Author leverages online connections to support Barrow in wake of her father's death
In June 2012, Chelsea Mueller faced a kind of “first” that wasn’t one she was looking forward to. It was the first Father’s Day she would be spending without her dad, who had died the previous year of a pituitary carcinoma.
“I wasn’t sure what to do with myself,” she recalls. “My husband had to work, and I thought to myself that my dad wouldn’t want me moping about. I thought I should do something good and productive with the day.”
That’s when Books Fighting Cancer was born. Mueller lives in Dallas where she is a writer, working by day for a high-end gift retailer and by night as an author and blog writer, both in the genre of young adult urban fantasy. She has friends in the business and is always receiving books to review and other swag. VampireBookClub.net, the blog she helps run, has over 15,000 subscribers, and many of them are active on other social media.
Her idea was to get her friends to donate unique items for an online auction to be held on her blog over Father’s Day weekend. The proceeds would be donated to Barrow Neurological Foundation to help support brain cancer research, particularly the most aggressive and uncommon types, like the one that took her father’s life.
The response was immediate—and big. Authors donated a variety of items ranging from book collections and signatures to more unique prizes. One prize involved the author writing the winner into her next story as a character. At the end of the day, Mueller had dozens of auction items, and over the next week she had a wonderful response in bids from readers, authors, friends and family. Some people made outright donations for no prize, and several offered matching bids as an additional means of support.
“It was definitely the biggest fundraising effort I have ever made,” she says. “It was the first time I’ve pulled things together to leverage my connections. It was not a small undertaking, but it was enjoyable. And, selfishly, it kept me busy and made me feel useful.”
Her father, John Ide, was treated at Barrow. He had three tumors removed from his brain, underwent radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer eventually spread to his lymphatic system. Mueller says that even though her father’s disease was aggressively unstoppable, the Barrow team never ceased trying different approaches and checking in to make sure he was comfortable.
“I was so impressed with Barrow and with how hard everyone worked to find things they could do to help with his care,” she says. She thought her auction idea was also appropriate because her father became an avid reader after his first round of brain surgeries.
Mueller raised more than $4,000 for Barrow through her first auction and says while she’s not sure that she’ll do something exactly like it again, she continues to look for ways to support the institute. She says helping with a cause that is close to your heart makes sense to everyone involved from the person with the idea to each donor who contributes.
“It wouldn’t have been as successful if it wasn’t personal,” she says, “People understand that this had a purpose. So even if they didn’t know my dad, there’s still a connection for everyone.”