dearest and most committed sponsors. Surprisingly, within 15 minutes I received a bunch of donations. I also received emails asking where the annual spring letters were. I had to explain the cancellation of The Walk to Cure Diabetes and the boxing of my letter campaign. I was sad to repeat this explanation over and over again.

The good news was, regardless of how the campaign was presented, my most committed sponsors still donated to the JDRF House ParT1D Event.

I sent out another 50 emails to more wonderful sponsors. More donations came in with lovely messages.

My motivation was starting to lift. 50 more emails went out and then I started to post our fundraising event on many social media platforms. Within a month we had surpassed $20,000 and now we were inching our way towards $25,000. I continued to share more social media postings about our team. My amazing team partner, Gayle Fransham is a social media wizard. She was auctioning off prizes and creating contests. Suddenly, we were closing in on $30,000!

I honestly could not believe what was going on. I sent out 50 more emails. More donations were coming in and we were getting closer to reaching $35,000. This was a huge marker as it was the amount we raised last year. Then the most beautiful thing happened. One of my students donated for the second time! As she said, “I wanted to push you over the ledge.” That morning we achieved over $35,000 in donations! I cried like a baby. How could this be? Who would’ve thought this was even possible?

On the morning of June 14th, a small group of my team Suzie Sweetheart’s gathered at my home. It was a perfect day to take a lovely walk. We walked a minimum of 5 kilometers around the community in our team t-shirts, It’s All About the Goal, #1 Goal – Cure Diabetes JDRF. In our own way, we completed the Walk to Cure Diabetes. We created our own mini JDRF event. It was a glorious day to walk for the fabulous amount of $35,000!

After the walk, like every year, I cried tears of gratitude.

Whatever spoiled the world this year did not spoil our spirits and our determination to do what we do, walk to raise money to help find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

The next day, I posted our team’s efforts and success on social media. I wanted to share our joy.

But…that wasn’t the end of the campaign. For two more weeks, our team kept on receiving donations. Our original goal of $20,000 was achieved and reset to $35,000, but now we were inching towards $40,000! Again, my eyes could not believe what I was seeing.

Two weeks after the June 14th event, I am so proud to say, in my 40th year with JDRF; our team raised over $40,000!

Since then, I have cried many, MANY more tears of gratitude.

Never in my life have I ever experienced so much joy from the human spirit of kindness and generosity.

What I thought was going to be a very difficult fundraising campaign, with all the disappointments, lack of motivation, lower expectations, ended up being none of the above.

In my wildest of dreams, I could have never imagined raising more than $40,000 in this beyond challenging year.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me and my team make this year and all the previous campaigns successful:

  • 1. To the beautifully creative people who have helped me create my fun campaigns.
  • 2. To the dedicated and devoted envelope stuffers. You da best!
  • 3. To the JDRF office Staff who makes my crazy dreams come true.
  • 4. To JDRF’s amazing Jessica Carter, my 2:00 a.m. call! We are crazy together!
  • 5. To the sweet postal worker who smiles at me every year when I bring in my box of letters.
  • 6. To my passionate Suzie’s Sweethearts teammates and walkers who show up rain or shine and the newbies who have joined us along the way.
  • 7. To my spectacular teammate Gayle Fransham, we couldn’t have reached these heights without you!
  • 8. To my wonderful family who has supported my JDRF fundraising year after year, in rain and sun, warmth and cold, including my annoying drumroll announcements.
  • 9. To the incredible sponsors who have donated year after year after year. Your dedication to this cause surpasses my efforts. I love you!
  • 10. To everyone who has read my articles and followed our campaigns and supported us along the way.

I THANK YOU ALL!!!! I THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!

I am humbled, grateful and honoured.

You are the rainbows in my life.

I hope next year, I will be able to send you my Love Letters and we will be able to celebrate 40 together years in the best of times.

— Suzanne Reisler Litwin

— AB

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