Regina’s Darlene Olsen always knew she wanted to go above and beyond volunteering for Look Good Feel Better.
The idea for her first fundraiser came she was driving home from a workshop in 2006 – she knew there was more she could do for women with cancer.
She envisioned a grand-scale event with a fashion show, silent auction and hundreds of people in attendance.
“I like to think in big numbers,” the now 20-year volunteer said.
As a first-time event planner, it was admittedly a little scary, she said.
To secure the venue she had to put down $10,000 of her own money.
She assembled an event team (mainly comprised of her fellow LGFB volunteers) and told them, “I don’t care what we do, but we have to make $10,000 because I have to be paid back!”
The event raised nearly $20,000 for Look Good Feel Better that year.
She’s since continued organizing events, raising about $200,000 for LGFB over the past decade.
“In my long lifetime, I’ve known so many people that have been affected by cancer,” said Darlene. “Look Good Feel Better is a cause I support – I’m passionate enough to volunteer, so why not go above and beyond?”
The fashion show in Regina ran for eight years, until Darlene transitioned to a slightly smaller scale event in her hometown of Arcola (about two hours southeast of Regina), called Creative Tables for Cancer. Tickets are sold by the table and each group chooses a theme and decorates their table accordingly. Darlene’s seen Christmas, Halloween and even Royal-Dalton themes. The event also includes dinner, but each table’s host must provide its own themed dessert.
While Creative Tables is smaller than the fashion show, it still hosts 425 people and raises about $35,000 for LGFB each year.
“I’m not extra special or extra ordinary,” Darlene said of her fundraising success. “With the LGFB volunteers – there’s got to be more people like me.”
Darlene will be hosting her ninth Creative Tables for Cancer event in October as part of Look Good Feel Better’s 25 MORE campaign, which is calling on supporters – from survivors to volunteers – to host a fundraiser in 2017 to ensure the charity can continue helping women with cancer for another 25 MORE years.
“I really encourage other volunteers across Canada to put their heads together and find something that they think their community would really enjoy,” Darlene said. “Do something a little bit above and beyond just volunteering for this program, because we want this program to continue on for the next 25 years.”
“With everybody’s support, I think it’s going to be a given.”
While Darlene is an event-planner extraordinaire today, she admits it was daunting at first.
“The first year was really a big stepping out of my comfort zone,” Darlene said of the 2006 fashion show. “There were a lot of things we learned – that’s why we did a second one.”
“Every year it got bigger.”
She also learned something new every year, and to kick off Look Good Feel Better’s 25 MORE campaign, she’s sharing some of those tips to inspire future fundraisers.
ASK FOR FUNDING
The first lesson she learned was how to ask for money.
Having grown up in Regina, she had a lot of contacts in the city, so she connected with anyone she knew.
If she had a contact at a business, she reached out. She also picked up the phone and connected with small businesses to ask for silent auction donations.
Each year, asking got easier and the event grew – the first year of Creative Tables had 160 people, now it welcomes more than 400.
While small fundraisers are still effective, Darlene likes to “go big or go home.”
“I just book big halls, I invite people from all over Saskatchewan and all over Canada,” she said. “In order for it to be successful you have to go above and beyond.”
“I seem to get a lot of credit for what has happened, but it’s not really about me,” Darlene said.
From her first event in 2006, she made sure she assembled a team that could turn her dreams into reality – and that meant partnering with volunteers who have different strengths.
For example, Darlene is good at ideas, but she needs help with the financial and tech side of things, so she makes sure to find partners with those skills.
“You have to have all kinds of different people on your team,” she said. “Teamwork makes the dream work, really and truly.”
MAKE IT HAPPEN
More than anything else, you need to commit, said Darlene.
“Just pick a day, a place and work together to make things happen,” she said, adding that the chosen event needs to be something the volunteers and community can get excited about – whether that’s a fashion show, a ladies’ night out, or a bake sale.
“Somebody has to have the idea and have the initiative to get some volunteers or friends together to support her idea and together, as a team, they can really move mountains,” she said. “It’s just women pulling together to help other people, because they don’t know if they’re going to be the next one diagnosed with cancer, or if it’s going to be their mother, or neighbour.”
For the past 25 years, Look Good Feel Better has been helping women with cancer feel like themselves again, but we can’t do it alone anymore. Cancer rates are rising in women and we want to be there for those mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and wives – but we need you to make this possible. In honour of our 25th year, we’re asking you to organize a fundraising event to help ensure Look Good Feel Better is around for another 25 MORE years.