Why I’m fundraising for the very first time for Jimmy Fund Golf

Dan (center) with his grandparents.
Dan (center) with his grandparents.

I have a small confession to make. I have never fundraised. Sure, my high school sports teams held car washes, and I’ve sampled more than my share of bake sale goods over the years. But never have I had the occasion to say, “I am passionate about this cause, so please join me in supporting it.”

That was until I signed up to play in the Sunrise to Sunset Jimmy Fund Golf Tournament. The inaugural 36-hole golf fundraiser will be held on October 17, 2016, at the exclusive International Golf Club in Bolton, Mass. Proceeds from the event will support cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through Jimmy Fund Golf.

I’m obsessed with golf—playing it, watching it, talking about it. My grandfather introduced me to the game when I was seven or eight years old. Some of my fondest memories involve travelling to Gramps’ home on Cape Cod, sneaking on to the golf course he lived on, and playing a few holes at twilight. I would do that every day if I could.

Gramps was an accomplished businessman, charming and witty until the day he died in 2012. In his final hours, our whole family gathered around and joked with him about the tee time he had waiting in heaven. He taught me a lot about golf, but also lessons about life, both on and off the course.

I had always heard rumblings about Gramps having various bouts with cancer, but didn’t know until recently that he had battled prostate, kidney, and lung cancer in his lifetime. Eager to learn more about my family’s history, I discovered that both of my father’s parents died from cancer. My grandfather, whom I never met, was only in his 40s.

I understand I’m not unique to have lost loved ones to cancer, and I’m thankful that I haven’t had as much cancer connection in my life as many others. So while I still think about Gramps every time I’m on a golf course, I’m playing in Sunrise to Sunset not just to honor him but to give back in support of those who have had so much taken away.

Now I just need to figure out how to fundraise. Thankfully, the Jimmy Fund offers many tools and tips to make their supporters successful, even rookies like me. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

  • There are great web resources for telling my story. When I signed up for Sunrise to Sunset, I was able to create a customized fundraising webpage through MyHQ. It’s a succinct way to share why I’m participating and makes it easy for my supporters to contribute to my fundraising efforts.
  • It’s all about the ask. It’s easy to get psyched out by the thought of asking others for money, but like anything, you’ll never know how good you are if you don’t try. I think people are generally very generous and willing to help out. Just ask!
  • Fundraising is competitive, but fun, because you can connect it to almost any activity. I could offer to mow my neighbor’s lawn in exchange for a contribution. I could host a paid dinner at my house and cook for all of my friends. I could ask my loved ones to pledge a couple of dollars for every golf hole I’ll play at Sunrise to Sunset. I don’t like to lose, so if none of these tactics work, I’ll keep trying the next idea until I’ve reached my goal.

No matter how much I raise or where the money comes from, the important part is what it’s helping to achieve. I take comfort in knowing that even the small part I’m doing can make a big difference in the lives of Dana-Farber patients. Having the ability to do something that I love while helping to conquer cancer through Jimmy Fund Golf is icing on the bake-sale cake.

I’m grateful for everything I learned from Gramps, and a lot of it I’ll pass along to my own daughter as she grows. At two, she recognizes golf on television and can recite some professional golfers’ names, so maybe she’ll enjoy golf as much as I do and we’ll someday find our own twilight spot to play. More importantly, I hope she catches the fundraising bug early and continues to help others as she grows. I’ll gladly let her beat me in that sport any day.

Dan D’Onofrio