by Cindy Siegel Shepler, Knoxville, Tennessee
Thank you to the ACBL for your sponsorship of the 3rd Annual Community Symposium! A very special thanks to our Knoxville Bridge Club, who obliged my funding request and held the very first sanctioned ME/CFS charity game over four years ago, in June 2015, raising $134 for Michigan-based Pandora Org, Inc., an ME/CFS charity. You may be wondering what in the world ME/CFS has to do with the ACBL, and if so, please keep reading…..
My personal health journey spans more than fifty years, eventually forcing me to leave a great life and career in San Francisco, and return to my hometown of Knoxville in my mid-thirties. With a family lineage of successful ACBL players, I took up duplicate bridge a few years later, fell in love with the game and eventually my bridge-playing husband :-). About ten years ago, I had to quit playing due to progressively increasing fatigue and eye strain.
In the fall of 2015, I connected with the OMF and was shocked at what I was learning: world-wide estimates of 20 million people or more with ME/CFS and related diseases (post-treatment Lyme disease & fibromyalgia), scores of young desperate patients suffering with diseases that are dangerously misunderstood, stigmatized, underfunded and under-researched. ME/CFS has no known cause or cure and a shockingly high suicide rate. It was probably too late to reverse my course but I had to help the youth. Enter the philanthropic bridge community, the ACBL…..
After two years of educating, lobbying, calling, writing, and probably annoying people, on August 12, 2017, Knoxville’s Saturday Bridge Club held the first OMF fundraiser, which coincided with the first Annual Community Symposium at Stanford University. Additional fundraisers were held within Unit 165 and District 7; the momentum was building. With 165,000 ACBL members, there had to be bridge players with sick kids or grandkids. My hope was to connect and go National. In 2018 I was introduced to California ACBL members / fellow OMF Community Ambassadors, Beverly Weiss and Dr. Art Mirin, who advocate on behalf of their afflicted loved ones. As a result of our newly formed team and working with the OMF, the ACBL became a sponsor of the recent Symposium! Persistence pays!
As a former San Franciscan, I find it ironic that I was unable to attend the Symposium in person. However, I could not be more pleased and grateful to pass the torch to Bev and Art, such capable and devoted advocates! It’s my fervent hope that every Club, Unit, District and the entire ACBL will “follow suit” and continue this important partnership. I’m forever grateful to everyone who supported and encouraged me on this difficult journey, most especially my husband who now carries the bridge torch for our family.
Cindy Siegel Shepler – OMF Community Ambassador, Knoxville, TN