When we first set out on our journey toward Alaska we wanted to change the world through giving. Our plan was to meet with at least one family in need in each of the 50 US states. Our focus was to serve families with children who were fighting Crohn’s Disease or cancer. Or those who were fostering orphans.
Knowing that our own resources were limited, we developed an ambitious plan to leverage our desire to help others through crowdfunding platforms. We were willing to go on the road to meet with families in all 50 states.
But we couldn’t afford to give a significant amount to their campaigns. However, we believed that if we started the journey and focused on ways to help “supercharge” each family’s campaign, then with enough time we’d build a global audience vested in giving to the families we met.
We believed that with enough effort and attention in sharing the stories of the people we longed to help then we could be successful in raising funds for their campaigns.
Our goal was to raise $1,000 per campaign in each of the 50 states.
So after we developed a tentative, albeit wild and windy, route across America we began researching and reaching out to families with crowdfunding campaigns. We narrowed each campaign to those most compelling in the categories of families we wished to served.
The Yellow Brick Road to Giving
In the process we even managed to get the corporate support of YouCaring, at the time the leading competitor to GoFundMe. The organization committed to helping us narrow our search for families and even offered to place the stories we selected as featured campaigns on the platform’s homepage.
We were absolutely blown away by the opportunity that presented itself. If we could just find families to help then we could follow the yellow brick road all the way across America.
Surely there was enough need in America! We couldn’t fail, could we?
You Can Always Fail – Even at Giving!
By two weeks into our journey we found that we could, in fact, fail. We reached out to around 25 families via YouCaring and GoFundMe campaigns. The response was astonishing.
Out of the 25 families, only two responded positively. Most didn’t respond at all.
With such a tight schedule in our ambitious race across America, we found ourselves faced with the idea of defeat. We couldn’t sit and wait for families to get back to us. Somehow we had to confirm participation with families prior to racing from one state to the next.
We spent more time reaching out. But you can’t force these kind of things. So eventually we retreated in our quest.
However, before we admitted defeat we had the pleasure to meet two families with stories so inspiring we continue to support them to this day.
- Dwayne and Erin invited us into their lives and taught us about how their story of infertility led them into embryo adoption.
- Matthew showed us how dressing up as a superhero changed the outlook for children in the hospital fighting life-threatening illnesses.
To add insult to injury, YouCaring was subsequently purchased by GoFundMe. Our relationship with YouCaring was severed in the transition and we lost all hope of promoting our campaign beyond our own small following.
In Las Vegas, of all places, we decided that our giving had to be more spontaneous. We came to the conclusion that we could not schedule acts of kindness or generosity.
Love has to spring forth in abundance from spontaneous opportunity.
We have to live each moment in expectation that we would meet someone we could help in some way.
As a result of this new perspective our journey changed in profound ways. You can read about some of the stories that took place over the next few months below.
Just days prior to our departure we received two separate unsolicited $100 donations. One donation came from my younger sister. The other came from a stranger who was visiting our church the Sunday before we left.
I kept those donations separate from our other expenses. We prayed over them and asked that they be multiplied into the lives of others around us. In the course of time we eventually spent them in giving back to others.
Here are some of the things that happened with that $200:
- Over 100 children received small gifts and toys while they awaited treatment in a hospital in Peoria, Illinois.
- Dozens of homeless people received small “Crash Bags” full of snacks and a note of hope
- We cooked meals for strangers-turned-friends in our favorite small town in Wyoming, and
- A young man received $20 and some hope as he broke down on the side of the road in Idaho
In our quest to serve others we were able to connect two generous people with several hundred people that they would never meet. It’s crazy awesome to think that we can be conduits of love, connecting people across the world through our travels!
Pay It Forward, In Some Way
We don’t know whether or not you believe in the concept of “pay it forward.” But we’d like to remind you that every human interaction has an impact on others. We are either moving the world forward together in kindness and giving, or we are slowing down it’s progress in our indifference and selfishness.
