Wednesday, August 8, 2007

ADA Part 3

Part 3
The Premier, The BIKE and The Money.
(Continuation of a 4 part series)
Part 1
Part 2

As things for the premier night started to come together so did the movie. It was obvious to Panama Jack and I that this fundraiser had a lot of potential. I spoke to Panama Jack quite often on the phone and we e-mailed frequently. We were becomming great friends. He suggested to me that I investigate creating my own non-profit organization to "cover my ass" in case anything went awry. So I hopped online and did some google searching about starting a non-profit organization. I found a great deal of info, much of it was very vague and what literature there was included a lot of BIG WORDS. So I made a phone call to the IRS... the individual on the phone there told me what I needed was a Tax ID Number. I went online and filled out the appropriate information to get my tax ID Number.

In the process of doing so.. I discovered that I needed to have a President, VP, Treasurer and a few other members. So in came my mom, sister and again... Panama Jack. I put their names on the application and gave my "group" a name: Team Sherpa. I continued to research the rules of being a non-profit in New Hampshire and I couldn't find much. In what was reading online, I thought I understood that unless we were being paid or raising more than $50,000 a year we didn't need to register with the State of New Hampshire.. I'd find out much later how wrong my assumption was. So... I left everything as is.. I had my Tax ID number and thought I had everything I needed. I didn't need to register with NH because we weren't going to make money off of it, or raise enough to begin with... and we carried on as is.

January rolled in and I finalized the film 1 week from the Premier. I had to crunch big time, I finalized the audio, had DVD copies made, Stickers and inserts made, I stuffed the DVD cases, labeled the DVD's, placed them in the cases and we were ready to go. Except, the first premier night was cancelled due to a Blizzard. So.. the following weekend the day came. We set up in the lobby with drinks and food for our guests. I had a table set up for the ADA who showed up to dispense information, another table is where we sold the DVD's and accepted donations. Nobody had any idea of what to expect. Only Panama Jack, Myself, Sarah and Her Family and the folks at "The Troupe" had seen the film...

The night of the Premier I asked Sarah's mom, a diabetes educator, to speak about the disease. Then Panama Jack spoke about what the film meant to the hiking community, then I came out to introduce my film. After thanking the some 200+ people for coming, I walked off stage and let the film play. As it played I walked around and watched everyone's emotions and really took in what was happenning. By the end, my family and many others were in tears... and blown away by a film they had no idea was going to be done so well... It was one of my proudest moments for sure. We sold many DVD's on Premier night and raised over $2000 for the ADA.. the money was sent right away. Team Sherpa was born, and so was a monster.

As the months rolled on by I went on tour with my film. I went to colleges and Universities all over New England. I went to gear/outdoor stores and AMC Destinations. I was the first and only person (still) to have a standing room only event at the AMC's Highland Center. I sold copies and donated copies.. even gave some away. I sold them in AMC locations and north country book stores.. even a few local EMS stores. It was a busy time for sure. It didn't take long for me to run out of the first batch of 200 DVD's and I had to make another batch of 200. We sold the DVD's online via paypal where the money flowed into our Team Sherpa Bank Account. From there.. we forwarded it on in spurts to the ADA.

A few months into fundraising, I met with the District Manager of the ADA again. We ate lunch in Boston and talked about the project. The money raised to date, the DVD, the premier and the future event in the Wild Whites Ultra-Marathon where I hoped to break Tim Seavers Record. During this lunch conversation, I asked Michael Curren what was a "business expense." He explained to me that it was really up to ME to decide what a business expense is. HE defined it as, "an expense through purchase of an item that helps you raise more funds in the future." I told him I wanted to buy a bicycle to help training for the record... an event I planned on using to raise more funds. He said, "sounds like a business expense to me." So.. after I went home, I thought more about it. I felt bad... it didn't sound right.. but I had his reassurance. So I went to a bike shop and paid for HALF of the bike with my own money and the other half with funds donated to Team Sherpa. I called my sister and talked to her and she told me.. "yeah, and when Team Sherpa is done.. you'll either have to sell the bike for the half you paid for with donated funds.. or buy it for yourself." The money was now earmarked for repayment by myself. I later used the road bike to not only train.. but to live up to the deal I had with Darren.. to ride for The Brain Tumor Society on behalf of VFTT.

