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Fabulous Fundraising: How One Team Raised $72,000

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erinkenstoryFourteen-year-old Erin Novakowski is a typical teenaged girl who really loves Starbucks, her phone and shopping. She also happens to have a form of muscular dystrophy called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type II.

“Although I never let my disability stop me from doing the things I love, I use lots of assistive equipment to help me throughout the day,” she explains. “And sure, people stare at me, but I just like to think it’s because I’m fabulous and they want to know where I got my pants.”

Erin’s infectious enthusiasm for life is one of the things that her friend Nicole loves about her. “She’s the girl who knows how to make the best out of any situation,” she says. And while Erin and Nicole’s relationship began because Nicole works part-time as Erin’s care aid, their bond has deepened well past the usual hallmarks of friendship, leaving the two of them feeling like sisters.

 

“We have a pretty sweet arrangement where Nicole wakes up super early to curl my hair for school, and in return I do her makeup when she goes on a date,” notes Erin. “Of course, she helps me do things like get dressed, use the washroom, and other things that I physically need assistance to do, but most of our time is spent getting coffee and doing homework or shopping and talking about boys.”

29382343724_13061686f5_bWith a relationship like theirs, it was no surprise that Nicole wanted to help Erin’s fundraising efforts for the 2016 Calgary Walk for Muscular Dystrophy. Erin’s first Walk event was in 2015, and she started fundraising for it after she heard about the event online. “Once I realized how easy it was to start a team and have people donate, I spent a month or so spreading the word on Facebook and by email,” she explains. “This year [2016], I mentioned to Nicole that I’d like to fundraise again but maybe spend some more time on it and increase my goal a little.”

Erin wasn’t the only one who wanted to increase her goal. Her own family and Nicole’s family took up the fundraising challenge and ran with it. In fact, Nicole’s dad, Ken, reached out to more than 150 friends and colleagues, asking for their support for Erin’s Squad (Erin’s fundraising team for the event). With the help of Ken, Nicole, and Erin’s family, Erin’s Squad raised a whopping $72,029 [as of time of publication].

Of that total, more than $56,000 came from Ken’s fundraising efforts. He credits his success to a few basic principles. “It’s important to ask [for support],” he says. “I received huge donations from people that I almost didn’t ask—so that taught me.”

Ken also emphasizes the need for a personal touch. He sent individual e-mails—not a blanket e-mail blast—to all 150+ people, and he made a point of sharing Erin’s story and explaining why he became a member of Erin’s Squad. “Let people know why you are fundraising, why it’s important to you, and why you want their help. It’s also important to say thanks—quickly,” he adds, noting that he called or e-mailed people within 24 hours of receiving their donation.

Erin’s Squad was the top fundraising team in Canada in 2016, and the money that they raised will help Muscular Dystrophy Canada to support the thousands of Canadians affected by muscular dystrophy in positive, life-changing ways.

And the best part of the Walk?

“I really love getting to see everyone celebrate the awesome things that are being done to support people like myself,” says Erin. “Everyone has such a good time, and it’s really just an event to remember that nobody is alone in the fight against Muscular Dystrophy.”

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