Posted: 3:40 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Dear fellow Duke basketball fans and DBR readers,
The story of www. BlueHealers.org is, in many ways, the combination of two coexisting constants in my life: my love for Duke basketball and my calling, as a physician, to serve the world’s poor.
After graduating from Duke in 1991, I returned to my home state of Texas for medical school and residency. I continued to follow Duke basketball closely, initially through print media and eventually through the internet. I discovered Duke Basketball Report during my residency and remember, in addition to keeping up with news on the team and feeling connected to other fans through the forums, seeing the occasional auction for tickets to Duke home games. While the cost and logistics of traveling from Texas to Cameron kept me from bidding, I appreciated the auctions for providing access to Duke games for those who, like myself at the time, could not have possibly afforded or justified season tickets.
As for my calling to serve the poor, I began to look for short-term medical mission opportunities soon after completing my training and starting my anesthesia practice. In discussing this in the operating room, one of my surgeon colleagues encouraged me to look into Medical Ministry International (http://www.mmint.org). Through their website I signed up for the first of my short term mission trips to Bolivia, which began my ongoing relationship with MMI. That surgeon’s name was Dr. Timothy Berg.
When I moved to North Carolina in 2005, I immediately joined the Iron Dukes and pledged just enough money to make me eligible for basketball season tickets. While I greatly enjoyed the ten home games I made it to that year, the five plus hour drive from my home to Cameron both prevented me from going to every game and convinced me that, living that far away, season tickets were probably not the most practical idea at that time. The tickets that I could not use I auctioned through DBR to benefit MMI. I quickly appreciated the generosity of the Duke basketball fan community in their willingness to pay more for basketball tickets than what they could probably get them for on ebay or through a scalper in order to support a worthy cause. When it came time to renew my Iron Dukes pledge, rather than succumbing to reason and concluding that I lived too far from Durham to renew my tickets, I decided to renew my Iron Dukes pledge and then auction all of the tickets for MMI.
While I recognized that there was a risk that the auctions may not always raise as much money for MMI as the ticket prices and the Iron Dukes pledge cost me, I decided that auctioning the tickets would both bring attention to the work that MMI was doing and had the potential to raise more money for MMI than they would receive from me alone if I were to directly donate the money I was spending to get the tickets. The gamble has paid off. Not only have the BlueHealers auctions to date raised more money for MMI than I have spent to get the tickets, but some of the auction winners have become regular donors to MMI beyond the ticket auctions. While the worsening economy has reduced some of the bidding, I have always at least come very close to “breaking even” with regard to the ticket costs.
Last year, my friend Dr. Berg took the bold step of leaving his successful surgical practice in Texas and moving his family to Rwanda to in order to provide surgical care and minister to the impoverished people there. Initially, the Berg family committed to serving for one year in Rwanda, but they have now made the decision to stay indefinitely. After emailing back and forth with the Bergs for much of the past year, I have decided to direct the proceeds of the BlueHealers auctions to their work in Rwanda. I will maintain my relationship with and support of MMI as will some of the other regular donors who have begun giving as a result of the ticket auctions, but I really wanted to support what Dr. Berg and his family are doing as well. I hope you will join me in supporting their work by bidding generously on basketball tickets through the BlueHealers site or independently donating through World Medical Mission, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse.
When I asked Dr. Berg if he wanted to communicate anything to DBR readers who may be bidding on the auctions, he replied “I always feel a bit self conscious about talking about how ‘we are doing this and that’ when we are so inexperienced.” The humility of that statement speaks volumes about Dr. Berg’s character. I hope you will check out his family’s blog and read some of the stories of the people there. I’m confident you will agree that this is a worthwhile cause.
Mike Lee ’91