A couple of months ago, I sat down over lunch with a group of Cystic Fibrosis Foundation officials.
They explained they needed someone to serve as honorary chairman of the Great Strides fundraising walk at Lowry Park Zoo, and I immediately rattled off the names of some famous people who might meet their needs.
"Actually, Ernest, we thought you would be good," they said in happy unison.
Really? I accepted, largely because I found the offer flattering. A major foundation that prides itself on delivering 90 percent of every dollar to research wanted my help. Wow. After years of writing about nonprofit efforts, this would be my turn to play a part in helping.
Plus, I wrote about CF last year and met an engaging young man named Stratton Patterson. I admire Stratton's courage in the face of this debilitating disease, and I loved his honest "I have a bad attitude about CF."
So I took all those warm and fuzzy feelings and plunged ahead, seeking donations from friends and family.
In hindsight, I have only one question for the foundation: Why didn't you ask me to do this in 2004 when people were throwing around money like it was confetti on VJ Day?
Nope, I didn't get a chance to take advantage of a robust economy. I had to solicit funds during one of the worst declines in recent memory.
Thanks a lot, CF.
Of course, it was supposed to be so simple. Send out some e-mails from my tailored CF Web site (www.cff.org/Great_Strides/ErnestHooper) and watch the dollars roll in.
I didn't know some of my friends simply would decline to reply, and others would even go so far as to change their e-mail addresses.
I tried calling some of the folks I didn't hear from, and one former friend picked up and emulated a recording: I'm sorry, this number no longer accepts calls from Ernest Hooper. Click.
Okay, I'm joking. Slightly. The truth is that asking people for donations can be daunting, even when it's for a great cause. You worry about wounding friendships, because many see charity as a private decision.
People have to find it in their hearts to lend a hand, and if they don't — or if they can't — I can live with that.
I also can live with the friends and family members who have stepped up to donate. You can't exactly call me a rainmaker, but I've been overwhelmed by the generosity of some folks. I'm truly grateful because the money will help further research — and it makes it look like I'm somebody.
What pleases me most, however, are the folks who will come out to Lowry Park Zoo Saturday for Great Strides. Nearly 50 teams have registered for the event, and they expect to raise more than $100,000.
Whenever someone says it's not about the money, it's usually about the money. Certainly, that's the case here. But it's not all about the money. If you can't donate a dime but come out to the zoo, you can show the CF patients and their families the community supports their everyday battle.
Plus, we're going to have fun.
That's all I'm saying.