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Face My Fears Challenge raises over $1,500

  • December 08 2016

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    Face My Fears Challenge raises over $1,500

    By Tracy Kane

    When I first got involved with the Philadelphia Free to Breathe 5K in 2013, I found that people were not as generous with their donations toward lung cancer research as they had been with other fundraisers/walks I’d participated in. Motivated to increase donations, I started coming up with some crazy ideas to get people excited about donating even if they weren't passionate about fighting lung cancer.

    In 2014, I created a Bacon Challenge. I'm vegan, but told my friends and family that if I could raise $1,000, I would take video of myself eating bacon and send the link to contributors. I met my goal, so the next year I set it even higher – I said I would eat a cheesesteak if I could raise $2,500. Unfortunately, I didn't reach my goal, and contributors were disappointed when “they didn't get what they paid for.” (I wasn't, because I really didn't want to eat cheesesteak!)

    I wanted to come up with a way that would help people stay engaged in the fundraising process, even after donating. I also had noticed that once I met the $1,000 goal in the bacon challenge, donations slowed. I wanted to keep the momentum going.

    Realizing that people would spend good money to see me do stupid stuff, I decided to capitalize on that. I also wanted to avoid controversy among my fellow vegans, so I took meat off the table and looked for another form of public humiliation. The Bacon Challenge morphed into the Face My Fears Challenge.

    Each dollar donated equaled one vote, and donors could vote for one of three options:

    • singing in public
    • handling a snake
    • letting me off the hook for the challenge (because I’d learned that some people wanted to contribute but felt bad about making me do something I didn’t want to do)

    I planned to take video of the fear-facing event, and all contributors would be sent the YouTube link, regardless of which option they chose.

    What I hoped would happen, did... eventually.  Some people became very invested in an option, talked it up, and shared it on their own social media pages. (I don’t believe I received any direct donations from social media, but it still gave the fundraiser momentum.) Very quickly, people realized that my #1 fear was public singing and that's when things took off.

    Instagram post
    One of my Instagram posts before the event.

    I used Google Sheets to keep track of the votes and posted regular Facebook updates with a pie chart so that people could follow along. I also had fun experimenting with Instagram (and cross-posting on Facebook), showing pictures of me smiling when the singing option fell out of 1st place, or a screenshot of my phone after Googling “good karaoke songs for bad singers.”  I made a point to only post once or twice a week initially to avoid people tuning out the messages. During the last 48 hours, though, I posted regular updates – sometimes hourly – because that's when I received quite a few last-minute donations.

    Once the challenge ended, I was eager to get the singing over with because I dreaded it so much. I found an upcoming open mic night, downloaded an mp3 instrumental track, and practiced relentlessly alone in my car. I made arrangements to go with a couple of friends so that someone could record it and drive me home since, quite honestly, I had a few drinks to try and calm my nerves. (It didn't help.) I picked an upbeat song, “What I Like About You” by The Romantics, because I figured it would be easier if I could move around on stage versus standing there vulnerably singing a slow ballad. Thankfully, I had the foresight to print out a copy of the lyrics, because my nerves made me forget most of the words.

    I experienced some of the worst anxiety of my life before I went on stage. I came up with a little mantra to talk myself through it in the hours ahead of time: “This is scary, but not as scary as hearing you have lung cancer.”  Another thing that helped was having my friend introduce me and explain the purpose of the fundraiser and why it meant so much to me. The crowd was very gracious and cheered me on throughout my performance. (The photo at the top of this page is from performance day!)

    I've received so much positive feedback from donors, especially once they realized that I was not overstating my fear of singing. Although the sole reason I faced my fear was to raise money for lung cancer research ($1,575 from this challenge), it was an amazing experience for me personally because it forced me to do something way out of my comfort zone.

    I've been asked by several people how I am going to top this fundraiser next year, and I don't have an answer yet. Quite frankly, I'm hoping that people will have realized by then how much this cause means to me, and I won't have to do anything crazy to get their attention. But since these crazy stunts have increased my ability to raise money, chances are, I will once again do something extreme next year.

    Would you like to face your fears like Tracy, or do you have another great idea for a unique fundraiser for lung cancer research and education programs? Contact Sara Peterson at or submit this form to get started.



  1. Kim Bautz 09:44am, 01/31/2017

    You are a true Super Hero, Tracy!  You ROCK!!!  :^)

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