“Anything we can do, we will do…”
When Kelly Stewart, 40, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the day before Valentine’s Day in 2012, both she and her husband, Jason, immediately thought of their four young children.
Three boys and a girl, ages 14, 13, 10 and 9.
The determination to fight back against the disease – and win – was fierce. “Anything we can do, we will do,” the couple agreed. One of the things they did was turn to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for information and support.
The Stewarts’ community shared their determined attitude – Jason Stewart remembers an immense outpouring of love and support in their town of Frisco, Texas, and far beyond. In fact, later in the year, neighbors, friends and family from across the country either made a donation or joined “Team Kelly” at PurpleStride® DFW in Dallas.
It was a beautiful November day when the event took place. All 127 Team Kelly members – including Kelly Stewart – enjoyed their time together and vowed not to forget it. It wouldn’t be the last time that Jason Stewart would experience a “breathtaking” amount of empathy and admiration directed toward his wife.
Seven months later, in June 2013, a very different event took place. Some 2,500 people paid their respects at Kelly Stewart’s memorial service after she lost her 15-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Again, breathtaking,” Jason Stewart said. “Still today, people come up to me and say, ‘Kelly was my best friend.’ And I feel the same way, only I was the lucky one who actually got to spend my life with her.”
On November 8, 2014, a year and a half after her death, Kelly Stewart’s most ardent supporters came together again at PurpleStride DFW. And Team Kelly raised $42,690 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. They were the first-place fundraising team.
Their fundraising had been bolstered by a matching gift of $20,000 – her husband’s idea.
Said Jason Stewart: “I had set up a memorial fund soon after Kelly passed away, and thousands of donations poured in – over $15,000. We decided to start a foundation in her name. As PurpleStride DFW got closer, I decided I would leverage those donations by offering to match up to $20,000 raised by Team Kelly.”
The matching challenge did more than simply raise more money. It also spurred a greater level of team enthusiasm.
“It helped energize the team, because people knew every dollar they donated or raised was worth double the amount,” Stewart said. Including Team Kelly’s contribution, close to $577,000 was raised at PurpleStride DFW.
That very same day, more than 1,600 miles away, PurpleStride Silicon Valley in San Jose, Calif., was just getting started, and another matching-gift challenge was being celebrated.
Chuck Cheatham was honoring his longtime friend, Diane Borrison, an eight-year pancreatic cancer survivor and a stalwart within the local volunteer affiliate and the pancreatic cancer community.
His challenge match? Dollar-for-dollar, up to $100,000, for all fundraising done for PurpleStride Silicon Valley 2014.
“I had been an event sponsor for years as owner of the Casablanca Inn (in Santa Cruz, Calif.),” Cheatham said. “I had recently sold the hotel, and I wanted to use that income to generate enthusiasm for PurpleStride Silicon Valley fundraising.”
It worked. The event raised almost $308,000 (which included Cheatham’s $100,000 matching gift) – more than double the amount raised the previous year and 55 percent above the event’s fundraising goal.
“It was very exciting to be able to do this to pay tribute to Diane and everyone who has been affected by pancreatic cancer,” Cheatham said. “It brings a tear to my eye just talking about it. I would love to see others do the same at their local PurpleStride if they can.”
Borrison, deeply inspired by her friend’s generosity, said, “Chuck’s offer was amazing. I hope it plants a seed among others. You don’t have to be a multimillionaire to move the needle. Everyone can do a little something.”
Cheatham agreed: “I’m not a wealthy Silicon Valley tech guy with money coming out of my ears – I’m simply not in that category. But selling the inn put me in a position to be able to give back, and that was a great feeling.”
As for whether he might match dollars raised at PurpleStride Silicon Valley 2015, Cheatham said he’s toying with a few ideas that he hopes will inspire others to come forward with their own match challenge. It’s important to keep the momentum going, he said.
Back in Texas, Jason Stewart expressed that he, too, was looking forward to another excitement-filled PurpleStride event this November.
“My family will always support PurpleStride and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network because of the wonderful help and information Kelly and I received,” he said. “I’m happy to continue to raise awareness and funds through PurpleStride. It’s a great way to keep Kelly’s memory alive.”
“…Anything we can do, we will do.”
Are you interested in offering a matching-gift challenge to encourage fundraising and build excitement at your local PurpleStride? If so, we want to hear from you. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.