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Raising Hope: Tim Lillis

During the pandemic, Tim Lillis and his friends created a weekly virtual workout, with each friend alternating taking responsibility for leading the workout, and all having fun while getting stronger. Since was not what he considered to be a “fitness-oriented person,” he didn’t know where this new activity would take him.

Little did he know, but four years later he’d be doing push-ups on his Facebook page for all to see, as a unique way to raise awareness for autoimmune disease.

Tim’s mother is living with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid gland, and his wife is living with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful autoimmune condition affecting the spine that can, over time, cause the vertebrae to fuse together. Both have lived with their conditions for over a decade, enduring long diagnostic journeys before starting treatment.

While his mother’s condition is manageable, his wife’s situation is more severe. Her symptoms fluctuate significantly, with some days allowing for a jog and others making walking a challenge. Initially, she managed her symptoms with dietary restrictions and lifestyle changes. However, as her pain intensified, she started taking Cimzia.

This transition made it clear to Tim that managing her disease could potentially become a larger mental and emotional load. He became passionate about raising both funds and awareness about autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and ankylosing spondylitis. When he considered his options for a fundraising event, he landed on a push-up challenge, remembering a similar challenge he participated in the year prior for St. Jude, which he enjoyed, and it aligned perfectly with his recent commitment to fitness.

Tim set up his fundraiser on Facebook, where he was able to create a page dedicated to his fundraiser and easily share it with family and friends, who also shared it with their networks. Tim wanted something that was easy for people to work with and seamless for soliciting donations, and Facebook offered just that.

Tim’s virtual workout friends immediately joined his Autoimmune Association fundraiser, demonstrating so much enthusiasm that they created an interactive spreadsheet to track each person’s progress and motivate each other.

“I really felt supported by the people around me, which encouraged me to keep adding more and more push-ups.” Tim said.

Tim also took advantage of Facebook’s community features, which allowed him to post daily videos and updates about his push-up progress and facts about autoimmune diseases; his mom and his wife also shared stories about their personal autoimmune journeys.

“A big part of having people engaged in a fundraising group like that is to show up consistently, to post consistently, and to interact with others who are posting in the Facebook group,” Tim said.

He was so pleased when friends he hadn’t talked to in a decade or more saw his fundraising challenge on Facebook reached out and reconnected with him, sharing their own stories of friends or family members who lived with autoimmune diseases and how autoimmune diseases have impacted their own lives. This was a bonus to the fundraiser and something Tim hadn’t expected or anticipated when he started the month of push-ups, and he was grateful for the additional connection and community created around a common cause.

Tim Elliis blogWhen Tim began his challenge at the beginning of December, his goal was to complete 4,000 push-ups during the month-long fundraiser. He’s pleased to share that he completed 4,001 push-ups, raised over $1,000 for the Autoimmune Association, and spread much-needed awareness for autoimmune disease.

Tim feels good knowing that his fundraiser has empowered his wife to speak out about her journey with ankylosing spondylitis. Tim recognizes the struggles that many autoimmune patients face, from finding the right doctor who can make a correct diagnosis to establishing and following a treatment plan that works.

“I wanted to bring awareness about the uphill battle my wife and other autoimmune disease patients face every day. My wife has dealt with so much pain and so much uncertainty, and it’s important to me that I was able to do something that helped reduce the stigma and support my wife,” he said.

Turn your own passion into purpose!

To help you every step of the way, from brainstorming an idea for a fundraiser, to setting up a web page to announce your fundraiser and collect donations, we’ve launched a new DIY Fundraising platform. We’ve made it easy for you to host your own fundraiser and raise awareness. Get started today!

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