By BRENNA GRITEMAN
In the midst of a hopeless situation, as she watched her grandfather’s health decline at the hands of a rare form of cancer, Madison Faulkner began to find hope.
She founded the Multiple Myeloma Project in January 2017 in an effort to bring awareness to the disease that had plagued her grandfather, Jim May (not the local car dealer), since she was 10 years old. Through countless school and community fundraisers, the 17-year-old Findlay High School senior has collected nearly $6,000 in cash and about the same in in-kind donations to aid researchers and cancer patients and their families, both in Findlay and at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University.
And now, nine months after her grandfather’s death and on the heels of what would have been his 80th birthday, Madison is presenting her capstone project: a charity auction being held Wednesday evening in the Millstream Cafe at FHS.
Doors open at 6 p.m., with a live auction starting at 6:30 and the silent auction wrapping up at 7:30. Auction items include a huge selection of gift baskets donated from local businesses, along with a one-year subscription to The Courier, salon services by the cosmetology students at Millstream Career Center and a custom metal sculpture by the Millstream welding students. The featured auction item is an OSU basketball signed by all five starters from the university’s 1960 team, the only team in OSU history to win the national championship. Madison estimates the ball is worth about $800.
She began organizing the charity auction just before Christmas and said she contacted about 50 businesses. Nearly all of them agreed to donate items within a week of her call.
“Everyone has a story with cancer. People are willing to give for cancer,” she said.
Her own story is that of an extremely rare blood disorder that accounts for just over 1 percent of all cancer diagnoses, although Madison notes the cancer is mysteriously clustered in northwest Ohio. Her grandfather and two of his friends and former factory coworkers were diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and Madison has learned that while the disease is in fact rare, a number of people are regularly undergoing treatment for the disease in Findlay. Doctors in Findlay and at the James center noted a severe shortage of funding for research into the disease, which inspired Madison’s desire to act.
“My grandpa and I were very, very close. He was supposed to walk me down the aisle at my wedding,” she said.
As his disease progressed and she became more saddened and frustrated by his condition, Madison was one day struck by an urge: “I’m going to do something.” On a whim she sent emails to about 30 people, including her grandfather’s favorite doctor at the James center, Dr. Craig Hofmeister, and Carol Treece, her medical technology instructor at Millstream. She woke up the next day to dozens of replies pledging support.
Treece helped Madison start a Facebook Page (Multiple Myeloma Project) and a GoFundMe account, which raised over $500 in just five days. Madison started organizing fundraisers at school, including one that allowed students to pay $20 to paint their parking space in the senior lot and another called “Stall Wars,” wherein students were granted free time while their teachers counted up all the loose change they brought in. Her boss at Baker’s Cafe introduced “Jim’s Buckeye Latte” in her grandfather’s honor and agreed to donate 25 percent of the beverage’s sales to the cause. And Madison collected hats, gloves, scarves and hygiene items to fill hundreds of care kits for patients and families at the James.
“Madison’s done a terrific job for patients down at the James,” said Treece, adding her student will feature the Multiple Myeloma Project and its many fundraising components in her Skills USA showcase. “She just has continuously worked at this project, and this auction is the final icing on the cake.”
For her part, Madison said it’s hard to reconcile the fact that the charity auction is likely her last fundraiser.
“This project has surpassed my wildest dreams. And it’s given me back so much more than I could have ever anticipated,” she said.
Donations for the charity auction are still being accepted. Email Madison at firstname.lastname@example.org or message her through the Multiple Myeloma Project’s Facebook page for more details, to get involved or to make a donation.