Nine years ago today I sent an email that changed my life. Nine years later, I hope a few other lives have been changed as well. That email was the catalyst for getting me to start a non-profit organization, The First Mile Foundation. It feels like nine years has gone by so fast, yet so much has happened that it feels like it’s a whole lifetime ago.
The email was really just a simple call for help. I wanted to raise money for cancer related causes by running the Philadelphia Marathon. I had lost my dad to cancer six months earlier and after seeing all of the support that others had given to my family during that time I still felt the need to find a way to give back.
While I said earlier it was that email that changed my life, it really was the outpouring of support from friends, family and co-workers that was the force that brought about the change. Within minutes, a whole team of people had signed up to support the original request and the commitment was overwhelming. The team was doing so much more than I’d originally hoped.
As time went on, a small fundraising effort turned into lots of ideas and goals on how to help the cancer community. Unfortunately, it also turned into a much better realization of just how many people have some sort of cancer related story.
While it was never the intent at the beginning, the vision got big enough that it seemed like a good idea to form into a formal non-profit organization. That email and the support in those early days is what started The First Mile Foundation, and over the last nine years I hope it’s been able to at least make some mark in the cancer community. We’ve had various programs and by some accounts our programs have touched the lives of over 20,000 people directly.
When I pulled out that original email a couple weeks ago I couldn’t help but flashback all the way to those first days. I was happily reminded of a few great lessons that I think happened to manifest in those beginning days (more so by luck, not necessarily consciously) and are still applicable to so many areas of life today. Here are a few I re-noticed:
- A small group of motivated people can change the world (not saying we’ve changed the world… yet, but we’ve absolutely changed the world for at least some people)
- There are small ways to help that make a big difference.
- Asking for help is the smart thing to do.
- When people want to help you, thank them and accept it.
- When you think you’ve come up with a great idea, many times the best thing to do is take some kind of immediate action on it – even if it’s small.
- The way you frame a situation in your head makes a big difference.
- The right team can usually amplify and execute an idea better than a sole person.
- ‘Giving’ feels really good, even better than doing something solely for yourself.
- Public commitment is a more powerful force than you’d expect. Especially to people you respect.
It’s been a great nine years and who knows what the next ninety will bring. I only hope that I continue to remember the people and the lessons I’ve learned during this experience and hope that you might take something away from our last nine years as well.
And just in case you’re wondering, here’s that email from 9 years ago:
From: Kane, Matthew
Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2003 5:47 PM
Subject: Need your Help – Great Cause!
I need your help! I want to create a fun and amazing day for everyone and I need to do it while I run 26.2 miles. (read all the way down)
I just signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov 23rd. That’s right, big out of shape me! I did this because I had a revelation on my way home today from work and after reading this great book (Slow Burn). I am NOT looking at it as running 26.2 miles. BUT – having the privilege to run 2 miles with 13 of my best, closest, or soon to be best and closest friends. This puts a whole new perspective on it right…
1) I grew up in and love Philly – so I want to recreate my childhood by running through some nice areas of town.
2) Because the song I was listening to when I thought of this really pumped me up – and by acting immediately and telling you all and registering, I am locking myself into it.
3) Because I would love to bring people I know together for the day – run in the morning – and beef and beer dinner later that afternoon (more on that in another email later).
4) (a more serious one) Because as many of you know I lost my dad in January of this year from cancer. So, in concert with this effort I will be raising money by way of a beef and beer (more on that later) and by sponsorship in this race to help support cancer related research. This race actually donates money to arthritis, but I will be doing a separate collection/plan and donating the money – PLUS a 100% matchfrom me for however much I raise – support me by the mile or whatever – but you don’t have to – just come and run and hang! (more on solicitation later too)
So, here is my plea. I need either 13 people who want to do 2 miles a piece with me at different parts of the race, OR 26 people who want to do a mile, OR some variation. Come and do more – do less, whatever. I’ll work out those details later. I just am looking for support – come and do the whole thing – let’s cross the line together!!!!!!!!!! Who is in?
Also, keep November 23rd (day of the race)open so you can cheer and laugh at me from the sidelines at some great areas of Philadelphia and enjoy a great get together later on in the night – for a GREAT cause!
And, just in case you don’t believe I signed up I am including a picture of my confirmation — note my bid number for the race: 666…. this just isn’t starting out on the right note – but I know you’ll all step up and change that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
P.S. – DON’T hit reply all when you go to make fun of my running ability in your reply email!!!!!!!!!!
What’s your next email going to be?