Monday, August 8, 2011

A new chapter

This weekend I was a part of something wonderful and I wanted to share it with you. I’ve been running a support group for special needs families for almost 3 years now and have been doing it as a one-woman show pretty much the entire time. I have always been happy to do it because I know that the group is needed in my area, and frankly, I need the support for myself. Each meeting I get to connect with great people. No matter the diagnosis, we all share similar struggles. And, many of the attendees I can now call my friends. The whole thing is a true blessing to me.

The best part is that I have an opportunity to learn something new at each meeting. The speakers always have great information to share and I soak it up like a sponge. I have a desire to learn, not only for myself, but for the sake of my children. This should come as no surprise. I was always a nerdy kid and got really good grades. I even went back to college (before kids!) to get my Master’s degree because I thought it would be fun. I still get weird looks about that one, especially when people learn that it wasn’t to gain fame and fortune or an executive position somewhere. I just like school, I guess. Yes, I know I’m strange.
As an aside, I’ll tell ya what that fancy and very expensive degree got me in the job department...nada. Zip. Zilch. I’ve always found a job easily, but even with an MBA and an extensive job search in the past year, I got nothin.’
I am a self-proclaimed busy body and not having a job when our family could use some financial help is not my idea of fun. To make myself feel better, I always find ways to stay busy and do work (even if it is unpaid). Helloooo, can you say blogging? Anyway, I got to thinking about how I could create my own job doing what I love. I’ve found that my mindset has changed drastically since my boys’ diagnosis. My heart is truly in the special needs community now. It’s what I am passionate about. I mean, how can I not be passionate about something that affects me every single day?

Since I started the group I’ve met hundreds of people who have children with autism and other special needs. Not one person has had an easy time of anything. We all struggle and there are some significant needs out there. I have to say that my life is pretty darn easy compared to some people I know. I recognize that and I appreciate what I have. I also see it as an opportunity to do something when others might not be able to.
I began thinking that I should take my group to the next level.

I started concocting a plan and speaking with some close friends and respected professionals about what is needed in our community. People started coming out of the woodwork to offer suggestions and help. I came up with the initial idea to fundraise by selling a few items on eBay so that I could pay for the simple things like printer paper and ink cartridges, and possibly even pay myself back for splurging on several new books for the lending library that I found on clearance.  

A friend of mine posed the question, “Why couldn’t we just have a garage sale?” I was kind of apprehensive at first because I know all too well how much work garage sales can be. She was earnest in her offer and even said I could use her garage as the venue for the fundraiser. How could I say no to this generosity? I loved the thought of not having to clean out my own garage, which is a scary wasteland of stuff right now.  

We set a date for the fundraiser and the donations of stuff to sell started pouring in. My car became a pseudo delivery truck as I picked up items and dropped them off at the site for the sale over and over again. Her garage began filling up and a couple of days before the sale we had to officially stop accepting donations. We had a great gal help make our beautiful signs and there were volunteers showing up to help sort and price everything.
We went from a casual eBay auction to a full-fledged garage sale with lots of donated stuff, several volunteers, and a philanthropic attitude for furthering the work of the group. Never before had I seen such an outpouring of support. It was beautiful.

Just call my friend the Vanna White of garage sales! She was wearing a slinky donated nightgown while modeling on an old mattress to showcase our stuff for sale. That's my kind of gal!

The fundraiser itself was fantastic! The night before we placed our fake bets (none of us have any money to gamble with!) for what we might earn, and we tried to set a hopeful expectation of what “success” would equal monetarily. Guess what? The garage sale was a success!
Now I have to be a good steward of the money that was raised and use it to the support the work of the group. Having more than a couple of dollars at one time means I can think beyond the next month. So, I will be filing paperwork this month to turn my support group into a nonprofit organization. Why not, right? It’s not like I have anything else to do right now! (I hope you caught the blatant sarcasm there.) Please say a prayer for me. It’s a bit overwhelming and I’m going to need all the help I can get!     

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