Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When Mom Becomes the Family Fundraiser; An Interview With Tammy Chiasson

Alex and his sisters!
In April I had the opportunity to share a great article on a Truro family who was hosting "A Funny Fundraiser" called Wheels for Alex.  I promised an interview with Tammy so you could get a look behind the scene. 

Thank you Tammy for sharing your journey!

Tammy, tell us a bit about your family. How many kids do you have? Do you work outside the home?

 My husband, Chris and I have 3 beautiful children! Alexander is 12 yrs old and has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Alexander is confined to a wheelchair, and is a very happy out going boy. Alexander is very excited to zip around in his powerchair with his sisters Maddison 9, and Kaileigh 4, racing behind him, on their bikes. Our family is very busy...... we try very hard to bring as much to Alexander as possible, letting him experience and enjoy life to the fullest! Alexander will live the same quality of life as other children his age, with help from my husband and I. My husband works days, and I work nights from 4:30-10 pm. My husband will come home from work at 4:15 and I leave as soon as he gets home. I would love to stay home nights to participate in the evening activities. Unfortunately, with the expenses of our family, and added expenses for adapting equipment, wheelchairs etc I am unable to do so. Even with respite for Alex I am unable to completely leave him. This is an anxiety issue I have dealt with all his life. I feel more comfortable being able to be home, cleaning preparing for the week ahead while he is being cared for. This is what works for our family, and having my husband or myself with the children at all times makes the most sense to us.

 How long have you been investigating a new van?

Last Summer my neighbor and I took our combined 5 children to the beach! I parked Alexander's wheelchair in the sand, because I couldn't push him through all the way. I held under his arms and he walked down closer to the water. We set up our spot for the day with buckets, blankets, and lunch. Alexander had an amazing day, one of his favorite things to do is dig. So he was so happy digging and playing in the water. Lifting and walking Alexander to the water was a big challenge for me because he is getting so big. But I still want him to be able to enjoy the things in life he absolutely "loves"! On our way up to the wheelchair Alexander crossed his legs over (which with his spastic cerebral palsy happens a lot) but when he did this in the sand it caught me off balance, he fell backwards on top of me. Of course he just laughed hysterically, but I was scared! Scared for him, and thoughts ran through my head.....what if this happened on the pavement? I can't have Alexander participate in activities, and me put him at risk of being hurt. This day at the beach really upset me, because I have not dropped him in public before. This was the start of my van fundraiser and vowing to myself that I will get EVERYTHING that my son needs for his safety...................... The following September I started!

Did you apply to Presidents Choice Children's Charity?

I applied to Presidents Choice Charity, and when I received the call from the Truro store I couldn't stop the tears! The store manager said he'd let me get my thoughts together and call back. This is actually happening I thought, and $20,000 is a really BIG deal!!!!

Did you start fundraising for the van prior to hearing back from President's Choice Children's Charity?

September after our beach incident, I started putting things in place for our first fundraiser. I went to a restaurant after work one night to talk to the manager about having an auction, karaoke night. A place was set, then I had to start getting items for our auction, and get the word out there. So I went to numerous businesses, radio stations, and the newspaper.

How did you come up with the idea for a Funny Fundraiser? How much was raised? Did you have volunteers helping you?

One very rare morning in January I was in bed watching TV, school was cancelled so I just layed there watching Breakfast Television until the kids started to stir. I saw Marc Sauve from Funny Fundraisers talking about helping charities raise money. While I was watching, I e-mailed Marc to ask if he would help. I heard back from Marc that night and the second fundraiser was in the works.......

All of the fundraisers were very hard. Being a mom, wife, and working also taking Alexander to frequent appts made things very hard.

We have had an auction karaoke night in October, money jars put up at my work from my co-workers, Wheels for Alex event in April with a comedian, live/silent auction, balloon blitz, 50/50 draw, tables set up at the mall twice. I had friends help me put the baskets together, and neighbors helped get items from their work. The hardest job was going to get all the merchandise and sending the letters to all the companies, which I did myself. I remember sitting up numerous times through the night, not being able to sleep sending letters for the auction. I went through the Truro Chamber of Commerce and hit every company. If there was not an email, I called them to get it. From the Wheels for Alex event we raised $6,050 but we had to pay Funny Fundraisers $1250! Yes, this is huge, but I thought having a comedian would help bring out the crowd, just something different.

What has been the most challenging aspect of fundraising?

Being able to be a Mom, and keep the house in order. I felt so guilty having to sit in front of the computer to reply to e-mails, arrange pick ups and taking the children with me to pick up merchandise. I have spent a lot of time on these 2 fundraisers, I did have some amazing friends who want to help and did a bit, but they have families too, and I felt guilty to ask. So many nights I'd cry, praying for some help, and just a sign for me to keep going....... in the morning when I'd check my e-mails and hear back from another company, I knew this "is" going to work out! I "will" get this van, I need to do what a Mother has to do......provide for their children!

What has been the most rewarding aspect of fundraising for this van?

When I was looking at my e-mails one morning and saw the responses from the companies, I started yelling! "We are going to get this van!" Alexander was on the couch watching TV he said "Mom I love you, I'm so happy we will have a van for me to drive my wheelchair in!" Then every day after he would ask were are you going today Mom? More pick-ups? He was, and will always be my inspiration !!!

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