By Molly Fast

About a month ago, my oldest sister participated in the 2017 Susan G. Komen Philadelphia 3-Day alongside one of her daughters (12 years old). Her other daughter (9 years old) cheered her along all three days with another one of my nieces (7 years old) and another one of my sisters (age not included 😉 ). It was wonderful to have this be a family affair, but more than that, it was incredible to see how much it impacted my nieces to be involved, engaged and have a front row seat to the amazing ways in which people show up for and do things on behalf of others in their greatest time of need.

At the end of the event, I looked over and saw two of my nieces hugging their mom so tightly – all three of them crying. My sister’s participation is fueled because our mother is an 18-year breast cancer survivor and, more recently, two of her best friends died within a year of each other, both at the age of 44 of metastatic breast cancer. My nieces were sobbing, not just because the weekend was emotionally and physically draining for all of them, but because they live in a world where they are afraid their own mother is going to die.

While it hurt me – and my sisters – to see them so upset, we were also encouraged to know that we have crusaders in the making. Throughout the weekend, I saw my nieces cheering on the participants and encouraging them along their journey. When my niece Lila was asked, on the third day right before watching her mother cross the finish line, if she one day wanted to walk 60 miles, her response was, “Yes. Because I want to help find a cure.” It was a proud aunt moment for sure, but it also reminded me of how important it is to expose the younger generation to these kinds of events so they know there is so much positivity in the face of heartbreak and loss.

Here are some benefits to engaging youth in events:

1) Exposure to the world the way we want it to be. The event world is crazy, fun, inspiring and motivating. Children are guaranteed to walk away being moved (to action, I hope!) to do and give more. Like my niece, maybe they’ll set a goal to register for the event. Or maybe it’ll give them another idea for a career path or a dream job.

2) Encourage them to be part of the solution. Whether it’s cheering, volunteering, participating or fundraising, they can make a difference in the lives of those who are participating in your event. A smile, a clap and a cheer can go a very long way to an event participant who is struggling. Let them see that they have the ability to be a force for positive change with small – and big – actions.

3) Give a face to those who we participate on behalf of. Sometimes children get such a warped sense of those who are sick or inflicted with the causes we represent on our events. What better way to show them that many of these people are just like us by allowing them to see them not just living with but thriving because of the ways in which their illness has propelled them to live their life to the fullest.

These are just a few of the reasons, and I encourage you to ask how your event is engaging our youth.

When I shared a photo of the emotional moment at the end of the event on Facebook, a very good family friend commented perfectly, “Life can be so difficult at times, but your girls know they are surrounded by love and they’re learning to be part of the compassion that helps heal the world.”

I encourage all event professionals to consider how you can use your event(s) to engage the younger generation and allow them to be part of the compassion that helps heal the world.

Molly Fast leads the company’s local operations for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day series and is privileged to work with Event 360’s participant-facing team. For over a decade, Molly has been fortunate enough to combine her love of people with the ability to make a difference in the work she does focusing on exceeding expectations and delighting participants along the way. When not roaming around Ireland, Molly can be found taking photos or talking to strangers in Santa Monica where she lives with her husband. You can find Molly on Google+TwitterLinkedIn and her favorite social media tool, Instagram.

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