As a scientist working on genetic diseases, I believe that we can all contribute to the better visibility of patients with cancer. I met a researcher working in KU Leuven in cancer research that is part of a great initiative. She is organizing the azalea plant sale for Kom op tegen Kanker in Leuven. I decided to interview her to raise awareness for the campaign. She has a crucial role, as she is recruiting volunteers, defining where to sell the plants, as well as monitoring all the logistics behind the action. This is a great initiative and I encourage everyone to support this event, by either volunteering or buying an azalea on 14-16 September 2018.
I saw that you were organizing the sale of azalea for Kom op tegen Kanker this year.
How did you hear about this initiative?
The azalea plant sale is a well-known yearly initiative from KOTK. In my hometown (Hamont-Achel) for instance, teams can be found every year. I always bought an azalea to support KOTK, yet, I could not find teams in Leuven (except one location). Last year I decided to take part in this event and I signed up as a volunteer for selling azaleas in the Leuven region. I was contacted by KOTK with the question to organize a committee in Leuven for this yearly event.
Why did you decide to invest your time in this operation?
Everyone knows a family member, a friend or a colleague that had or has cancer, unfortunately. So do I. As a cancer researcher, I am well-aware of all the funding opportunities to support cancer research, including those by KOTK. Supporting cancer research is very important in order to help current and future cancer patients. Yet, supporting cancer patients themselves are at least equally important. The outcome of the azalea plant sale fully goes to supporting cancer patients in the form of, for instance, supporting patient organizations, organizing special activities for young cancer patients, palliative care, and financial support for patients with financial difficulties.
Is it the first time that you organize such event?
I started organizing this event in Leuven and surroundings in 2017. This year, I will organize the azalea plant sale for the second time, with the help of many volunteers. I would like to continue organizing this for many years to follow.
How are people responding to such events?
A lot of people are supporting our sale, either by buying an azalea or by participating in our committee. Sometimes people share stories about the battle that they or their relatives are going through or have been through. At those times, you realize how many people actually come in contact with cancer and that is heart-breaking. It tells you how important it is to do what we do, even if it is for just one weekend or a couple of hours because small gestures can make a big difference.
What is the easiest / hardest part of organizing such an event? What do you like the most?
The hardest part of organizing this event is the preparation. We start preparing in March/April, which means 5-6 months of preparation. During that time, we meet with our organizing team to discuss sales locations, volunteers, etc. We reach out to our volunteers from the previous edition, we send out emails/FB messages/posters/flyers to obtain new volunteers, we obtain sale approvals, we establish a schedule for all sales teams, we promote the sale a few weeks before the event, we provide a sales package for each team (t-shirts, spare change, general information, …) etc.
The easiest part for me is the actual sale (yet, it is also the most stressful); at that point, all preparation paid off and you can enjoy selling azaleas. During the sale, I stay in contact with all team delegates, I coordinate the transfer of plants and money, and I help out where needed (logistics, sales, money transfer).
The reason why I will keep on organizing this event is because the gratification that I get from organizing and helping in this event is priceless: I feel that I am really helping other people and that makes the hard work worthwhile.
How much money do you want to raise this year?
This year, we are aiming at selling 6,000 azaleas, which means raising more than €40,000. We can only achieve this goal with the help of many volunteers. Therefore, if you like to join our team, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
The azalea sales day will take place on 14-16 September 2018
Feel free to: contact me in case you would like to join our team (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Last modified: May 30, 2018