Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is The Relay For Life Worth It?

Are you on a Relay for Life team which is the "signature activity" for the American Cancer Society? If so, why? What do you hope to gain or do by your involvement with the organization?

Here is what the Relay for Life website says is the reason for participating (on this page).

Why Relay?

One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. The funds raised at Relay save lives by funding cutting-edge cancer research, early detection and prevention education, advocacy efforts, and life-affirming patient services. It is because of your involvement that we are able to save lives, help those battling cancer, and empower all to fight back against the disease.

After a friend of mine got Cancer and battled it, when she was well she organized a Relay for Life team and invited friends to join it. I didn't join the team at that time. Sadly she later had a recurrence of her Cancer and passed away last year.

My father-in-law passed away last year from Cancer too.

My mother is a Breast Cancer survivor as is my mother-in-law. My maternal grandmother is a survivor of a serious form of skin Cancer.

My paternal grandfather passed away of Cancer when I was 18 years old, we were very close. My paternal great-grandmother passed away of Cancer when I was 21 years old, we were close also.

This year my friend asked me to join the team walking for our deceased friend. I agreed, thinking it would be a good thing to do, to raise money for Cancer research. Later I realized I was ending up too busy to do the necessary fundraising on time. My schedule was booking up too and just going to the Relay and staying up all night to walk was not something that was a good idea for me, with juggling so much so I feared I'd crash and burn, so I backed out (about two months before the event was to happen--it was not a last minute surprise).

Then last week my brother-in-law announced that he has formed a Relay for Life team, walking in his father's memory. He asked our family to join the team (our kids too) and to also fundraise or donate money.

I explained I was on a team and backed out due to not having time to do it, do the fundraising nor the money to put to charities at this time. Also we were going to be out of town on the weekend of that Relay and could not be there. He asked us to then just donate money instead.

I also had heard something about the Relay for Life not using very much money earned toward actual Cancer research. I wanted to find out the truth about that. I recalled there is an organization (Charity Watch) that collects the data about how much of the collected monies goes toward administrative fees versus other expenditures versus actually doing what the donors THINK the money is going toward.

Here is what I unveiled from the Internet about the Relay for Life. Here is a quote from this article on the Charity Watch site: Cancer Charities Need Dose of Organizational Chemotherapy"

"The famous American Cancer Society (ACS), which reaps far more contributions ($848 million in 2005) than any other cancer charity that AIP covers, is only able to get 60% of its budget to program services not related to solicitations and receives a C+ grade from AIP."

My Thoughts

I have discussed donations to charities with my husband and we are in agreement. We want the most money going to the cause that we donate to. For example if we donate to a Cancer organization we want the money being spent on research to learn more about Cancer in order to learn more so that we can cure it, or prevent it or find better therapies. We want a good use out of our money.

About fifteen years ago I did a big walk for a certain huge nonprofit organization. I raised money and I walked all day. I got blisters and a bad sunburn. I was exhausted. I then found out that only 10% of the money I (we all) had raised went toward doing something about the medical condition. The rest was spent on things like the water bottles we were given, the t-shirts, the brochures, and staff salary that organized this event. I was very disappointed. Since that time I have been wary of donating to non-profit organizations.

Why research this at all?

So many people I know just make assumptions and believe what they hear. If they hear that an organization is raising money for Cancer they assume a lot of that is going to help cure Cancer or other good things. They don't question. They don't research.

Actually I have a feeling that some people, if they find out I've blogged this, would be angry with me. You see some people I know care more about the spirit of a thing then reality. For example they may think that for me to not participate in the Relay for Life or to not give money toward it means "I don't care about the deceased people I know who died of Cancer, or that I don't care about the survivors that I know". Well that is not true at all.

Some will be annoyed that I even wondered about this enough to actually question it and "worse" that I'd research it. They would think this is an affront.

I am not being negative. I didn't research it to be a killjoy. I don't mean to ruin someone's fun of participating in the Relay for Life. I researched it to make an INFORMED CHOICE about the way our family spends our money and our time and energy. Also I feel if I were to join a team and would ask others to donate their hard-earned money I should know WHERE the money is being spent and on WHAT, so at least I could answer the questions of those asking and also so that I would know I was not tricking them or causing them to waste their money.

In Conclusion

I am not on a Relay for Life team. Does that mean I don't care about my living and deceased loved ones? No.

I am not donating money to any Relay for Life teams. Does that make me a bad person? No.

I am sorry if this offends you. If you really care about curing Cancer or finding ways to help prevent it perhaps you would consider in the future, donating your money to an organization who spends a higher percentage on research.

Here is Charity Watch's list of organizations that received an "A" grade rating"

Cancer topic

All topics index page

Technorati Tags: , , , , .


Sheila said...

I feel the same way that you do about Relay for Life.

It's a big event in our community, but I have several charities I give to a lot that are small, and I can see exactly where the money goes. It's much better.

I also have some ethical questions about the Cancer Society's medical research techniques. I was under the impression they did a lot of fetal stem cell stuff, and I'm uncomfortable with that. So I just don't give to cancer anymore.

Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

Esther said...

I understand right where you're coming from, Christine. I think that most charities who don't give what we are led to believe are counting on people feeling disloyal to the cancer victims, or guilty for not participating or donating, and "Scroogely" for questioning or even checking on them, as you have done.

Gentle Viking said...

Dear "Thinking Mom",

I can't thank you enough for your thoughts and for making us aware of the reality of Relay for Life.

My brother has cancer and this forced me into learning some hard truths about it all that most people don't know--such as what a tiny percentage of money in Relay for Life actually goes to research.

At the end of your article I was saying to myself, "But dear lady, I just wish you'd share with us where our money SHOULD go instead...and lo and behold, you did! (Charity Watch link). Thank you!

After seeing my brother suffer with cancer I'm realizing more and more that we must question "general information" given out in our world--because someone may be making a living off of that information---not to mention that it may not be the whole story or even the truth at all.

We are now exploring alternatives in life--and people like yourself help educate us about those alternatives. Keep up the good work!

Mr. Terry