There’s not much scarier than a medical crisis. Taking care of each other, making sure that help is available, offering support and assistance, is what makes the people of Faire feel so much like family. A small pewter pin is appearing on many a lapel these days, an outward symbol of a camaraderie found throughout the Faire world and, with the help of this group, we are making a difference. Let me introduce you to the Renaissance Entertainers, Services, Crafters United (RESCU) Foundation.
Now in their sixth year, RESCU Foundation is a fully qualified 501(c)3 non-profit organization established to assist the people who bring us the joy of Faire when medical crises occur. Their goals are noble:
- To create a unified, caring community that can rally and support each individual in times of health and illness.
- To offer support and training through our growing Advocacy Program.
- To educate the community about current health issues by providing training, workshops and classes like first aid and CPR.
- To establish a doctors network and RN program to help alleviate the burden of medical care on the road.
The best part is that they are accomplishing those goals, not just talking about them. Everyone who works with RESCU is a volunteer, there are no paid positions, so all donations and money raised through various means goes directly to assist those in need with the exception of very minor operating expenses (less than 1% for 2004-2006). By offering some monetary assistance for medical issues, helping find the lowest cost for medical treatments, and providing education to enhance wellness, the Foundation impacts many lives in our Faire Family.
Most of the RESCU Foundation Board members have anywhere from 8 to 28 years with Renaissance faires in some capacity and the majority having experienced fulltime life on the road. The Board felt that they needed expert financial advice, a wise decision in my opinion, so their Treasurer is a retired Bank of America executive whose daughter is a full-time performer. Two founding members, Carol “Lady Ettie” Black and Phil “Moonie the Magnif’cent” Johnson, are still on the board. Brande Watson of Uncommon Adornments is one of the babies at RESCU with only eleven years on the road and on the Board since April of 2007.
You don’t have to be full-time, or even on the road, to request help from RESCU. Whether you are cast or merchant, performer or parking attendant, if you have ever received a participator’s pass, you are eligible for assistance with medical debt. A three person Disbursement Committee, made up of Board members, reviews and discusses the requests and determines what is most appropriate. In the case of on-going expenses, multiple disbursements are possible.
Advocacy – the wave of the future
RESCU is able to offer additional, and in some cases greater, assistance through their Advocacy Program. It is designed to help those in need find ways to lower outstanding bills, get low- or no-cost prescriptions, negotiate the cost of treatment, and provide moral support. The program, founded in April 2007, has been in contact with both the Actor’s Fund and the Will Rogers Motion Pictures Pioneer Assistance Fund, learning to develop a comprehensive program of aid for the RESCU community. Brande Watson, who heads of the Advocacy Program for RESCU, says that the program has come a long way since its beginning and has a tremendous impact on the support provided by RESCU.
Since the inception of the Advocacy Program in April 2007, they have been able to negotiate approximately $500,000 in savings on hospital, physician, and prescription costs. Brande laughed as she described the perfect advocate, the person who sees a bill, recognizes there is something not right, calls the company, gets credit, and then asks to speak to a supervisor and ends up with an even larger credit. There are currently five advocates working approximately twenty cases. As awareness of the program increases, an influx of cases raises the need for more advocates.
Working these cases has an impact on the advocates as well as those receiving aid. When you can help someone save $9,250 per year on a prescription, there is a tremendous sense of fulfillment. That’s what happened with a case Brande worked recently. The young woman, a local faire worker, needed a medication that cost $255 per 10-day supply. She contacted RESCU’s Advocacy Program and, with Brande’s help, was able to apply for and gain approval to receive a year’s worth of the medicine for an initial one-time payment of $10. Though Brande has never met this young woman, she has met some of the others that she has helped and says, “Meeting these people just gives you cold chills, it makes you know that what you’re doing is well, well worthwhile. It’s been the most rewarding, fulfilling thing that I’ve ever done.”
