Rae Hoffman-Dolan (@Sugarrae) is a well-known SEO in our industry. Most people know her as Sugarrae or the CEO of Push Fire, but what most don’t know is that she is a very strong person and an extremely strong mother. I encourage you to read her story below and learn about the non-profit she is actively working to support.
The largest event that I promote and fund-raise for each year is the Heart Walk, which is run by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (the two organizations essentially work as one, so from this point forward, I will simply refer to them as the AHA).
What They Do
The AHA works to not only increase awareness and prevention of heart disease and stroke (the number one and number four causes of death in the United States respectively) but also works to improve the lives, rehabilitation and emotional support of those affected by them.
Why are you involved with this cause?
In 1997, my first son suffered a massive bilateral stroke at only two weeks of age. A bilateral stroke is when you have a stroke, but have it on both sides of the brain simultaneously. Bilateral strokes are rare in general, but even rarer in children and are typically more damaging than a traditional stroke. The bilateral stroke damaged over 80% of his brain and left him severely multiply handicapped (he has spastic quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, profound mental retardation, catastrophic epilepsy, cortical visual impairment and several other conditions as a result of his stroke). The cause of my son’s stroke is still unknown. He had no known factors or issues that typically cause stroke in children – he essentially won the lottery statistic wise.
In 1998, I founded the first national support group for pediatric stroke to ever register with the AHA.
Over the course of time that I ran the group (I stepped down as director and another parent took over in 2002 when I fell into the industry) I came into contact with thousands of families whose children had suffered strokes. Some recovered completely, some fairly well, some were left with mild disabilities, some were left with severe disabilities like my son, and some unfortunately didn’t survive their stroke at all. (About 20-40% of children that suffer strokes die as a result of them).
While running the group, I worked with research groups to help find them children that fit the criteria for studies they were running to help get more accurate statistics regarding childhood stroke and worked with mainstream media outlets that were looking for interviewees to give media attention to the topic. Additionally, I was the first parent caregiver ever featured in AHA’s Stroke Connection Magazine in 1998 (because stroke was traditionally viewed as a problem in adults, caregivers typically were thought of as adult children or spouses).
My whole goal was – and still is to help promote awareness that childhood stroke is indeed a problem, and as such, should have funding devoted to it to help prevention and training. My own son’s stroke was initially missed by doctors and we’ll never know if earlier detection could have improved his outcome. I want to ensure no other family ever has to ask themselves that question. Ideally, I’d love to see childhood stroke eradicated, but at the very least, I want to see it diagnosed early, treated early and give the kids who survive them the best shot possible at recovery.
Talk about why you are passionate about this organization specifically.
I support the AHA specifically because the bulk of their money goes to actually help solve the problem and not to paying for paperclips. Additionally, they were one of the first national organizations to begin recognizing childhood stroke and putting money towards research and education surrounding it.
Unfortunately, over the last two years, my son’s health has been declining and he’s been hospitalized twice in the last six months where we didn’t believe he would make it. The doctors believe that trend will continue until his body finally gives up. My son is currently 14 and they don’t expect him to see adulthood. No one should have to go through this – especially not a child. I believe that the AHA is in the position to make the most difference when it comes to childhood stroke and I hope that by fundraising to help them in that goal, I’m doing something that would make my son proud if he could understand the world around him.
How do you support them?
As I mentioned above, I do the Heart Walk here in Houston and am one of the top individual fundraisers for the Houston Walk (and for the record, forfeit any of the prize rewards offered as a result). I also serve on the Houston AHA Community Teams Committee, which is dedicated to helping individual walkers and community based teams like mine (meaning they aren’t part of a corporation or company participating in the walk) and their fundraising efforts.
We give feedback on how to improve fundraising initiatives and materials to help our community as a whole raise more money to help the AHA do what they do. I also help to recruit additional people to get involved and actually walk in the event (or the Heart Walks in their own communities if they’re not local to Houston).
What’s the best way for others to get involved?
I’m constantly looking for supporters in the Walk. The required minimum tax deductible donation through the official fundraising site is 25 dollars. For folks who would like to contribute but would like to do so at a lower donation level, I’ve setup up a page to accept those (however, they will not be tax deductible). Every donation helps immensely, regardless of the size. If someone has a product or service they’re willing to donate to be auctioned off – with all money raised going to the Walk – they can contact me via my contact form on Sugarrae.
If you live in or near Houston and would like to actually participate in the Walk with me, you can sign up for the Houston walk via my team page. Lastly, if you’re outside my area but want to do the Walk in your own community, you can find the Walk nearest you here.