Who do charity drives really help?

A number of people hate my annual article about the Terry Fox Run. Sorry. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

A number of people hate my annual article about the Terry Fox Run. Sorry. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

Someone has to remind Canadians that Terry Fox never wanted you to give more than a dollar on his behalf to fight cancer. He didn’t want to be made into a hero. He wanted people to work together to fund cancer research in a modest way.

But let me be fair this year. Let me poop on several other campaigns, too.

I live in the small town of Ponoka — some 6,500 people. Every year, various big campaigns come to town — to Shopper’s Drug Mart, ATB Financial, CIBC, BMo, RBC . . . they’re everywhere!

Everywhere someone wants you to think pink, buy a leaf, put in a toonie for a teddie bear for the Stollery or something, buy a STARS air ambulance calendar.

All of these feel-good campaigns that are under $10 will never get you a tax deductible slip. But what do they get for the organization that runs them, that collects thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars from well-meaning folk like you and me?

I am guessing that the organization can probably get a whopping tax receipt with your funds — and get you feeling good about the corporation — with your money!

Few of the people in Ponoka are helped by all this money leaving town.

Certainly not in proportion to the funds raised.

The same is likely true wherever you live.

Am I saying it is wrong to contribute to such important causes?

Of course not.

I am saying, for instance, the local community spirit started the Ponoka Stampede to finance a ladies waiting room for Ponoka. But we are now all in thrall to many outside giant financial vacuum cleaners called “the charitable foundation.”

The public is unwittingly also supporting the feel-good PR that comes along with going pink, green or painful.

Advertising and marketing professionals shamelessly advocate that corporations can financially benefit by being seen to be supporting such causes — when, in fact, the corporation is using you.

You come to do banking and end up being squeezed for a contribution.

You want to buy toilet paper but suddenly the whole world of suffering and chronic illnesses can be solved by you buying a leaf. And hey, to thank you, your name will be inscribed with penmarker and posted. More junk for the landfill. Less money in your pocket. More tax writeoffs and positive PR for the corporation. Less money in your town for your town.

I would say the Terry Fox original idea of a dollar each made lots of sense.

Even in tough economic times, people could afford to support many charities on that basis. But the development of these large charitable organizations and fund drives have, in my opinion, sucked the financial life-blood out of small communities.

The big campaigns have fancy TV ads, posters, stuffies; the Fox run is heavily promoted in schools.

And, of course, for many charities there is the ongoing business of selling and reselling your name (if you subscribe) from their mailing list for profit, and the countless tear jerking direct mail letters begging you to please bail them out of their financial difficulty or someone will die.

Wouldn’t your local palliative care centre be overjoyed to get a hundred bucks from you, instead of you sending it off to Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver?

Frankly, I don’t think a cure will be found for cancer in a bank or a pocketbook.

I think cancer is part of nature.

It can probably be managed better through more thoughtful supervision of what goes into our air, food, drink and cosmetics — you know, the old adage about “Never put on your skin what you would not put in your mouth.”

This year, make a contribution to something life-enhancing in your local community. Match whatever you give to an outside organization by giving the same or more locally.

Go run for Terry Fox. Give his organization your dollar as Terry wanted you to do.

And while you are running, remember that it was Sir John A. Macdonald who gave him a Canada to run across.

Sir John donated 50 years of his life to us and never asked for a charitable penny.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.

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