When it comes to giving, Millennials have become quite a big-hearted generation. A Millennial contributes an average of $481 annually to charity, according to Blackbaud’s Next Generation of American Giving report. But they’re donating more than money. Millennials are finding innovative ways to contribute their time, talents and skill sets to awesome causes—and they’re utilizing the power of crowdfunding to propel their efforts. In the first of a multipart blog series, Millennials Making an Impact, we profile a photographer standing up for breast cancer.
Camile Grace, photographer, Long Island, N.Y.
YouCaring Fundraiser: Heart of the Warrior
Mission: To help women with breast cancer celebrate their bodies, help them heal, remind them they are beautiful and highlight their inner warrior.
Camile Grace is an artist who goes above and beyond to bring life to her photos by telling a powerful story. After her good friend Lisa Mongiello was diagnosed with breast cancer, Camile was committed to finding a way to spread awareness of the disease while also empowering her friend and others struggling with the same fight. She decided to utilize her artistic storytelling skills in a gesture of true compassion. She hosted a Day of Empowerment for breast cancer fighters and survivors in June 2015. Camile offered women who attended the opportunity to get their makeup and hair done so she could take their portraits—all free of charge.
She captured stunning images of the women and realized the next step would be to showcase the photos to honor these cancer survivors, continue providing hope through empowerment and inspire others to contribute to the cause. She started a YouCaring fundraiser to drum up support for the costs associated with an exhibition and to donate to a local nonprofit. Her Heart of the Warrior exhibition was showcased from Jan. 9-31 at BAFFA Art Gallery in Sayville, N.Y., and was mentioned in the New York Times. She kicked off the exhibition with an opening reception filled with live music and raffles, with all proceeds going to an organization dedicated to helping those with breast cancer.
Camile was kind enough to chat with YouCaring about her campaign, what drives her to give and the different ways Millennials are impacting the world today.
What causes are you particularly moved by?
I am deeply concerned about the amount of breast cancer occurrences on Long Island. It’s very scary to know that 1 out of 6 women will go through this. The odds are daunting. I am moved by poverty in the U.S. We focus so much overseas and don’t focus on our problems right here at home. There are adults and children all over the U.S. who need assistance. It’s an issue that’s entering my consciousness more and more these days.
Why do you think Millennials are so cause-centric?
I think we are cause-centric because we have access to so much more information now in comparison to 30 years ago. We are a generation that has embraced the digital age and are using it to make a mark on the world.
How do you think the digital age has brought about new ways to give back?
I think it’s amazing that we can reach so many people by means of websites like YouCaring. The digital age enabling us to post videos, pictures and updates about the process and immediately put it out there for the world to see is so valuable. I think it gives people insight on the issue at hand. I think we all want to feel like we are part of something. Viewing a video about my Day of Empowerment exhibits what occurred that day and how it profoundly affected these women. Seeing these women go through the journey of that day and hearing their stories helps people to relate and empathize. It’s a very powerful thing.
Why did you pick YouCaring to host your fundraiser?
I picked YouCaring because of the nature of my project. YouCaring supports community in a way that other fundraising websites do not. Crowdfunding has helped decrease my out of pocket costs, which takes some of the pressure off facilitating an artistic fundraising endeavor. I wanted to do something wonderful for these women, and also get the community aware of what’s going on. I think it helped start a conversation on this very real and big issue in my community.
For this campaign, you used your passion for photography to show compassion for others. Are there other ways that you have given back through your art?
I think this has been the most significant way I’ve given back. I photographed an AIDS fundraiser a couple of years ago, which was a phenomenal event.
What prompted you to host a pro-bono Day of Empowerment for breast cancer survivors?
After my friend Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 years old, I wanted to find a way to support her through her fight. And when I saw how positively Lisa responded, I decided I wanted to do something to raise awareness and help more women in my community. My main objective with this project is to make women like Lisa feel good about their bodies again, help them heal and remind them they are beautiful and powerful.
What inspired you to host a gallery exhibition?
I wanted to host the gallery event to give hope to these women. I wanted them to see the final product. I wanted them to see themselves how I saw them that day—beautiful, even through a devastating time. By having the gallery exhibition, I’ve been able to raise money for Breast Cancer Help Inc., a local organization that runs support groups, reiki, art classes, yoga classes and more for anyone going through cancer. I loved that it was about doing things together, creating through art. I think things like that help lift the spirit, even if it’s for a couple of hours. It’s a couple of hours not thinking about how much your body hurts, but instead, doing something positive.
Was hosting an offline event, in this case, your gallery exhibition opening reception, beneficial for your online fundraiser?
Yes! They worked hand in hand. YouCaring let people see what I was doing, even if they didn’t donate right then and there. The pitch for my cause was in black and white with photos and video. People were much more excited to be at my fundraising event because of everything they had already seen me doing. Music helped create a celebratory vibe, and the raffles got local businesses involved and talking about it. People love the opportunity to win something. It’s all part of our need for hope. There was more laughter than tears at my opening night. People were inspired to support, inspired to find strength and inspired to celebrate survival instead of mourn the loss of the perfect health or the perfect body.
What have been some of the most inspirational and challenging aspects of the experience?
I had the women participate in a guided meditation and finish sentences such as, “I am…, I love…, I fear…, I feel powerful when…” I recorded everything, so I was able to go back and experience them going through this part of the day. Hearing what they had to say, reflecting on who they are and their journey was one of the most inspirational parts of this project. I found myself choosing and editing the photos that I felt represented them the best based on these statements. I made these quotes the titles of the pieces. A major challenge was making sure each and every woman was comfortable during the photo shoot, as well as comfortable with the photos I presented in the gallery. If I had the slightest doubt, I checked with her first. This is a very sensitive issue and I wanted to make sure I handled it with the utmost care and respect.
What advice would you give other Millennials who want to start an online fundraising campaign for a humanitarian cause?
I would say use everything at your fingertips. YouCaring makes it very easy to do that. Post videos, photos and updates. Link to all social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. People want to see why you are worthy of a donation. They want to feel like they are part of something great. Lastly, pick a cause that you’re heart is really in. If you are invested, others will be too.
Ready to make an impact like Camile has? Brainstorm ways you can tap into your skill set and be a changemaker. Start a free online fundraiser for a cause close to your heart.