By: Annette McElhiney
I love to paint and to see people enjoy themselves whenever possible. Because I have ovarian cancer, I’m also very committed to being an advocate. So what happens when you put all those things together? You give paintings away in return for donations to ovarian cancer organizations and have a good time!
I’ve lived in Colorado since 1969. We have two sons who are both graduates of the University of Colorado and I’ve taught in Colorado colleges since 1972. We have been skiers, campers, and weekend mountain dwellers for many years. Consequently, our ties to the state are strong and I wholeheartedly support COCA, the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance in every way I can. I do this by participating in the annual race fundraiser, going to the galas, attending the support groups, working with survivors to teach students, and giving the rights to my “Althea Rebalances Her Life after Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer” book so it can be given in their comfort kits for women during chemotherapy. Most recently, I gave seven of my largest paintings, along with seven of my Althea books, and other books I wrote to COCA to use however they choose.
After my husband and I retired, we had to change our lives immensely. He had three heart procedures and we no longer relished the cold. So in 2004, we began to spend winters in the California desert. After I was diagnosed with Stage III C ovarian cancer in 2008, I had my surgery and the first three chemo treatments in Denver and completed the rest of my 14 months treatments in California.
I became the patient of an LA gynecologist/oncologist in 2009 and remain under her care today. In 2010, I sought the advice of The Clearity Foundation and became acquainted with Dr. Laura Shawver. In 2012, Dr. Shawver agreed to be the keynote speaker at the COCA Summit on ovarian cancer and has counseled Colorado women since.
Because I have a build up of canvases over several years, I need to “thin out” my collection periodically. I was in an art guild in Colorado for some time but my gypsy lifestyle made that endeavor impractical. Consequently, I paint to heal and then give the paintings to others!
This fall, I planned for my neighborhood (around 40 guests) a “Country Supper Buffet and Art Give Away.” My primary plan was to entertain my friends and neighbors with food and drinks. But, my husband also built racks on our front drive and put my 75 paintings on them. Because I’d also made bracelets for ovarian cancer and other diseases, my granddaughters and their friends arranged a table under a tree in our front yard for the jewelry. I purchased teal paper dinnerware, teal napkins, teal hanging lanterns, teal beads, ovarian cancer mints, teal decorated cellphone bags, and teal balloons to make my front yard look festive.
We wrote The Clearity Foundation and asked them to send us donation envelopes and brochures explaining their services. As each guest arrived, they were given a glass of wine, a cold beer, or their choice of soft drink and invited to browse, choose jewelry they liked, and put it in a cellophane ovarian cancer bag and take home as many paintings they liked. They were then given an envelope and told to donate whatever amount they wanted to The Clearity Foundation! Some folks were uncomfortable at first but got into the spirit of the venture. Many asked multiple questions about the foundation like what it did, why I was involved, and more.
Our guests arrived at 5:00 pm and some were still on the deck visiting several hours later. People commented that it was a fun and relaxed party, which raised money for a good cause. Two other long-term survivors, Paulette (10 years) and Chris (13 years) circulated amongst the guests and educated them about ovarian cancer and new research.
My husband and I aren’t wealthy or well connected people, but we wanted our guests to have a hearty supper and good time as well. Of course we hoped they would make a donation, but we stressed there was no obligation to do so.
Or another idea I’d entertain is to have, as another COCA survivor does, a box supper silent auction at a local park. Each invitee brings a box, basket, or sack filled with a complete dinner including wine or drink. Some people makes the dinner items themselves and others buy the items from delicatessens. Some decorate their boxes or baskets beautifully and some don’t Then a list is placed beside each basket or box and people roam around and bid on the item. Finally, after an hour or so, the winners are announced and guests share their goodies with each other at picnic tables. All the money is donated to COCA.
The point I’m trying to make here is you don’t have to be affluent or experienced in fundraising to give yourself the joy of giving. It isn’t hard to do and it does help so many other survivors!
My tool for healing happens to be painting. I know others who make music, greeting cards, jewelry, knitted items or even baked goods. Making other folks aware of the symptoms, occurrence, treatments, and hazards of ovarian cancer is so important. But at the same time you are raising money through donations and you are expanding yours and your charity of choice’s support network.
We often say, “it takes a village to raise a child.” I would like to think, it takes a network of caring people to support each other and ovarian cancer survivors. Whatever activity you do to heal can be shared. So think about what you can do to assist a nonprofit help other ovarian cancer survivors. No gift is too little and the results could be huge!
If anyone wants more information, feel free to ask by responding to this post. I also want to thank each one of our guests for their contributions to the evening and their donations to The Clearity Foundation.
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