The job can also be very frustrating. Brande is currently helping a number of people with terminal illnesses. She speaks with them on a weekly basis and one day she knows that they are not going to be there to talk to any more. “That’s really, really hard,” she told me. The advocate’s role in that situation is to work with the doctors and hospitals to allow the patients to live what is left of their lives without the hassles that are associated with it. “It’s really hard to see people trying to get their affairs in order and survive, knowing that the bills they have are 75% more than they would be if they had insurance.”
Another program that is in the works for RESCU is the creation of a physicians’ network to provide low cost care. While finding medical assistance can be difficult if you don’t have insurance, combine that with being on the road and it can be nearly impossible. Doctors are reluctant to write prescription refills for out-of-towners, scheduling an appointment can take up to six weeks and may require a referral, and some providers refuse to make one-time appointments. Follow-up appointments to verify the effectiveness of treatments (e.g. blood pressure medicine or antibiotics) become impractical when you have moved on to the next location. All too often, simple preventative needs go unmet until it becomes serious enough to require a trip to urgent care or the emergency room.
A committee is compiling data for a directory of free or reduced care clinics in the areas surrounding each faire. There is a great need for doctors, dentists, registered nurses, and physician’s assistants who recognize the unique needs of traveling patients. In addition, there is a need for professionals whose knowledge can provide assistance regarding medical issues. For instance, a lawyer specializing in Social Security and Disability benefits recently offered to help. A doctor in Wisconsin regularly offers two clinics during the faire season for participant checkups.
How can you help?
Check to see if there is a RESCU Rally where you are. Some Rallies take place on the faire site and may be for participants only. Others are at public venues and patrons are invited. If there is not a Rally at your faire, contact to find out about getting one started. Donate items for the Rally or volunteer to help make it happen.
Make a Donation
The Foundation pools , and any Rally proceeds not already distributed, for disbursement as needs arise. If you are not able to attend a Rally in your area, consider making a donation.
RESCU Pins & CDs
RESCU has four products available to for the cause, a pewter pin of the logo and three compilation CDs. The image at the top of the page is the pin, something that I feel honored to wear as part of my garb. The CDs are full of donated recordings from faire performers all over the country. “Chorus for a Queen,” the newest release came out May 3rd at the Pleasure Renaissance Faire of Southern California and contains West Coast musicians. I have “Encore for a Queen” and eagerly await the opportunity to acquire the others.
Corporate Matching Programs
Some companies have matching charity donation programs in place. If yours does, check with them about sending your donation to RESCU. Email RESCU for more information on how to make the Foundation your charitable donation choice through your company.
If you use the internet, GoodSearch.com is a quick way to donate. Every search done through GoodSearch will earn one penny for the charity of your choice. The Yahoo search engine powers GoodSearch and, if you shop online, there are additional rewards for your charity.
The first time you use GoodSearch, just type RESCU in the box below “Who do you GoodSearch for?” and click verify or hit return. “RESCU Foundation (Fuquay-Varina, NC)” will replace what you typed. Unless you change to a different charity, the Foundation will continue to receive the proceeds from your searches. The “Amount Raised” is a quick way to see what kind of impact GoodSearch is having. Brande tells me that the income from searches has increased steadily since RESCU signed up.
Join a committee
RESCU also has many ideas and goals with not enough people available to see them into fruition as quickly as they would like. If you have time and a vision to offer, you can help them execute the next steps for growth by joining an existing committee. Some examples are Doctor’s Network, RESCU Merchandising, Fundraising Committee, Advertising, Community Donation, etc. Email Brande for information on volunteering.
Consider being an advocate
There is a tremendous need for to assist people in lowering the cost of their health care. You will need compassion and perseverance; the rewards are beyond explanation. If you are interested in working with the Advocacy Program, email Brande Watson for more information.
There are new programs showing up every day on the internet and through other resources. If you have an idea or hear of something that might be useful, email RESCU to discuss it. Many of the best ideas have come from brainstorming.
Brande said, “Working with RESCU keeps me aware that every day can be my last. It makes me more appreciative of those around me, and of my own life. I try to be a better person and help others. My hope for everyone is to live life to the fullest now while you can. Carpe Diem”Tweet This