My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Baby & the Bathwater

Over the last couple months I have been thinking about my relationship with LIVESTRONG. I think many of us that have fundraised for the organization have done so. I think the work the foundation does is excellent and really needed. I've met amazing people from Austin. I've met families that have benefitted from its services.

But I also know that there are many other nonprofits out there engaged in the fight against cancer. And they aren't tainted by their founder's disgrace.

Let me step back a moment. As you know LIVESTRONG was founded by Lance Armstrong. It was created in 1997. Before he "won" any Tours de France and as he came out of his own fight with testicular cancer. LIVESTRONG has now raised over $500M in its 15 years. Most of it on the account of Lance's fame and notoriety.

As we know now, that fame (& fortune) were ill-gotten gains. And while "everyone was doing it" and he never tested positive in any of the "hundreds of tests," the fact remains he doped. He cheated to win those yellow jerseys. And his fame from those "victories" made LIVESTRONG what it is today. (The details are laid out in this report by the US Anti-Doping Agency - a report that Lance has chose not to contest.)

I've seen five basic responses to the Lance news as it relates to LIVESTRONG:
  1. The die-hard supporters who are 100% behind the Foundation and Lance and still call him a 7-time TdF Champion.  They believe that the USADA report was a "witch hunt" and the fact that he "never" tested positive is proof of his innocence.
  2. The supporters who are behind the Foundation and, while accepting that the Tour victories have been erased, say that the good Lance has done as a cancer warrior outweighs whatever "bad" there is in his cycling career.  Therefore they continue to support LIVESTRONG and support Lance.  He has had a major and sometimes direct positive impact on people's lives.
  3. People who support LIVESTRONG and its work and want to separate the Foundation from the controversy surrounding Lance. This post on Huffington Post is a great example that comes from the author's personal experience.
  4. Some people are, understandably and reasonably, pulling away from the Foundation and shifting their efforts/support to other organizations. Here is a blog post from someone's personal blog laying out their reasons for doing so. And
  5. Lance's long-time critics who have also been critical of the Foundation and view it is a front to benefit it's founder, even before this summer's news.
Oh, and no, LIVESTRONG does not fund cancer research. Instead, it has focused where few other orgs have - on providing support and information to those who are just starting their fight against the disease. This work is important to patients and families that are shell shocked by the news that they have cancer. For more information, go here:

So, do you give up on a good organization because of the misdeeds of its founder? Do you throw the baby (LIVESTRONG) out with the bathwater (Lance and his cycling "accomplishments")? Some will say "yes, absolutely yes." Some will say "as long as he is still connected to the org, then yes." And some will say "no, I continue to support the work of the organization."

(For the record, Lance has not only resigned as Chairman of the Board, but also from the Board of Directors. In addition, the organization had also changed its name this last week from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Lance is no longer connected formally with the Foundation.)

As for me, I'm not giving up on the Foundation. I am going to continue my fundraising for LIVESTRONG. Unless the Foundation itself is mismanaging its resources. But there is no evidence of that. In fact, LIVESTRONG is a 4-star (its highest rating) charity according to Charity Navigator. See this link for the CharityNav rating and here for how the Foundation spends its money.

So, why am I sticking with the Foundation? Three reasons. The first is my sister Julie. The reason I started in 2010. (Miss you Sis!) Here's a link to my post in 2010 about why I chose LIVESTRONG when I started.
Julia Avery, 1961-1982
The other two reasons are two courageous young men I've met during the last couple of years while riding with the LIVESTRONG team on RAGBRAI: Drew Wall and Jack Hoeger. These boys have been fighting for years. And LIVESTRONG has been there for them. They and their families are witness to the positive work the Foundation does.  

Here is a video about Jack:
And a link to a previous post I wrote about these young men.

I guess I belong to the third group above.  So, no, I'm not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And I haven't cut my bracelet off either.  I will continue to work to raise money for LIVESTRONG through the RAGBRAI ride fundraising effort.  So when I call on you in the next few months, I hope that you will consider supporting my efforts. If you cannot because of your feelings about Lance, I hope you consider donating to another organization instead. It won't help my fundraising, but it's not about my fundraising. It's about doing good and helping. And bringing an end to cancer.

Thank you for your time!