Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Red Cross Story: The Most Meaningful Donation, by Jason Romero

I attended the Century of Champions Red Cross Ball in Denver on March 22, 2014. It was a night I’ll never forget – in addition to being inspired by heroes’ stories and volunteers’ dedication amid the glamorous backdrop of black ties, ball gowns and live music, I had a five-minute conversation that touched my heart and illustrated the depth of human compassion and generosity.

Jason Romero shares a moving experience about Red Cross impacts.
The Ball was an “event of the century” to raise funds for Red Cross services in honor of 100 years of the Red Cross in Colorado. I became involved in the Red Cross gala when a friend from Behind the Red professionals group, Deirdre Wildman, encouraged me to attend the event. I joined my Wells Fargo colleague and Board Member Dan Barry, as well as QEP table host Shanda Vangas.

I was impressed by the details of the gala. The presentation was very well done, beautiful and streamlined. And the music was amazing!

After the dinner, I took a phone call outside of the Sheraton Hotel ballroom on the 16th Street Mall. While ending my phone call, a passerby approached me. “Why do you look so sharp?” the man said, complimenting my tuxedo to start the conversation. I was flattered and briefly had the impression that the man might ask for change.

That impression was transformed 180 degrees instantly.

I explained I was attending a fundraiser for the Red Cross inside the hotel.  Then the anonymous man grabbed all the change from his pocket and handed it to me. “Here. It’s everything that I have collected today. This is all I have,” he said.

I gently refused and told him, “You don’t have to do that; I’ll make a donation in your name.” But the man insisted that the American Red Cross had helped him and his family immensely and it was very important to him that his contribution go to the Red Cross to help others. The man only revealed that he was originally from Louisiana and had been living in Denver for a few years.

As the impromptu donor walked away on the 16th Street Mall, I was stunned by the profound gesture from the man. To me, that 80 cents was as valuable as a gift a thousand times its dollar value because it was so heartfelt and inspirational. The memory of Red Cross volunteers’ assistance was worth everything the man had that day just so that another family could receive the same support from Red Cross volunteers in the future.

That anonymous man’s donation provided me with a deeply moving, personal philanthropic perspective. The perspective of donating a day’s worth of income, all your personal wealth from one day, to an organization that had impacted your life was tremendously uplifting.

It was a rare opportunity that I was not going to waste.  I returned to my table and shared my experience. Everyone was as awed and touched as I was. Our table host, Shanda Vangas, did the honors of delivering the donation to the Red Cross during the Gala.

I am so glad that I attended the Red Cross Ball so that I could support the lifesaving work of the Red Cross and so that I could cross paths with that man whose life was so touched by the Red Cross that he wanted to pay it forward in any way he could.

Jason’s photo booth image of black ties and friends.
(Jason - bottom row third from right. Shanda - top row third from left)

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