A Love Letter to Give to Lincoln Day

By Jenny Chapin

Do you believe in love at first sight? That feeling that hits you like a ton of bricks and stops you in your tracks. I’ve been lucky to experience it a few times in my life. The first was at my ninth-grade dance recital. As we crossed the stage during the curtain call, I caught the brown eyes of a tall boy tap dancing behind me. We kept falap-ing but the world stopped spinning for me at that moment. I was hooked. 

My most recent experience with this type of crush happened two years ago at Give to Lincoln Day. 

As Vice President for Marketing and Communications, Give to Lincoln Day is arguably the biggest (and most fun) day of my year. Preparations for Lincoln’s One Big Day of Giving start months in advance and on May 1st – we’re off and running. 

In a matter of weeks, Lincoln comes together to raise millions of dollars for local nonprofits. Our talented staff at LCF facilitates and processes nearly 25,000 individual donations. It’s really an incredible event to be behind the scenes of. Year after year, I am blown away by not only the generosity of our community but by the passion of our nonprofit partners. 

My first two years on the job were unique because we were navigating Give to Lincoln Day during the pandemic. By 2022, the staff was excited to gather again and host our Nonprofit Festival in Tower Square. The Tower Square event features more than 70 nonprofits. Each agency has a booth and an activity to share their mission with the community members who stop by the festival.  

That year was cold and rainy for May. In fact, we even debated canceling the event. But we’re Nebraskans. We’re hearty people and we persevere. At least that’s what our President, Alec, told me over the phone as he was helping people hold down their tents in the wind and rain and I was still warm and dry at the office. 

I bundled up and headed to Tower Square. The nonprofits were out in force and the space was already a buzz albeit a little damp. I was bouncing between our radio remote broadcasts when it happened. The crowds parted, our eyes met, and I knew my life would never be the same. 

“What’s his name?” – I asked the woman standing next to him. 

“This is Patch. He’s never been on a leash before and he’s up for adoption.” 

Patch. He was five pounds of absolute sweetness. I had never seen a dog that looked like him before. The eyes. The ears. The floppiness. I couldn’t handle it. Why didn’t anyone warn me that puppies would be here? Okay, they did – but I didn’t anticipate this. 

Throughout the day, I made several trips to the booth’s puppy playpen to visit him. At one point, someone with the rescue organization said, “Patch’s mom is here.” 

I had never been called “mom” before. 

But what was I thinking? I couldn’t get a dog. I was working my busiest day of the year, and the show must go on. Right?!  

Maybe just one more trip to Tower Square to see him and then I’ll definitely get back to work. 

As the festival activities wrapped up and the puppies were carefully loaded back in their van, I said goodbye to Patch and went back to my desk. In-between posting on our social media channels and fielding interviews, I found myself on that agency’s adoption website. Then on my apartment’s website. 

How much is a pet deposit anyway? 

Then suddenly I had an appointment the next day to go see him. It was all happening, and I was defenseless to stop it. My coworkers cheered me on and also questioned my sanity. 

“Are you really going to get that dog?” 

“I think so.” 

I once read if you’re torn between two choices when making a decision – pick the bigger life. That night, as we watched the total on www.GiveToLincoln.com climb towards a new record, I felt confident. I could handle this. Dogs like Patch don’t just walk into your life every day and when they do, you say “yes.” 

I woke up the next day in a panic. 

What was I thinking? I stayed up past midnight refreshing the website, my apartment is a mess, I can’t bring home a puppy today! 

And yet… 

He came home. And I did open myself up to the bigger life. A messier, more chaotic, more loving life. 

All dog owners think that they have the very best dog, and the thing is – they are all correct. But Patch is really a special guy. He’s spunky and curious and playful. He can’t let someone walk by without a hello. I now know all my neighbors by name, thanks to Patch. He’s taught me how to love unconditionally and that kind of love makes you a better person. 

Two years later, when I think about Give to Lincoln Day, I feel like a character in a Hallmark movie that finally gets the true meaning of Christmas. I was working it – but I wasn’t fully living it. And now I am. 

This year, I plan to donate to the organization that brought Patch to me and many others that are close to my heart. When you give back, you get so much more in return. And how lucky are we to have a day that celebrates exactly that? 

I hope you fall in love with something this Give to Lincoln Day and who knows…you may end up picking the bigger life.