Back in 2009, we endeavored to promote an event via CoasterBuzz for a little fundraiser at Cedar Point to benefit Give Kids The World. The next year, the event was duplicated at all of the Cedar Fair parks, coast to coast, and in Canada. It grew a little each year, and this year, collectively Coasting For Kids raised more than $109,000... a staggering amount! Coaster geeks, as it turns out, are very good fundraisers.
Two close friends have worked at GKTW, which admittedly was the reason I initially got involved, but it took all of five minutes to realize that it was the most obvious charity you could possibly promote when your audience is composed of coaster enthusiasts and you have a lot of active relationships around the amusement industry. Essentially, the village makes it possible for families of kids with life-threatening illnesses to enjoy the kind of family vacations that make memories that most of us just kind of take for granted. Since becoming a parent, even of a healthy little boy, it's ten times as important to me.
I didn't attend the event in the second year, when it spread across the parks, but I did the third year, and again today. Today, as I did the first year, I spent much of the day (and dinner last night) talking to Pam, who runs the charity. You get an interesting perspective on what they do, and what it means to really have meaning behind your job.
I can only imagine that it's difficult at times. I met a father today who lost his daughter to an illness just days before last year's event. They had been to the village prior, and he talked a bit about the gifts and memories that came out of their visit. He brought a duffle bag, with the GKTW logo on it, and it was filled with things that his daughter received on their visit. He said he hoped they could go to another child.
Looking in that bag made me incredibly sad... with everything from mouse ears to board games and small plush animals. I suspect it was difficult to some degree to keep those objects around. At the same time, it was easy to imagine a family that got to have a "normal" time for a few days, which is every bit as important to the surviving family as it was to their daughter. That's usually how I pitch it when I solicit donations... it's every bit about the families as it is the kids.
I'm proud to play a small part in a community who can have this kind of impact, but on a more personal level, this is the kind of thing that really gets me out of bed in the morning. There is so much meaningless bullshit in life on a daily basis, but when you can impact the lives of others in a positive way, whether the scope is large or small, that's what life is about to me. With each passing year, I find my focus shifting more in that direction. Today was a very good day.