Michael Harris, a first-time peer-to-peer fundraiser who last year raised more than $33,000 for Children’s Cancer Research Fund, has been selected for the 2021 Cash, Sweat & Tears Award, an award given to North America’s most inspiring fundraising volunteer.
Harris, a recent colon cancer survivor, embarked on a 489-mile bike journey through Texas as part of Great Cycle Challenge USA, a virtual fundraiser in which riders across the country fundraise to support childhood cancer research.
He had never participated in a cycling fundraiser before, but he decided to ride to spread awareness about the importance of early cancer detection and to support Cash Cannon, a 5-year-old family member who is undergoing his own battle with cancer.
Harris and Cash shared a deep bond – as well as a mutual love of the movie Black Panther, whose star, Chadwick Boseman, passed away from colon cancer in 2020.
To honor Cash and Boseman, Harris branded those who contributed to his ride, the Black Panthers. By the time the campaign was complete, more than 150 people joined the Black Panthers team, contributing more than $33,000.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was the most difficult year ever for peer-to-peer fundraising,” said David Hessekiel, founder and president of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, which created this award. “But Michael Harris didn’t let the pandemic stop him from taking a risk and supporting a cause that matters to him. His inspirational story shows that great things are possible, even during these difficult times.”
Each year since 2009, the Cash Sweat & Tears award has been given to an extraordinary volunteer for going above and beyond to conduct peer-to-peer fundraising for charity.
In peer-to-peer fundraising, a nonprofit’s supporters reach out to their friends, family and colleagues for donations often in connection with an activity such as a walk or ride. Collectively, these campaigns raise billions for nonprofits across North America.
Because Harris had never participated in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign before, he set a modest fundraising goal of $500 when he embarked on the Great Cycle Challenge. But as he told family, friends, and colleagues about his journey – and about Cash – Harris said he was overwhelmed by the support he received.
“We all look for our purposes in life and my purpose in life is to be a servant and to do things that will make a contribution to help others,” Harris said.
Despite being a first-time rider, Harris finished his ride as the Great Cycle Challenges No. 2 fundraiser out of nearly 135,000 participants.
Great Cycle Challenge USA accounted for one of peer-to-peer fundraising’s biggest bright spots in 2020. At a time when most campaigns experienced massive fundraising declines due to COVID-19, Great Cycle Challenge USA – which has always been an entirely virtual program – raised nearly $15 million in the U.S. in 2020 – an increase of more than 77 percent from about $8.4 million in 2019. Those funds are helping children, like Cash, who are fighting cancer.
“We are putting our funding in areas where other people and organizations are not, which creates the potential to produce a big impact,” said Children’s Cancer Research Fund’s CEO Daniel Gumnit. “We’re investing in preclinical trial research and bridge funding, meaning we’re laying the groundwork that allows scientists to leverage our money to secure funding from additional sources.
Harris has an even bigger goal for 2021: doubling the number of people on his Black Panthers team to 300 for his second ride.
He will receive the award at the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum’s virtual conference, held March 1-3.