Since 1949, LLS has been dedicated to curing leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. They are the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
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When Tom Feulner was seventeen, he was thinking about making Amy Engel his girlfriend. Amy was a pretty, very intelligent girl with a smile that could light up a room and a constantly optimistic outlook on life that brightened Tom’s own broody poetic moods.
So when Amy was diagnosed with leukemia, and when it became clear that she would not survive, Tom struggled to understand how such a fate could take such a wonderful person. They grew closer over the course of Amy’s illness, depending on each other and becoming adults before either of them were ready. When Amy passed away, Tom knew this experience would shape the rest of his life.
Ten years later Tom finished his first novel. “Love or at Least Lust and Friendship” chronicles that time with Amy and how the disease that brought them so close together also took them apart. He wrote it for Amy, and he wrote it for himself. “I wanted a record of Amy's life through my eyes,” he says. “I wanted other people to know her and understand her courage.”
For some, perhaps, writing a book would have been catharsis enough, but Tom knew he had to do more. Amy inspired Tom to think about other people. “When she was announced terminal,” he says, “Amy requested that any useful remains be donated to science. To the cause. To help other people avoid her fate.” Tom felt the need to continue Amy’s selflessness, so he decided to donate all the proceeds from the sale of his book to charity.
Amy hadn’t been outside in weeks, which is actually years in hospital time, so she skipped as we walked along. I can still see her now, in her sky blue slippers with the white clouds on them, stopping every so often to smell a flower or touch the leaves of a tree. She looked like she was in a fairy tale. ~ excerpt from “Love or at Least Lust and Friendship”
With this decision, Tom became a volunteer. He volunteered his skills at writing and connecting with people on the page, he volunteered his time, and he volunteered his money to help others that are dealing with similar struggles.
Tom didn’t know much about nonprofits, and he needed to choose a charity to donate his book sales. He knew that Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the leading organization in leukemia research, so he reached out to them first. Along the way, he got to know Kara Smith, Donor Development Director for the Greater San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of LLS. Kara described to Tom amazing advances in research that were stalled inside of biotech companies because they had low potential to make these companies a profit. Among many other things, LLS funds the development of these advances so they’ll be available for those that need it, regardless of profit. Tom was excited about this work, and thought, “This is something tangible my readers can really get amped about investing in.”
Since self-publishing his book, Tom has sold over 225 copies. He’s raised $2,000 so far for LLS, and is excited to see that number grow. The LLS logo is included on the book’s introductory page and information about how to donate is included on the last page. People can also buy the book in paper format or in digital format to support LLS.
Tom describes LLS as being incredibly easy to work with. Kara and others at the organization gave him a real window into the workings of the nonprofit. He’s still in frequent contact with Kara, and is thinking there may be other boards or committees he can serve on to become more involved in the future. Not to mention that he expects to contribute more financially. As Tom says, “This could easily be the most meaningul philanthropic relationship of my life.”
“Tom’s book is helping to raise awareness of our organization and why the work we do is so critical,” says Kara. “He’s serving as an unofficial spokesperson and advocate for LLS by sharing what he’s learning about our mission with his friends, family and colleagues.”
The staff at LLS appreciate Tom’s unique contribution. According to Nancy Klein, LLS’s chief marketing and revenue officer, “Tom’s commitment, passion and generosity make him an outstanding volunteer and we deeply appreciate his time and talent.”
Tom used to have a lot of doubts about nonprofit organizations, but now he knows how effective they can be. “Having always worked in the for-profit sector,” he says, “I used to think of nonprofits as bureaucratic and not well run.” Now he’s become much more informed and less jaded about what’s actually being done on the ground to fight leukemia. Not only that, he’s more likely to encourage other business leaders to learn about nonprofits and to find common ground with an organization that they could potentially help.
Tom is now in the process of writing his next book. He hopes that publishing a few more books will relly get his name out there. This will help not only his own career, but will also provide more exposure for his first book and for what LLS is doing. His dream is for the book to become a bestseller and LLS to reap the benefits. As he says, “I’d like to have a more significant contribution to make to the doctors and researchers battling leukemia.” By giving of his time and talent, Tom will surely accomplish his goal.