Making a Difference Essay Contest

2018 Essay Contest Information

Essay Contest information for the Fundraising and Development for Nonprofits Conference.

Compete for a “Making a Difference” Essay Contest

1st Place receives $500

2nd Place receives $300

3rd Place receives $200

To Submit an Essay  
Write an essay, entitled “Making a Difference,” and submit it via email to laura.richards@wisc.edu . These essays must fit on a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper with no smaller than 12-point font. The deadline is 3 p.m. CST, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.

GUIDELINES
Essays must have the title “Making a Difference.” Please include your name and the official name of your organization. Your essay will tell a story of how your organization has made a significant difference to an individual or to a group of individuals. The essays will be judged by a three-person panel and awarded points on style, quality of writing, and how compelling your story is.

Winners will be announced at the Thursday lunch. If chosen, you will receive your award in the form of a check made payable to your organization, and you will be given the opportunity to read your essay aloud. GOOD LUCK …and please apply! This is the perfect way to prepare for the conference.

2017’s Winning Essay

“Making a Difference”

Submitted by Lauren McKeaney, Picking Me Foundation Executive Director & Founder

Pick a color. Pick a date. Pick a card, any card. The mere mention of the word “pick’” used to make me cringe. As an avid writer, filmmaker, stand-up comedienne, and gregarious individual, storytelling is in my nature, but there was one story I was determined never to tell.

I have compulsively picked my skin daily for well over two decades, my body is riddled in scars and sores head-to-toe, and I had absolutely no idea or reason why. My formative years consisted of doing everything I could to keep anyone from looking too closely or asking too many questions. My entire life was affected by the front I put forth to not have to explain what I could not effectively explain: I quit figure skating at a competitive level after I couldn’t pull my tights off without ripping scabs with them, “Leper” was a favorite nickname from bullies, high school nurses incorrectly reported me for self-harming, a college counselor thought I was using meth, dating and intimacy were more about hiding than opening up, I’d leave for work only to see my arm bled through my shirt and go back to change while thinking of an excuse for being late that day, and the list goes on. This shame hampered my self growth as I defaulted on my rolodex of reasons for why my skin looked the way it did saying it was chiggers, a rash, bug bites, etc. My family tried every treatment from hypnotists to psychiatrists to dermatologists to witch doctors, but nothing stopped my constant picking. Their good intentioned yet negatively received screams of “Stop Picking Lauren!” only reinforced my disdain for the word “pick”, assured me that I was behaving badly and existed only as something that needed to be fixed.

Finally, in 2013, thanks to the DSM-5s recognition of my Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior, I was diagnosed with Dermatillomania aka Skin Picking disorder, which is related to OCD. I had a word, a term, a name for it after all these years! I was ecstatic! I wanted a button and a t-shirt and a certificate all printed with this finally tangible illness on it. I was eager and ready to research everything about it, start some medication, go through the treatment and finally be cured of this behavior. But no. Devastatingly, I learned how misunderstood, underreported and under-diagnosed this mental illness was, as it lacked medical studies, research and funding for treatment, and had no cure. Worse was absorbing the stigma that the name Dermatillomania carried in the medical world, rendering it a “bad habit” and not something that was life pervasive nor seriously in need of attention and funding. I was deflated and defeated, all over again.

In 2014 I was hospitalized from picking an area into an abscess for the 6th time except on this visit I contracted the life-taking bacteria MRCA and almost lost my right leg. After having 8 inches of my inner thigh removed, a vacuum placed inside that I wore like a purse 24/7, put on a walker and into physical therapy, I could no longer ignore the medical community still seeing Dermatillomania as a mere “bad habit”, so I decided to do something about it and I started telling my story to everyone and anyone who would listen. And I haven’t shut up since. In this new passion of sharing, I got to know myself as a mental health advocate and am proud and honored to run and have founded the only registered nonprofit advocating Dermatillomania, the Picking Me Foundation. Picking Me is dedicated to raising awareness and inspiring acceptance about Dermatillomania for sufferers, supporters, and educational communities alike! We aim to change the connotation of “pick”, to help patients and parents understand these behaviors are not their fault, and to educate the medical world on the dire funding Dermatillomania needs. Picking Me sends Fiddle Packs full of fidget toys and Skin Picking information to day cares, pre-schools, and baby-sitting organizations, in hopes of promoting finger energy off the body while encouraging community leaders to start conversations about Skin Picking early on.

At one of Picking Me’s recent workshops at a mental health conference, a little girl came up to me after I shared my story, her skinny arms and legs polka-dotted in shades of red from wounds and marks all too familiar to me. She hugged my hips and started crying about the bullies at school who call her “Gross” and how she just didn’t want to be here anymore, that is until she met me. I asked her why, and she told me because I am like a princess. What she saw in me was the self-esteem that it takes to accept and live with a mental illness, that it is doable, and perhaps how helping others choose themselves over the disorder that chose them is the ultimate freedom. She saw how I’m picking me over my Skin Picking, and taught me that you really can’t pick your purpose when it picks you.