In the week between the Christmas and New Year holidays, I put some turtles in a box and gently put them into the hands of the United States Postal Service, hoping they would survive the trip to their new home.
Before you turn me in to PETA, you should know these were not the “cute in an ugly way” little green turtles that some people have as pets. These were delicious chocolate-caramel-pecan confections. For nine years, I’ve sent turtles to people who make generous donations to help me fight cancer with the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation program. It’s been my shtick, my play on the “tortoise and the hare” parable. You know that one, right? “Slow and steady wins the race,” with the victory in this case being the ultimate defeat of cancer. You can read more about the story behind the turtles.
This was the third batch I had sent this year. The first was right on schedule after I ended my marathon season in November. The second came shortly thereafter when I realized I had under-counted in batch #1, and this last “holiday” set was the result of a spate of end-of-year “need a tax deduction” donations that deserved a quick reward.
Fundraising-wise, this was a big year: my wonderful donors contributed over $9300! That’s the second-highest total I’ve had over the years. As I sat on the living room floor, folding “thank you” cards, wrapping turtle boxes and slapping on mailing labels, I thought, “Man, this is a lot of work! I’m glad I didn’t have to make the turtles too!”
That’s when this post came to me. I dashed an email off to my sister, Sharon, the chief confectioner, asking her for some details on what exactly goes into making 43 pounds of turtles.
- 16 pounds of pecan halves
- 8 pounds of sugar
- 2 pounds of butter
- 32 ounces Karo syrup
- 15 pounds of milk chocolate
And then there’s the labor. Each turtle is hand dipped – one by one. For this big chore, my sister called on her daughter to lend a hand – actually, both her hands! Working together, it still took them 7 ½ hours! As Sharon said, “I gave birth in less time!” And keep in mind, it isn’t like this is the first time they’ve done this. Sharon makes hundreds of pounds of turtles every year as part of her catering business, so they have the production down to an efficient science. How long would it take you to make 43 pounds of turtles?
Now, double that. That’s about what it was like the first year of Turtles Against Cancer. That year, the reward was two pounds of turtles for a donation of $100 and one pound for a $50 donation. And the donations…rolled…in! Nearly $11,000 worth! (You don’t want to know how much money I spent that year on postage!)
Donation levels have changed over the years, poundage has changed, pecan prices have dramatically changed. But one thing has remained constant – I have the best group of supporters around.