Raising Hope: Sarah Bowlby
Welcome to our inspiring blog series, Raising Hope, where we feature stories of individuals who are making a difference for the autoimmune community through giving. From the heroes behind grassroots fundraisers to dedicated long-time donors, Raising Hope recognizes the people who help propel our mission forward by donating or raising funds to support our programs. This series offers a glimpse into the journeys, motivations, and moments that drive them to give to the Autoimmune Association.
Sarah Bowlby: Patient Advocate and Unique Fundraiser
Meet Sarah Bowlby, a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. Despite facing the challenges of an autoimmune disease, she’s pursuing a master’s degree in Biomedical Science at Vanderbilt University. Yet, her journey is not just about academics – it’s about battling an autoimmune disease while seizing life’s opportunities and making a difference.
Always fascinated with the human body and its capabilities, Sarah landed in a career focused on science and health. At the same time, she’s focused on her own health: navigating the unpredictable path of living with an autoimmune disease. Like so many people, Sarah’s exact autoimmune diagnosis remains uncertain, but she refuses to let her symptoms limit her ambitions.
“It is important for me to be thankful in the present moment for what I am able to do”
Five years ago, Sarah embarked on a fundraising mission for the Autoimmune Association, explaining that she chose this organization because “I love how it is an all-encompassing hub for everything related to autoimmune disease from information, awareness, advocacy, and research.”
Raising funds for the Autoimmune Association has become more than a charitable act for Sarah – it’s a personal mission.
“I am hoping that with further research and awareness, the time it takes to diagnose these diseases will decrease, so that patients like me can receive answers and guidance for symptom management,” she explained.
“Additionally, I use this as my annual reminder to show how far I have come mentally and physically. While it is not great to dwell on the past or fear the future, it is important for me to be thankful in the present moment for what I am able to do and see how far I have come in management as I learn more about my disease.”
Sarah adds, “The sheer number of people that suffer from autoimmune disease is immense. These diseases affect all sexes, races, ethnicities, etc., and I love how I can support a cause that is making progress within the autoimmune disease field to help people of all backgrounds.”
Blending her love for fitness with her dedication to making a difference
Each year, Sarah embarks on unique fundraising initiatives, including chocolate truffle sales, GoFundMe campaigns, at-home walk/run challenges, goat yoga sessions, and workout sessions in a local park. It’s important to Sarah that she blends her love for fitness with her dedication to making a difference.
“I have learned that my favorite fundraising events include movement, as I see the copious amounts of benefits of movement being medicine for those who are able. Additionally, it reminds those that are healthy that it is a privilege to be able to sweat and to honor those who aren’t able to at the moment,” Sarah said.
“Vulnerability shows strength”
Sarah shares her tips for successful fundraising: “Utilize social media and technology to spread the word, and share personal stories — vulnerability shows strength, and get creative: start with low-budget events, and always send handwritten thank you notes to donors/ participants!”
“With fire in your soul, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to”
Sarah hopes that her commitment to raising funds for the Autoimmune Association will inspire others to follow their passion and understand that even one person can contribute to enormous change.
“While my health every day isn’t perfect, if you asked me 5 years ago when I started this annual fundraiser that I would get a Master’s while being a student athlete, I would’ve thought you were crazy. Never give up on yourself; internal perseverance and resilience will make you unstoppable,” she said.
Sarah adds, “I hope to serve as an inspiration to younger girls that with fire in your soul, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. I am proud to be making an impact on my small community for autoimmune diseases. Every bit of effort drives awareness and hope for a better future.”
Organize Your Own Grassroots Fundraiser
Grassroots fundraisers are an essential stream of funding for the Autoimmune Association. Your dollars add up to make a real difference in raising funds and awareness. If you would like to join passionate advocates like Sarah and mobilize your own network, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you get started. Get it here.
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