My introduction to personal philanthropy

Screenshot showing that the Desert Bus for Hope fundraising telethon has raised $236,268.05 USD this year so far and they have been running for almost 48 hours straight as of today.

Two events are happening today which are tangentially but closely related, and I’d like to talk about how they help inform my beliefs about personal philanthropy.

The first is that it is coming up on Day 2 of the Desert Bus for Hope 2022 charity telethon, one of the first Internet-based, interactive charity telethons. As of the time I took the screenshot of the donation total, they have raised over $235,000 USD for the United States-based charity Child’s Play Charity (CPC). I’ve been watching and donating along since the second telethon back in 2008. For 15 years, watching the annual telethon has been a source of joy for me and many other people worldwide.

The second event is that my parents are celebrating their 52nd wedding anniversary today. I feel pretty confident in saying that when they married over half a century ago, my parents did not know about the stress one faces when their newborn has to have emergency surgery almost immediately after birth. They certainly didn’t know, and I didn’t know until after I married, that as a result of three kidney surgeries and countless kidney infections, a person could develop Stage 3a chronic kidney disease.

I had my final surgery as a child at CHOC (formerly known as Children’s Hospital of Orange County) in southern California. Because they had worked on both kidneys at the same time, when I woke up, there were two sets of tubes coming out of me, going into two bags. No guesses as to what ended up in those bags. I was on a liquid diet for the better part of a week. I didn’t have any friends with whom I was close enough who could visit. They had to tie my hands to my hospital bed so that I wouldn’t inadvertently scratch out my stitches or pull out my tubes as I slept. Even though my parents were there all the time (either separately or together), I felt pretty lonely.

The best day of my recovery was when an entertainer came into the hospital, handing out new toys in the playroom on each of the floors. I couldn’t go to the playroom on our floor for entertainment due to all my bags and tubes, which really sucked. (Actually, the other two kids in my shared room were bed-bound, too, which I just realized.) However, the entertainer then went around to all the bed-bound kids and gave them toys. I received a Barbie as my toy and it was one of the happiest days of my week. Of course, the happiest was when I finally got to leave the hospital, returning only to have the last set of stitches and the last tube taken out once they’d determined I was no longer in danger of internal bleeding and the fix had succeeded.

That’s the reason why ever year since 2008, I have donated to Child’s Play: so that a child who has to be in a hospital for a long time has at least one good memory from their hospital stays.

That’s also the reason why the Desert Bus for Hope telethon means so much to me: it helps raise money for this worthy cause, and everyone involved firmly believes in the charity’s mission. But DBFH has become more than just a fun way to donate money to my favourite kind of nonprofit organization. The entertainers, crew, call-in guests, crafters, prize and infrastructure donators, site volunteers, and everyone else who works to make DBFH happen are creating a place where being thoughtful and mindful of someone’s feelings isn’t considered a weakness, but a strength.

In short, the event organizers behind DBFH are regularly embodying, demonstrating, and modeling behaviour that is equitable, fair, and kind. It is one thing to learn about why land acknowledgements exist; it is another to see an example of what that looks like in action in a casual context that’s accessible for young people.

It’s one thing to say that you believe in a cause that is closely related to your values; it is another thing to dedicate almost an entire year of your life preparing to host an annual telethon for a nonprofit organization that isn’t even headquartered in your own country. And to do it consistently for 15 years.

My parents had no idea when they married half a century ago that they would end up learning way more about pediatric urology care in the United States than they might have wanted. I had no idea when I first began watching DBFH that I would end up living on Vancouver Island or that I would want to switch my career from being in publishing to being a community developer. However, I can’t deny that these events are indelibly linked in my mind and will forever become a part of who I am and how I choose to spend my time, money, and emotions.