In the early 1990s I was working at a telecommunications company in Dallas. Someone in our company met Nancy Brinker who had just created a charity called Susan G. Komen, in memory of her sister and with the purpose to wipe out breast cancer. It was a fledgling operation and finally they were moving into an office. Our company donated a phone system, and I was the liaison between our company and the charity.
One day I was getting ready for work and watching Good Morning America when I saw them interviewing the one employee of Komen – a nurse named Linda. She talked about the mission and their new shower cards and announced the 800 number we had installed. People watching could call and they would mail a shower card illustrating how to give breast self exams for free.
The minute I heard the 800 number announced I knew it was a problem, for they only had three phone lines! It seemed as if this show made a turning point for the charity and helped put them on the map. They received so many calls they shut down the Southwestern Bell Central Office. The next day Diane Sawyer announced the number again, and again they shut down the central office. Someone from Southwestern Bell had to drive over to the office and insisted they call ABC and tell them to quit giving out the number.
When I arrived at their office a few hours after the show aired I found volunteers everywhere taking addresses, stuffing envelopes with the cards and licking them closed. Every free hand went to work – including mine. We were sitting on the floor and taking up all the space and just trying to keep up. Their three phone lines were ringing off the hook – the second they hung up from a call the phone rang again and again and again.
It was a memory I will never forget and made me a realize then the impact the organization could have on people’s lives. And look – I was right. 😉