We continued to use some of the donated money through individual donations to buy things that would, "help us raise money in the future." Most of it was all literature we passed out to tell folks about Team Sherpa, the DVD's and whatever else we could think of to help raise awareness of our little organization and our fundrasing goals. Some folks even donated to Team Sherpa with a note on the checks memo saying, "FOR RUNNING SHOES." I'd cash their check, and head to the store to buy new shoes. I saw nothing wrong with this since they were donating to our cause for a specific purpose. And it was through their intended purpose that I used the money.

Team Sherpa began to grow, some of my new friends in the hiking community wanted to help so they jumped on board. I continued to sell DVD's at a feverished clip.. selling over 500 in the first seven months! We were raising a lot of money for the ADA.. after our initial purchases of items that helped us promote our cause.. we began to focus on spending less and raising more. It was hard work and stressful. My sister was treasurer and she kept the books by writing everything in a ledger. We had to start planning the Big Record Breaking Extravaganza... so we started having monthly Team Sherpa Meetings where everyone involved showed up to start working together.

It didn't take long for us to see how much work lay before us. But we got right to it. Panama Jack and I met with the State of NH at Cannon Mountain Ski Area to ask them if we could use their mountain for the huge Diabetes Fundraiser to take place during my record attempt. They said yes immeditaely and we took account of what it was they were going to give us. Use of land, buildings, parking lots and food services, Emergency MEdical Services as well... it was all coming together but the "Team" was so overwhelmed. How was 6 people going to put on such a huge event with only a year of planning...

I started running more... as I toured with the film, worked a full time job and kept working on fundraising.. I found a little time to Train. I ran my first marathon on May 2005, followed by my first ultra in July. It was very painful and I was doubting my chances at breaking this record. Shortly after I ran my first ultra... I knew I had to try to do something... Most everything I had been doing in the on-line hiking forums was marketing myself to fellow hikers. Marketing myself to them so they would continue to buy my film and donate.. continue to support our cause. I still wanted to make it on Mohamed Website, I wanted to be know for something.. I wanted to help the ADA and I needed people to continue to donate and follow my progress... The more I trained the more I wrote trip reports. I found great joy in sharing my new adventures with those in the hiking commmunity... but some of those folks didn;t find it enjoyable at all. People started sending my harassing and volitile e-mails. Some hikers were threatenning, some just down right rude. I was very hurt... I cried alot.. people didn't like me and they all publicly stated their opinion that everything I was doing.. I was doing for MYSELF and no one else.. they called me a phony... I was so hurt, I cried and once again began to slip into thoughts of suicide.. I wasn't good enough at ANYTHING it seemed.. and things were starting to fall apart...

I started to hear less from Panama Jack and I began to wonder if he was still "IN." He had all of the Cannon Mountain Paperwork and he told me he sent in the application to use the ski resort WITH the required $150 fee. That was a relief... but as time went on... the more problems I began to have on VFTT. A new reputation system was installed on the site and people could anonymously send nasty comments to one another. I couldn't take it anymore... I wanted it all to be over. One day I reached the end of my whits and lost my cool while deleting a post stating, "I'm sick of these assholes.. Screw your reputation system." I was subsequently banned from VFTT. Some hikers asked why and Darren told them, "Because he swore at other members of the site and then criticized the way I run it." I felt like he had just lied to all these people in saying I "SWORE AT MEMBERS." What crap.. and he painted the wrong picture of me.. this in essence would be the beginning of the end. I wrote to Darren asking for help and what I got in return was a long e-mail that was more of an insulting tirrade about how he and many others can't stand me. I was banned from VFTT for a week or 2... I was at what I thought was a low point...

After much success in selling DVD's and making new friends. I had discovered that a few "trolls" were very much against me. People were taking my posts and trip reports the wrong way and others were using their personal power to paint the wrong picture of me. As I grew frustrated, I began to lose my cool and many couldn't help believe what they had read.. it was a tough time and things were only going to get worse...

Proceed to Part 4