This article was published as part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who give back in their communities.
Courtney Cooley is a superstar volunteer in her community. She has organized community events and teaches her kids and neighbors about the importance of giving. Read the interview below to learn more about how Courtney is making a difference.
How do you give back?
I started the annual 5k Family Fun Run to benefit the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital. My family and I work on the event year round to help raise awareness and funds for the patients at the hospital. Our event is very special and offers free games, kids' race, raffles, food, awards and more. The children/patients are the stars of the day! My family and I pay for expenses out of our pockets so that all funds raised are donated to the hospital. We have raised over $38,000 for PMCH through this event (last 5 years) and also made many donations such as toys and games to play while patients are staying at the hospital. This year, we are dedicating the money raised through the 5k Family Fun Run to help make a new child-friendly themed room for the children at the hospital!
I also love volunteering and raising awareness for the Arthritis Foundation. Many people do not understand that children can get arthritis too and that it is an autoimmune disease that can even attack their organs. In fact, there are nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. that have arthritis.
What does giving mean to you? Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?
I started giving because of my two daughters, Ellie (age 8) and Lilly (age 6). When Ellie was very young, we had to make a couple of visits to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital. I was so thankful for their care and felt for the children and families there that I wanted to give back. I presented the idea to my family and they were all so supportive! They all have special areas that they help with for the race and it has become something so special to us.
Then, my youngest daughter was born. She has Juvenile Arthritis, asthma, and Celiac Disease. She has to see 6 specialists, physically therapy, and weekly low dose chemotherapy treatments to keep her as healthy and happy as possible. We became one of those families that we felt for...we spend a lot of time at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital with tests, procedures, and treatments. We now see first hand how the funds that are raised are used and how important the 5k Family Fun Run is to the children. That in itself keep us inspired to keep going!
What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back? Share a piece of advice will help them get started.
I truly believe that one person can make a difference! It creates a ripple effect but someone has to start the first ripple! My advice would be to find something you are passionate about and then get started. If you are passionate about something, you won't let any reasons or excuses get in the way!
Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
My favorite moment happens every year, when we hold our free kids race at the 5k Family Fun Run. So many patients from the hospital attend - I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it! Every year, the children receive a free shirt and ribbon. Parents are welcome to join or push the children if needed to "race". It is not a very long run but it means a lot to the children to finish in whatever capacity they can. Every year, as our event continues to grow, it is so neat to see more and more children there. I will never get tired of seeing these amazing children smiling when getting their ribbons!