Close Enough to Smell the Smoke

October 13, 2017



Written By: Bruce

By Bruce Berglund

So much has been lost in the terrible fires burning in Oregon, California and Montana. Lives lost. Thousands of acres have been lost. Beautiful vegetation gone.  Homes gone. Family treasures gone.  Sacred hiking trails won’t be the same for years. It’s terrible.

Toss in the devastation and lives lost from the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico. Devastating earthquakes in Mexico.  It’s just terrible when you slow down and think about all of the cascading consequences.

On top of this, our national discord and negativity is at a fever pitch on topics from the economy, healthcare, sports, national security – it’s disturbing and depressing.

It looks hopeless from afar.

But, as you get closer — close enough to smell the smoke — I have witnessed hope and generosity first-hand. This hope and generosity transcends the terrible.

Let me give you a powerful example.

I was in San Francisco the last two days working with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). As we met with community leaders, we met several who had lost homes in the current fires. The fires became real as I heard the stories first hand and smelled the smoke.

Then I heard Lilly’s story.

Lilly is a wonderful little girl who lives in Santa Rosa. Lilly and her family lost their house in the fire this week. Precious things were lost in that fire – including both of Lilly’s prosthetic legs and her wheelchair. Devastating.  Terrible.

Then hope arrived.

CAF put together a care package for the family including a wheelchair for Lilly. A GoFundMe page was posted with Lilly’s story. Lilly will be fitted for new legs. $27,000 raised in hours.

Terrible? Yes indeed. Hopeless – not a chance.

As we develop our cases and appeals we need to make the case so poignant our donors can “smell the smoke.” This is our challenge. This is our calling. Lilly and thousands of others in your community are depending on you.

First – see it and let it wreck you. Second, be part of the answer. As fundraising professionals we have tools that can make hope arrive!

Together let’s find hope in the water, rubble and ashes.

Want to learn more about Challenged Athletes Foundation? Visit

Interested in helping Lilly?

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One response to “Close Enough to Smell the Smoke”

  1. […] must get “proximate” to the people they are serving. As Bruce so eloquently challenged us in last week’s blog, we must be close enough to the problem to “smell the smoke” in order to describe to […]