Apr 22, 2008 Martha E. Conway Uncategorized
When Jeff Gifford began raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society five or six years ago, he couldn’t have predicted he would a few years later be a survivor himself. Now, Gifford is a candidate for LLS Man of the Year honors.
Gifford, 47, of Chittenango, an employee of CXTEC in North Syracuse, became involved with LLS’s “Light the Night” campaign after the diagnosis of CXTEC founder Bill Pomeroy. Light the Night is a twilight walk, Gifford said. Participants carry lighted balloons — red for supporters and white for survivors — for a couple of miles. The event is generally held in mid-September, Gifford said.
“I’ve always been a sucker for a cause,” Gifford said, “but after Bill was diagnosed, it was easy to put a face with the cause.”
Then, in October 2006, Gifford was diagnosed with leukemia.
“When I hit this brick wall, people were already there for me,” Gifford said. “I am in remission. I am 100 percent leukemia-free. Not everyone has that support system in place. Medical professionals are not always equipped to provide the support and information people need at a time like that.”
A man with a plan
The ‘Man and Woman of the Year’ program consists of a nine-week campaign window, Gifford said, and he’s got a committee of about two dozen volunteers making sure he uses every minute to his best advantage.
This Friday, Gifford will kickoff “Four Marathons in Four Days,” leaving CXTEC’s headquarters on South Bay Road for the first of four 27-mile walks planned for Friday through Monday.
Friday’s hike will take him north on Route 11 to Mexico; Saturday’s trek begins from P&C Food Market in DeWitt and heads east on Route 5 into the city of Oneida; day three will cover southern Madison County from Hamilton, north to Route 20 and through Morrisville, Eaton and Nelson to Cazenovia, then on Route 92 into Manlius. On Monday, Gifford is finalizing a foot tour of western Onondaga County to encompass the Camillus/Marcellus/Skaneateles communities.
Gifford’s initial MOY efforts included correspondence to 100 Lions’ Clubs, 110 American Legions, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres and a dozen NASCAR associations. The Race for a Cure Foundation sent him a $250 contribution, Gifford said.
“All of these efforts are getting the word about the Society out to the counties in this region,” Gifford said. “Power comes in numbers. I would rather get $1 from 100 people than $100 from one person, and I get to meet 99 more people.”
Gifford said he has always had a problem asking for help, and he said he certainly could never ask people for money.
End justifies the means
Gifford’s hope is to educate people about leukemia and lymphoma, as well as to raise money for research that will hopefully lead to a cure, he said.
“One dollar equals one vote,” Gifford said. “So looks and personality mean nothing.”
In essence, he or she who gets the most money, wins.
“I want to raise awareness and get the word out about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society mission,” Gifford said. “I want to reach as many people as I can for the cause. They need a vehicle to drive that cause home, and I am that vehicle.”
Gifford said his campaign has allowed him to meet people he never would have otherwise.
“I find I have friends I never knew existed,” Gifford said. “You also find out later you quietly inspire others without realizing it.”
Everyone can’t donate, Gifford said, and with so many good causes out there, it makes it difficult for people to pick and choose.
“No amount of money is too small, and people can’t be embarrassed just to say, ‘Thank you for what you are doing,’ because that sometimes means even more,” Gifford said.
There are five woman of the year and four man of the year candidates in the Central New York region, which encompasses 19 counties, Gifford said. So far, he has raised more than $7,000, and the clock is ticking on his being able to make his $30,000 goal.
CXTEC is a major sponsor of the CNY event, Gifford said.
“I would rather live in my car than ask for help for myself,” Gifford said. “I’m not doing this for myself. Somebody else did it for me, so I owe it to them to do it for someone else. I would love nothing more than to have this be the last Man of the Year Campaign ever.”
For more information, to learn more about Gifford’s fund-raising plans for the final weeks of the campaign or to make a donation, call Gifford at 727-9713, visit voteforgiff.com or mail checks payable to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, c/o Jeff Gifford 2008 Man of the Year Campaign, P.O. Box 225, Chittenango, N.Y. 13037.