Up against the shrinking budgets and burgeoning workloads of these tough economic times, most people would say creating one’s own nonprofit organization is a little crazy. But this challenge was nothing compared with what Small Army — the agency I co-founded with my business partner, Mike Connell — faced before.
I will never forget the phone call I received from Mike on Dec. 26, 2005. He was calling to tell me that he had stage four squamous cell carcinoma. He’d previously won two battles with cancer and been in remission for 20 years, so by most medical standards, he should have been in the clear.
For the next two years, we at Small Army watched Mike’s battle: starting treatment two days after the birth of his third child; experiencing hope with each positive sign and frustration with each setback; and, finally, preparing his family for a future without him. We watched him leave us gracefully in November 2007. This was only seven days after the birth of my second child, and it changed my own perspective on life.
I saw the impact Mike had on those who loved him and worked with him, and it made me realize that, in our work, we have the power to make an impact on the world around us. One of the greatest things about being a creative marketing agency is that we are not bound by conventional thinking. Mike believed in big, bold ideas that could change the world, and it’s in his honor that Small Army created Small Army for a Cause, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to raising funds for health-related causes in bold and unique ways.
Be Bold, Be Bald! has become our signature event, raising money for cancer-related charities. The idea is simple: Wear a bald cap all day (this year, on October 16) and get friends, families and colleagues to sponsor you for doing so. No training or time off from work required. Just put the bald cap on in the morning, and take it off before you go to bed to show solidarity with the many cancer patients (like Mike) who lose their hair as a result of treatment.
No one has to worry about finding their own bald cap, either. We send participants bald caps when they sign up online and give them all the fundraising tools needed to solicit donations, including a personal online participation page. All proceeds will be donated to the cancer-related charity selected by the participant.
As an agency, we’re also finding this initiative is having a positive impact beyond what we’re doing to fight cancer. Many companies, including ours, find themselves stretched very thin in this tough economy. But while the significant workload of Be Bold, Be Bald! in some ways contributes to that, it’s also given everyone at the agency a sense of satisfaction and pride that is unique to this type of giving. It’s brought us closer as a team (often during late-night working sessions), and the agency is much stronger as a result.
So though Mike isn’t here with us today, his spirit lives on. He continues to help make the agency among the best in the region, and he’s helping us make a big impact in the fight against cancer.
Thanks, Mike. We miss you.