Where the high prairie meets the Rocky Mountains, Harlowton, Montana is a beautiful place. A small community numbering about 900, just about everyone here has been touched in some way by multiple sclerosis (MS).
If we widen the area to all of Wheatland County, of which Harlowton is the county seat, the population numbers about 2,110. Here, too, MS has affected many in what feels like disproportionate numbers. Though scientists are not completely sure why, research has indicated there is a greater prevalence of MS cases at northern latitudes. If you were to walk up to anyone in Wheatland County and ask whether they know someone with MS, odds are high they’ll tell you about a family member or close friend. One Martinsdale family has been hit especially hard – of Karen and John’s four children, sons Keelan and Konnor have been recently diagnosed with MS.
Harlowton is home to my company, Eventgroove. We custom print posters, raffle tickets, drink tickets…pretty much everything you might need to run an event or fundraiser. A significant portion of our customers are non-profit organizations, and as a result, my team comes in contact with evidence of people all over giving of themselves to make a difference, so much so that it inspired us to hold a fundraiser of our own.
There was no question our first fundraiser would benefit multiple sclerosis research. The disease has impacted the lives of our employees and their children, my own family, and so many others in our greater community.
Immediately, the Eventgroove offices became a fundraising machine. Everyone was committed to raising as much money as possible. Tina and Michelle were marketing and promoting powerhouses. Rhonda distributed all over town large jars emblazoned with stickers that encouraged donating to MS research and read “Your Spare Change in Life Makes Cents,” which filled up rapidly.
Simultaneously, Sarah suggested a kickball tournament to Terry, who was also helping to organize our efforts. Together with the help of a wonderful group of TP.com staff, she’d already done some of the footwork and a plan was put in motion in short order.
When word about our kickball tournament with a $200 entry benefiting MS was announced, people all over Wheatland County and in Harlowton got teams together, even the Sheriff’s Office! Participants had some serious fun with their teams, too. Each showed up on that cold, very windy day wearing costumes or team t-shirts and had a blast. To top it all off, The Scally Crew, whose members included Keelan and Konnor, was the winning team. Right away, they gave their $200 winnings back to the cause.
Afterward, everyone headed over to the Moose Lodge for refreshments, where a portion of the proceeds went toward our MS fundraising total. Overall, the tournament raised $1,600 and created some fierce rivalries – we’ve already got a challenge brewing for next year!
Though our kickball tournament was a success, we weren’t done yet. The Harlo Theatre, our town’s cinema house, is owned and operated by the local high school. As with many movie theatres, folks can sponsor films. At the time, A Dog’s Life was playing, so TP.com team members Laura, Jason, Jalene, and Rhonda arranged to have the Friday night showing benefit MS research. In exchange for tickets, attendees brought jugs or cups of coins. Every seat in the house was filled.
Finally, we added our total fundraising earnings to those of the Walker’s Deluxe Team during our local MS Walk on April 29. The Walker’s Deluxe Team has been a part of the National MS Society’s annual walk for several years, and our funds moved the team into the current #1 spot for fundraising! What’s also incredible is that we accomplished all of our fundraising activities in just six weeks. It really shows you the power of momentum and a shared goal.
When a family member or friend has MS, the desire to know more and to do something is powerful and ever-present. Certainly, as individuals, we can and do offer support in all its forms. However, channeling the restless need to do something into a group effort that, cumulatively, will result in treatment was very meaningful. On the day of the MS Walk, it was especially moving to see so many people from all over Montana involved in the fight against MS in one place. We are legion, and it was an honor for everyone at TP.com to have walked.
Overall, our small town and community contributed $3,031.60. And we’d all do it again in a heartbeat.