Saturday September 7th, 2013 – Chicago, IL
I’m the only person I know who consistently fails at charity work. How embarrassing is that? If I had to pick the one most frustrating thing about my career so far it would have to be that. I have put my heart and soul into projects with the best of intentions, then had them blow up in my face.
I’ve rented halls and lost deposits more than once – more than a few times – but I always make the effort to try and help someone that needs it. I just think it’s the right thing to do, even if there isn’t a payoff. It’s not about me, but it sure does hurt when nobody shows up to support an event.
Today I had a different problem. There was an email blast on one of the local Chicago comedy groups on Facebook asking if anyone would be interested in volunteering to host a 3 mile run for Children’s Cancer in downtown Chicago next to Soldier Field. I answered and was chosen for it.
I’ve got plenty of hosting experience, and any time I can help a cause like that I’ll jump at it if I’m available. It’s a chance to give back, and there are always really great people all around that make it worth the effort. Shaking hands and making contacts is a byproduct of helping the cause.
The contact woman I talked to asked that I be at Soldier Field at 8:30am if possible. I’d need to get up extra early, as I live about 60 miles away. I didn’t think there would be traffic on Saturday but just to make sure I left at 6:30. There was no traffic at all, and I pulled in downtown at 7:45.
I’d much rather be early than late like I often am, but that’s just because I have so many things going on at once. I’m constantly getting delayed by one glitch or another, but today it all worked out perfectly. I showed up early, and walked the grounds saying hello to the people already there.
One of the co-chairs of the event was a guy who had a son that had cancer, and I could tell that he was a ‘Type A’ alpha male personality and needed to be in charge. That’s fine, as I’m used to dealing with those kinds of people from my earliest forays into both comedy and radio. This day was not about me whatsoever, and all I wanted to do was help the cause. I shut up and let him go.
As the event got started, the guy just took over and ran with the hosting duties. He had the mic and wasn’t about to give it up for any reason. The woman I reported to apologized profusely, but I told her as long as the job got done I wasn’t angry – and I wasn’t. It was a total waste of time to have to make the effort to get up so early and get down there, but again none of it was about me.
Before the run started, they brought up a long line of kids who were being treated for cancer. If I had been hosting, I probably would have broken down and not been able to continue. As it was I couldn’t help but weep openly as I watched kid after kid in various stages of health get a medal.
Some looked better than others, but there were a few that were in pretty rough shape. They had been through the deepest darkest part of hell and then some, and it showed. My little situation of having someone else do the hosting didn’t really matter then. It didn’t matter before that, but the impact those kids made as I watched them walk (and some had to be carried) not ten feet in front of me will last for the rest of my life. I had never seen anything like that, and it really moved me.
What stood out the most was the unbelievable spirit of love I felt from the families and friends of the kids involved. There were tents all over the grounds with groups of people in custom made t-shirts that said things like ‘Megan’s Miracle’ and ‘Ryan’s Hope’. It truly did move me to tears.
There were people of all races in attendance, and the one thing they all shared in common was a child that was being treated for some form of cancer. There was a Mexican woman who spoke and her knees buckled when she spoke of her son “being in heaven”. That made everyone lose it, and the tears started pouring down my face. I can’t begin to imagine this woman’s intense pain.
Before the walk started, they had a moment of silence for all the kids that have passed and then did a balloon release over Lake Michigan. That was unbelievably emotional also, and there were all kinds of people hugging and crying and families were interacting and comforting each other.
I’ll bet there were at the very least a couple thousand people spread out over the grounds, and it was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever witnessed to watch them show such support for all of those kids. It wasn’t just about their own team, but they were there as a group for everybody.
I wanted to hug every one of those kids as they walked by me on the podium, and their parents too. What torture that must be to have to go through, even with the medical advancements of the modern age. This is something that goes far beyond my comprehension, and I have no answers.
I know the lady I reported to was upset with the guy who took over, but I told her it wasn’t my place to make a scene. What was I supposed to do, jump in front of the guy in front of thousands of people who were there to support suffering kids they knew personally and start doing my act?
They didn’t need me today, and that’s just something I’m going to have to shut up and eat. I’m less than thrilled I had to get up so early and hike all the way downtown at my own expense, but I’m sure I’ll get over it. If my choice is that or having a small child with cancer, I’ll choose this.
It ripped my heart clean out of my chest to see kids so young have to have this horrific disease. The youngest was only twenty months old. That isn’t even two years, and already she’s a cancer survivor. Making pooty pants or not finishing her supper seems rather meaningless, doesn’t it?
I felt so helpless watching this unfold in front of me, but it made me want to be a champion of charitable causes anyway. I wasn’t needed today, but there has to be something I can do to bring a smile to someone’s face in a situation like this. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s needed.
One of the main reasons I want to develop the King of Uranus character is to be able to go into hospitals and cheer people up. It could be kids, but maybe not. I’m sure parents and families that have to endure this horror are wiped out on many levels. They could use a laugh at some point.
This kind of thing runs FAR deeper than the daily insanity of the entertainment grind. I’ll keep showing up at events that will have me, and if I can offer something to help the cause I’ll throw my ego out the window and pitch in. At the end of the line, this is what truly lasts. The love I felt today was electric, something I felt little of as a kid. I’m sorry it was cancer that brought it out.