Fundraising in Unconventional Ways

Posted On Mar 09, 2023

Topic: Announcement, Hide on Homepage, Real Talk: Survivor, Patient & Family Stories, Your Source for Breaking News & Inspirational Stories
Fundraising in Unconventional Ways

Todd Zavorskas

On Christmas Eve 2009, my mom Lorraine—the most kind-hearted, selfless, and accepting person I’ve ever known—was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Shortly before her diagnosis, she had been involved in a car accident, and a couple of months later she was suffering from abdominal discomfort, which my family assumed was residual pain from the accident. A CT scan shockingly revealed inoperable pancreatic cancer that had already metastasized throughout her body. We spent that Christmas heartbroken and fearful it would be her last holiday with us.

She was treated with chemotherapy, but that didn’t stop the cancer from overtaking her body and destroying her quality of life. Four months after her diagnosis, my mom passed away, leaving our family completely traumatized and reeling from pain, bewilderment, and the most indescribable loss. My mom was the person who grounded our family, and without her, our entire family felt off-kilter.

Through this harrowing experience, I learned the most important thing to do when a loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease is to maximize time together. Make a conscious effort to ensure life doesn’t completely revolve around the disease and create memories that you can revisit in your mind forever. I saw how much my mom cherished those moments, especially those with my three sons, who affectionately called her Mimi and who continue to miss her. Recognizing the gravity of my mom’s health situation, my brother Craig moved up his wedding to the end of February 2010, so everyone on both sides of my mom’s family could be with her one last time as part of his wedding celebration. We all appreciated this selfless act and were so grateful for this final celebration together.

I’ve always been a giver—a quality I’m so blessed to have inherited from my mom. In fact, I have raised nearly $268,000 for cancer charities, surpassing my lifetime fundraising goal of $250,000. For 28 years, I volunteered for a cancer charity in memory of my grandmother Anne, who passed away from Hodgkin’s Disease. I was so proud to have achieved my fundraising goal, for my grandma and for all the future patients who would benefit because of the funding I helped to raise.

After I had reached my lifetime fundraising goal, I shifted my focus to a new, formidable target: making a difference for pancreatic cancer patients to honor my mom’s memory. When I learned about the Lustgarten Foundation’s commitment to ensuring 100% of every donation goes to research, it seemed like a perfect fit; I could use the fundraising skills I’d honed to now raise critically-needed research funding for pancreatic cancer—a disease so menacing that it’s on track to become the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States by 2030.

I am working toward achieving the $14,000 goal I set for my first year of fundraising for the Lustgarten Foundation. I won’t stop there, though; I am focused on raising another $250,000 in my mom’s honor. To accomplish this, I am fundraising in a very unconventional way that I really enjoy—through cosplay (costume play). In 2013, I started a company that offers merchandise, cosplay appearances, and exclusives to champion both national and local charities. Over time, my love for cosplay has grown, and so has the repertoire of characters I now portray and the number of events I attend.

During many weekends every year, I travel throughout New England to participate in shows and events, including Comic Cons. I have befriended comic book artists at the shows who will sometimes contribute a comic strip I can auction off for charity. I also have photo opportunities where I dress in character from a television show or movie, and I even take pictures with the talent at Comic Con and get autographs and auction them or post them online. During my cosplay events, I have information about the Lustgarten Foundation available, and occasionally, I even connect with someone else who has been impacted by pancreatic cancer and who can empathize with my loss.

Nearly any hobby or passion imaginable—even cosplay—presents endless possibilities for fundraising and provides an avenue for donating time, talent, and creativity to support a worthy cause. I am honored to use cosplay as a way to encourage donations that support the Lustgarten Foundation’s pancreatic cancer research initiatives. I am also so grateful to the Foundation for making inroads toward a cure for pancreatic cancer. I like to imagine the donations received through my cosplay activities are also Christmas presents for my mom, along with my promise of continuing to do whatever I can to make sure other families don’t lose their loved ones to pancreatic cancer like ours has.

Click here for more information and access to my fundraising page.

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