What a Community Can Accomplish When We Come Together

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by Halsey Blocher |

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Back in November, the latest e-newsletter from We Carry Kevan (WCK) landed in my inbox, and this one included an intriguing request. They were looking for volunteers to serve as ambassadors who would promote the organization’s mission of redefining accessibility in their communities.

One area where ambassadors were needed was planning fundraising events that would not only raise money for WCK but also bring awareness to the community and offer them a chance to connect with the organization.

While I had never been the lead organizer for a fundraiser, I have experience volunteering in fundraising at the local disability center, so I felt like this was a challenge I could tackle. I didn’t have any other philanthropic endeavors on my calendar yet, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to offer my time and skills to a cause that’s important to me.

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For those in the SMA and disability communities, Kevan Chandler, the founder and namesake of WCK, might be a familiar figure. Kevan has SMA, and he became a celebrity when he left his wheelchair at home and traveled across Europe with his friends in a custom backpack they had helped design and build so they could carry him across the continent without worrying about whether or not the journey would be accessible enough for Kevan’s wheelchair.

Where does one find such awesome friends, you ask? Kevan had to look no further than one of his favorite coffee shops in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. Yes, that’s right: Kevan and I live in the same city.

On a cold, icy day, Kevan and I met in that same coffee shop to talk about his hopes for a fundraiser and brainstorm ideas. After several hours of conversation and some caffeinated drinks, we settled on an ambitious plan. We would organize an event that Kevan called We Carry Together. It would be the nonprofit’s first-ever 5K, complete with live entertainment and food trucks, and we were going to create an option for virtual participation so that WCK supporters around the globe could take part.

Kevan and I had the luxury of proximity that allowed us to meet in person, but not everyone that works for WCK is local. We would need help from Kevan’s sister Connie, who lives in North Carolina, if we were going to pull this off. Connie also has SMA, and as WCK’s director of family engagement, part of her job is to oversee the ambassadors and assist them in their fundraising efforts.

The distance between us did nothing to stop Connie from helping turn this dream into a reality. Thanks to video chats, we were able to regularly discuss progress, and we kept each other updated on details over email.

Kevan, Connie, and I were prepared to embark on an epic new adventure, but we had a lot to do and only a few months to do it. We would need a fully accessible location, a band, food trucks, advertising, and more. And we needed people to actually sign up.

I probably should have been more intimidated by such a big challenge, but every time things didn’t go as planned, a solution presented itself and proved to be even better than the original idea.

Throughout the process, people stepped up to make sure every need was met. Some were friends and family, and others were mutual connections. Complete strangers even offered to help. No matter where we looked, people were ready and willing to provide the time, talent, and financial support we needed.

Because I was involved with every step of this event, I had the privilege of witnessing the kindness and generosity of everyone who was a part of it. When it finally came time for the event, the fruits of everyone’s labor (along with a healthy dose of heavenly provision) were on full display, and the community showered us with more support than we had hoped for.

On May 28, the most beautiful, sunny day that we’d had all week, we gathered to set up our event and welcome our guests. And there were many! Over 100 people, including Connie, came out to join us and contribute to a night of fun and togetherness.

We Carry Kevan | SMA News Today | Halsey Blocher, Kevan Chandler, and Connie Chandler pose side-by-side for an outdoor photo with a food truck in the background

From left, Halsey Blocher, Kevan Chandler, and Connie Chandler celebrate a successful We Carry Together 5K fundraiser on May 28 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

An article in a local newspaper, The Journal Gazette, says that Kevan and I, “Both credit the other with the creation” of this event. The truth is that there isn’t one person who can take sole credit for any part of this. Like with so many things in life, it could only be done by working together. And that’s really what this whole thing was about from the beginning — doing something great together. That’s one of the best ways to accomplish just about anything.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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