Yesterday, I awoke at 3:45 am and was out the door by 4:15 with my brother, groggily chugging an energy drink. We drove the long stretch of 35E all the way down to Prior Lake (into plain old Highway 35 territory) to Legends Golf Course to work all day for the Spinal Muscular Atrophy 9th Annual Charity Golf Tournament. My brother has worked for an event planning company called FILO (First in, last out) for a couple of years now, and they needed a bit of extra help at this event, so I tagged along. See here for their website: I personally vouch for their efficiency, organization, and ability to pull off just about any event.
At 5 am, the truck arrived, and we started to unload and set up registration, tents, tables, and the drink stations. After the 7:30 am round of golf began, we all began to set up for lunch and ferry coolers with drinks around the course. The caddies were clad in orange polos, working long days out in the sun to save for college (and scrounge free meals as well). Then there were the cart girls in their short shorts and polos, wearing Coach shoes and super-tan, driving around the course selling drinks and snacks. I was assigned the job of "hydration management" on the patio, which meant I spent all day refilling coolers with ice and drinks, as well as "fishing" for people who gave me the glare for not having water that was cool enough. Absolutely, sir, I will plunge my hand to the very bottom of the cooler with ice up to the middle of my upper arm to try and find you a colder water. Sure thing.
It really was fun, though - I got to talk to a lot of people, from celebrity golfers (anyone know Jim Colbert? Me neither. But apparently he's really good...) to seeing Mark Rosen (didn't get to talk to him, though). In addition, a lot of children with SMA and their families were in attendance, and I think it's great that they do have a presence at the event.
KFAN Radio also does an all-day broadcast at the course, as well as a telathon. In the past eight years, this series of events has made a combined total donation of over a million dollars to SMA research...which brought up an interesting point through my conversation with some of the people planning the event. It is very hard to make out where money will go when it is donated to an illness-related cause. It's all for research, right? People in white coats will take the money, do something to it, and then find out something and it'll be great. There is no real itemized way that scientific research is proportioned. When you donate money to a camp, you are told that "Your $400 will buy a canoe," and you understand exactly what that money goes toward. They don't tell you at the "Run for the Cure!" events that the $60,000 raised will go towards funding the time, labor, and brainpower of one year of work for a postdoc (industry slang for a scientific researcher who has earned their doctorate and is working in a laboratory). Or that a $25 donation will buy a lab a set of pipettes used for one experiment. Or that $100 will buy enough culture media for a week of keeping cells alive for study. It's a very hard thing for people to conceptualize, and part of it stems from the all-around ignorance of the general public of how science works. Now, I don't pretend to know it all...and there are many professions in this world that I have no comprehension of at all: farming, architecture, food processing, computer science, etc... But, this doesn't negate the fact that there is a huge leap between what people see on CNN and what goes on day-to-day in a science lab. I just wish there was a way to let the public know how scientists are trying to improve drug testing, or cure cancer, or use stem cells as a part of an innovative therapeutic technique. It's not all about the white coats.