The Power of Innovation: Compassion and Generosity Observed

The Power of Innovation: Compassion and Generosity Observed

This week’s inspiration comes from the innovative members of our Event Planning committee at Pathfinders for Autism. On Saturday, we had our biennial fashion show event. This year we were bold.

We tried something new.

They say the seven last words of an organization are, “We’ve never done it that way before.” I have to admit that thought crossed my mind more than once during our planning meetings.

No massive silent auction? No electronic bidding? Use gobo* for our logo? Add “Mystery Bags”? Create a separate “Fund the Mission” auction?


I kept my mouth shut as the ideas flew around the table. Committee members told of their experiences at other charity events. More importantly, they volunteered their time to help make those new ideas happen.

Although co-chair Polly Surhoff and I have welcomed folks to the event for the last 10 years, our maverick committee members wanted to add a new component to the welcome video. They suggested we let the recipients of Pathfinders’ services tell their stories.

Even though I’d attended some of our trainings and knew the program statistics and offerings, I had no idea of the impact on those we served until I watched the video at the event that night.

It was powerful. (If you have 4 minutes and 33 seconds, here’s the VIDEO below.)

Then Baltimore Sports Radio host and parent Rob Long shared his story: the devastation he felt when he learned of his son’s autism diagnosis; his honest selfish feelings about mourning the loss of the life with his son that he’d imagined; the pivot he made to focus on his son’s needs and look for resources; and how Pathfinders helped.

The audience of 400 quieted, a silent reverence settling in deep. Long’s honesty was so raw, so real for many of us who have struggled and continue to struggle with acceptance. Yet, his story of persistence left us inspired and encouraged.

We shifted gears for the upbeat, fun, movie-themed fashion show, ending with our traditional live (and lively!) auction. Then our new development director, Katie Ramirez, on the job for only a few weeks, stepped up to introduce the new “Fund the Mission” program.

I held my breath.

Many in the audience had already purchased our new “Mystery Bags,” filled with gift cards and prizes valued from $50 to $500. Others had already bid and won items from the live auction, spending hundreds of dollars.

Would anyone even be receptive to this new offering? What if no one bid? What if there were only crickets that respond to dear Katie?

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she began. “We’ve reached the pinnacle of the evening—the true purpose of why we gather here tonight. It’s for the families that need us and to invest in the future of this incredible resource in our community. You can support Pathfinders for Autism at a variety of levels. And with your help, Pathfinders can—and will—create a community in which families feel supported, understood, and empowered.”

I swallowed hard. I knew what was coming next.

“I know this is a big ask, but I can think of no greater cause than supporting our autism community and the work of Pathfinders for Autism. We are excited to announce that a donor has generously agreed to kick us off this evening with a $2,500 gift. Who will join them at the $2,500 level? Please raise your. . .”

Before she finished the sentence, two hands shot up.


And I cried.

A contagious generosity began to sweep the room as she continued sharing details about our programs, how each dollar helped us provide training, education, and inclusive family events.

  • $1,000 will support the epicenter of our mission, our Resource Center, for 1 week.
  • $500 will support the cost of a 4-hour Safety Training Class.
  • $250 will provide a scholarship for up to 5 students to attend our Swim Safety Class.
  • $100 will help us fund our second annual Ladew Gardens event that provides over 200 families an experience they would otherwise not receive.

Hands popped up everywhere. An electricity of enthusiasm seemed to move in and through us, joining us as allies in the pursuit of a common goal.

Joy filled my heart as I felt, once again, the power of connection while discovering a brand new appreciation for the power of innovation.

So thank you, you bodacious committee members. Thanks for your ideas, your courage, and your creative determination to help us connect with people who care. I’m honored to serve alongside you.

How about you? Have you ever reluctantly given in to innovation and seen an amazing result? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

My best – always,

Becky  (Nana B)

P.S. *A gobo is a template placed inside or in front of a light to project the image on a large space, like the Pathfinders’ logo in the first photo. Isn’t it cool? Thanks, Media Star Promotions for this addition as well as your support and steadfast supply of ideas and professionalism.

P.P.S. Thanks to all who donated and/or participated in the event and for making Fund the Mission such a success! Giving Tuesday is November 27. Rumor has it gifts given that day may be matched! More info HERE.

Off to Philadelphia next week! So excited. More details below.


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