Volunteer of the MonthMarch 2009
Lori and Brenda Teach the Art of Good DeedsBy Mindy Weidman
When long time friends Lori Malcolm and Brenda Thomas ran into each other and discovered they were both pregnant, they had no idea the coincidence would turn into a lifetime friendship and a unique commitment to Believe In Tomorrow National Children’s Foundation.
For the first three years after their children Nixon Malcolm and Emily Thomas were born, Lori and Brenda planned their children’s birthday parties together. As Nixon and Emily’s fourth birthday neared in 1997, Lori and Brenda agreed their children owned everything they could ever need.
Instead of accepting gifts for their toddlers that year, Lori and Brenda threw a giant “Festival Four Friends” (named for Nixon and Emily’s fourth birthday) and asked guests to make a donation to children’s charities, a portion of which went to Believe In Tomorrow programs. That first act of giving would turn into a lifetime commitment of volunteering for Believe In Tomorrow.
“The best part about it [was] our kids loved that their Birthday party was just that: a huge party where everyone had fun,” says Lori of the festivals they threw.
At the carnival the kids could buy tickets for games, raffles, and Beanie Baby walks. The first carnival raised $500.00.
“They were proud to be part of kids raising money for kids,” says Lori of Nixon and Emily. “As future citizens and leaders, these kids understand the sense of community and the art of good deeds.”
After the initial party, Lori and Brenda sent a thank you card to each child who attended. The card featured a picture of the child and information about the charities that the party supported. In addition to Believe In Tomorrow, a portion of the proceeds benefitted Shriners Hospitals for Children, Big Brother Big Sisters, and Warm The Children.
The following year, Lori and Brenda planned the “Frontier Festival For Friends,” a Western-themed party. Again, guests were asked to bring donations in lieu of gifts. This year the party raised $1,500.
Each year Lori and Brenda’s parties grew in size and profits. And each year brought a different theme: 1999 Surfin’ Festival For Friends, 2000 Safari Festival For Friends, and 2001 Groovy Festival For Friends, a 70s-themed party.
The Groovy Festival For Friends was the last fundraiser birthday party that Lori and Brenda organized. It raised $3,000 for Believe In Tomorrow’s programs.
In addition to the annual birthday parties, Lori and Brenda volunteered and fundraised for Believe In Tomorrow throughout the year. At the annual Autumn Glory Festival they ran games for kids and donated the profits to Believe In Tomorrow. In 2004, they organized the Family Hike at Deep Creek Lake, a day of family fun that raised another $1,000 for Believe In Tomorrow.
Before construction of the House on Wisp Mountain, Believe In Tomorrow rented properties to provide getaways for respite families. Lori and Brenda helped Believe In Tomorrow find local property owners to donate family stays at their houses and condos. They also served as the welcome committee for the families and a resource for them while they stayed in the houses.
When Believe In Tomorrow completed the House on Wisp Mountain, Lori and Brenda continued their support while soliciting help from the rest of the Garrett County community. They prompted local business owners to donate coupons and gift certificates for ice cream, pizza, and manicure/pedicure dates for mothers and daughters. Brenda’s husband, Todd, and his company, Watchdog Security, provide the mountain house’s security and sound systems.Believe In Tomorrow staff remain thankful for the security system. But more important than the technical security Lori and Brenda provide is the security their presence over the years contributes to Believe In Tomorrow Deep Creek Lake programs – a sense of purpose based on a coincidental pregnancy and the chance to teach their children the art of good deeds.