For Laura Geminiana’s birthday this year, she didn’t want traditional presents—instead she wanted family, friends, and her community to join her in a spin class to raise money for the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). With Laura leading the class, she and studio members raised a total of $457, donating money, time, sweat, and their own creativity for the event. We spoke to Laura to learn more about the inspiration behind “Spin to Give” and the power of community fundraising.
What inspired you to start “Spin to Give” and why was this important to you?
My mom is a colon cancer survivor. Since my mom’s diagnosis back in 2014, I have re-evaluated the definition of important things in life. My mom and the rest of my family live in Italy. I came to the United States for school 12 years ago and made a life across the ocean. When you do not see loved ones every day, you realize how precious time spent together truly becomes. One of the times that my mom came to visit me was in the spring of 2014, before she received her diagnosis. Back then I expressed the desire to do a mom and daughter photoshoot, so I asked for the help of my talented friend Nicolette, who captured the most adorable shots. As if I knew back then how cherished these photos would become.
My mom was diagnosed in the summer of 2014. Since then I have been looking for opportunities to enrich the life of my family, friends, and the community. Birthdays have something special about them, for some it is a reminder of aging, but I like to see them as a gift of life, a ticket for another trip around the sun. What else could I be wishing for, when unfortunately too many people are denied that because of cancer? So since 2014, I have looked for ways to give back on my birthday, and this year was no different, with the exception I had a big opportunity! Aside from my full time job, I am also a spin instructor for a local studio called Spin Revolution, very popular for its upbeat and motivating classes here in Albany, New York. The owner, Nancy Katinas, is extremely active in giving back to the community, and one of her recent fundraisers inspired me to come up with “Spin to Give.”
On the weekend of my birthday, I was on the schedule to teach two classes. All I asked of members was: “Show up and spin your hardest; break 500 calories in 45 minutes and I will match your hustle in $5 donated to the Cancer Research Institute.”
Why did you choose to raise money for the Cancer Research Institute?
Since my mom’s diagnosis, I have had close friends fight the good fight against cancer. This year I wanted to support a cause whose mission is to find a cure for all types of cancer; for human and animals, too! I came across the Cancer Research Institute, and their mission truly spoke to my heart. They also have a 4 star rating (highest) on the charitynavigator.org, and this was extremely important to me as it gave me reassurance of their responsibility of using each donation for the greater good.
What made the fundraiser successful?
Everyone riding together for a bigger purpose. That day everyone completed their ride for someone else; it wasn’t about themselves anymore. Everyone was able to connect with their own why. I had some members share their own experiences and how much it meant to them to take part of that ride.
When it was Go Time, I shared my own experience before the beginning of each class, and off we went, riding to the beat of powerful tunes. Through the rides, I kept reminding everyone that these may be some challenging 45 minutes, but for someone battling cancer every minute of every day is challenging. The energy and emotions in the room were palpable. I sincerely broke into tears just watching everyone put all their might for the Cancer Research Institute, some of them even stayed for both classes! It was such a success, I donated $5 for every person that showed up, and some members even gave me donations, which was absolutely not requested.
Nancy, the owner, donated some fun member giveaways. my friend Alicia, who just started a business making custom t-shirts, made me one for the event and donated the profit to the cause. My boyfriend donated the decorations; he was so supportive and helped me tremendously setting everything up. Everyone donated what they could out of the goodness of their hearts. Together we raised $475! Amazing things happen when people come together for “Spin to Give”! My special thanks and all my love to the amazing Spin Revolution family!
What advice would you share with people who wish to host a fundraiser?
Choose a cause that is important to you. It will help you connect with others on a personal level. Do your homework before selecting a charity so you have assurance that your hard work will go to good use. Do not be afraid to tell your story, and if you are telling someone else’s story, ask them first if they are comfortable with you sharing it. I am sure they will be excited and honored by your thoughtfulness. Just keep in mind they may feel as comfortable and may want to keep details, or their name, private. Pour your heart into it. It will always lead you in the right direction!
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Update: Laura Geminiana participated in Moments from the Heart of Science in June 2019.