Wednesday, November 21

Socializing Monkeys: SMAC! Takes Thanksgiving

If you have never head of Leslie Lehrman or Jennifer Windrum, the day before Thanksgiving is the ideal day for an introduction. Leslie Lehrman is dying of cancer. Jennifer Windrum is her daughter.

And yet, despite the direness of their situation — that this may be their last Thanksgiving together — they and their family are grateful. For the past seven years, Windrum has used social media to chronicle her mother's fight against lung cancer. Today, more people are aware that lung cancer research is being neglected for all the wrong reasons because of their efforts and awareness always leads to action.

A social media campaign becomes a catalyst for action.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ask Windrum a few questions about WTF? For Lung Cancer and SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer as her story became a good will pick on Liquid [Hip]. There, you will find some of the back story. Here, I want to ask for your help.

SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer only has a few days left to raise $35,000. While Windrum will meet her minimum $29,000 funding requirement, she really needs $35,000. She has until Nov. 30 to raise it, but she needs some additional help because her mom took a turn for the worse this month.

Windrum has been where she is needed most, bedside with her mom. Tomorrow, even as their family gets together for Thanksgiving, she will be there too. Ten years ago, this inconvenient truth would have canceled any fundraising effort. But social media is different. For every minute Windrum cannot be online, she has a network of friends who are willing to step up. She has raised more than $20,000.

The funding is to launch a new sock monkey product line with two very interesting twists. The sock monkeys are always sold in pairs so any time someone purchases a SMAC! sock monkey, another will be sent to someone with cancer. And any time someone purchases a pair, it will raise funds for the National Coalition of Oncology Nurse Navigators (NCONN) and Liz’s Legacy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Eppley Cancer Center.

The first directly benefits cancer patients because NCONN provides advocates who help cancer patients with appointments, phone calls and treatment regimens. The second directly funds cancer research.

Why sock monkeys? 

On one of the many occasions that Lehrman traveled to various medical centers around the United States, Windrum gave her two sock monkeys — a Mother's Day gift from her twin daughters. Those two sock monkeys helped to remind her mom that no matter what happened she would never be alone. She had people who loved her, their hugs were tucked inside for whenever she needed them most.

They worked. And personally, I am not surprised.

Having lost many family members to cancer, including my two grandparents who raised me until I was 10, the smallest symbols of our affection always become the greatest catalysts for them to face whatever comes next. And because of Lehrman and Windrum, these little guys carry with them not only our love but also a gesture that sweeps across hundreds and thousands of cancer patients and survivors just like them.

I am especially touched by the Lehrman-Windrum story because Windrum gave up everything her career might have become in favor of a career tied to a cause that most people don't understand. It was especially noble given there is virtually no funding for lung cancer research because it has become associated with the stigma of smoking.

But perhaps that makes the story all the more compelling. Although Lehrman never smoked, she has become the victim of this stigma. The lack of lung cancer research is as responsible as the disease.

While they both know any cancer research funding will come too late to help Lehrman, it might one day save the life of someone else who has lung cancer. It currently accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 80 percent of the people who are afflicted have never smoked or gave up smoking decades ago.

You can join me and help change this. While every $10 donation is an amazing show of support, $50 or more will include your choice of the first two sock monkeys designed specifically to help cancer patients and cancer research. Larger pledges include sending dozens of monkeys to cancer patients too.

You can learn more by visiting the pledge form at StartSomeGood. If you cannot help with a donation, then perhaps sharing this story or passing along this ask will help it find someone who can help. Or maybe you could even can save a little time at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow and smile at everything you have to be grateful for. Just ask Lehrman and Windrum. They are grateful for any and all support.
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