How do you convince people to put on a tutu to raise money for St. Jude? Just ask

Follow along through September as writer Karina Bland recruits her ‘virtual’ Walk/Run team, dons a tutu, and raises money for a mission that matters.

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St. Jude Walk/Run team on a playground wearing tutus

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I have a crush on Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. I can quote Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” My dad retired as a captain from the Marine Corps after 21 years of service.

I’ve never been captain of anything, not even as a kid playing dodge ball. Until now.

I signed up to be a team captain for the virtual St. Jude Walk/Run on Sept. 25 to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

I’m not a runner, but I tap dance twice a week. I named my team “Team Tutu.” (I own six.)

Team tutu

Captain Karina. I liked the sound of it. Now I needed a team. One that would wear tutus.

We’d start early, walk a 3.1-mile loop, and then I’d put out mimosas and bagels. Maybe that would tempt people.

Jessica Hall, who organizes the annual St. Jude Walk/Run in Arizona, suggested I post a plea on social media, reminding people that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. (Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under 14.)

I could text and email friends and family. Ask neighbors and co-workers.

I signed up my son without asking first. (I’m paying his college tuition after all.) My cousin Theresa was the first to volunteer.

Her mom, my Aunt Peggy, lives in Ohio and has donated $10 a month to St. Jude for decades. She’d been told she likely would never have children. She had four. Aunt Peggy gives to St. Jude because she’s grateful hers are healthy.

Team tutu

I texted family, on one side and then the other, and then friends. They responded rapid-fire.

Rhonda: “Of course…I’m in.”

Ally: “I’m in too.”

Carrie: “I’m totally 100 percent in!”

Mike didn't respond, just signed up and donated online. He’s a dad of two and scout leader in Pennsylvania.

Our kids have suffered ailments and broken bones. They haven’t had to face what kids at St. Jude endure. We are grateful, too.

“I think that would be the worst thing in your life, to have a child who has cancer,” Regina told me at tap class. “No child should die of cancer.”

It was St. Jude founder Danny Thomas’ dream that no child die in the dawn of life. It’s what pushes St. Jude researchers to find the breakthroughs that lead to new cures and share them freely with scientists and doctors around the globe.

“Great cause! I’m in,” Cheryl said. Deb, too, because she trusts St. Jude. “It’s been around a long time,” she said. “You know they’re doing good work.”

“I’d walk 3 miles for a bagel,” Janelle texted. Is that all this took? “You should see how far I’d walk for a cupcake,” she responded.

Kate was in, even though she’d walked 30 miles in July to raise $300 for St. Jude. She’d need to borrow a tutu.

Team tutu

Lisa wrote, “I even think I have a tutu.” She’s run a half marathon in every state and 17 full marathons. (Hey, I’ve done marathons – on Netflix.)

“I’ll happily wear a tutu,” Aaron wrote. He’s a captain, a former U.S. Army Ranger.

There’s something magical about wearing a tutu. There’s something magical, too, about how my friends and family responded.

These are the people I can count on.

Jessica told me that 98 percent of participants sign up for the St. Jude Walk/Run because someone they know invited them to get involved. There’s another reason, too.

When there’s so much going wrong in the world, things we can’t do anything about, we can do this. Something that matters.

As it turns out, all you have to do is ask. Bagels help.


Karina Bland's columns will appear each week in September as she recruits team members and trains for her first St. Jude Walk/Run. Then watch for her on race day: She'll be the one in the tutu.

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