However we know that many people are, like us, unable to give much financially. To this end, we’d like to share that giving takes various forms. You don’t have to give money to impact people’s lives.
You can be a vehicle of change by being aware of the needs of those people around you. And, of course, you must have a willingness to step into the role of helper in those cases.
In fact, in all of the giving that we have done for others since we began our journey, we have received more than we have given! We used to try and keep track of all that we were giving – in kind or in service. But we quickly realized that the people were giving more to us than we gave to others.
We found ourselves wrapped up in the most beautiful giving story!
A Multitude of Gratitude
And it is from this story that we wish to thank those people who have donated some portion of their lives to us. All donors did so without requesting acknowledgement. In fact, several gave anonymously when they knew we would never see each other again.
However, all deserve many thanks on this, Giving Tuesday. And it is our hope that these stories of kindness and generosity encourage you to give a little of yourself on this and every day.
These are just a few of the many stories of thanks we owe:
- A sister in Georgia who let us crash for a week as we tried to figure out our forward plans
- Our friends in Mississippi who donated meals and cash and continued to support us in all of our travels since
- Friends, who might as well be family, in Springfield, Illinois who have taken us in twice and looked after our needs while we visited
- Our “adopted nomadic grandparents” we met in Las Vegas who introduced us to Vegas buffets and drove us around town (then provided a meal when we visited them in Washington!)
- Dear friends in Thermopolis, Wyoming who we spent nearly every day of four weeks sharing life together and who both gave and invited us into their community
- Florida friends who invited us into their home in Boise, Idaho and helped us connect with their friends and family while we visited
Yep, There’s More…
- Friends in Vancouver, WA who donated a weekend in their family’s vacation home so that we could rest
- A friend who allowed us to stay in their driveway in Revelstoke, British Columbia even though we were strangers
- Friends in Hinton, Alberta who took us in and offered us a place to camp, eat and laugh
- The guys in Seward, Alaska who shared their halibut catch and man-weekend with us
- A friendly mechanic in Soldotna, Alaska who not only helped us diagnose major truck issues on his day off, but also spent two days helping fix those issues
- Two friends we made on our way into Talkeetna, Alaska with whom we leap frogged through Alaska and British Columbia and have received fresh King Salmon and shared meals with
- A friend who not only helped us get out of a breakdown in a remote part of Alaska, but also left $100 bill in our shoe outside our camper the last morning we saw each other
- A couple in Haines, Alaska who own a laundromat and shared encouraging travel stories in addition to giving us a cash donation
- Friends we made in the RV park in Thermopolis, WY who directed the park owner to give us their gift of a relaxing day in the hot springs and a little cash only after they left the park
- A cousin who twice went out of her way to welcome us into her life in Breckinridge
Our journey could not have begun without three key people:
- One who advised, brainstormed and literally welded his way into preparing our truck camper for the journey and also provided support for us while on the road
- Another friend who not only put in a lion’s share of labor into preparing our truck for the road, but also acted as our on-the-road mechanic, advising us anytime we called with issues
- A third friend who has spend endless hours as our webmaster and tech guru, bearing with us in our many requests and demands
Of course our family and closest friends are due gratitude beyond which we can express in any post. Simply supporting our dream has given us enough to push through when it seems impossible.
A Parting Thought
This post is not to boast. We have done nothing yet out of the ordinary. It is, however, for us to encourage you to realize the impact that you have in the world. If we listed you here, please know that you are now forever a part of our story. Hopefully you can see how your actions, however large or small, played out in impacting people all across the world!
We won’t leave you with fuzzy feelings that the world is getting better every day. In fact, we believe it’s the contrary. It takes ordinary people like you and us to find opportunities to help each other. Whether we give our last dollar, or push a lawn mower across the yard, what you do matters.
Thank you for your love and support of us as we wander. We have a sense of purpose to fulfill and you, by reading, play a part in our success. May we find a way to help you on this, or any day…