Local philanthropist highlights sober journey
MILWAUKEE – Lauren Nelson is the tenant experience coordinator at Schlitz Park and the founder of Roar Philanthropy, a passionate project that helps nonprofits raise funds.
She’s also a recovering alcoholic, and her sobriety – put to the test by the race of a busy young professional – is literally a matter of life and death.
“The results came back that if I wanted to live beyond 35 without dialysis or just be alive, I had to completely remove alcohol from my system, as it caused my kidneys to function less well,” said Nelson.
It’s kidney, in the singular. Lauren only has one, after doctors took the other out of her when she had kidney cancer as a child.
Many people often focus on the liver when it comes to drinking. But alcohol abuse can also have an impact on the kidneys and their ability to filter blood.
“We weren’t given as a user manual on how to be a childhood cancer survivor as an adult in college,” Nelson said. “My parents, you know, often reminded me that you only have one kidney, you shouldn’t drink.”
But, as she said, the rebellious young Lauren didn’t listen.
“One of the nights I can’t remember I was assaulted,” she said. “And, so, after that, I consumed alcohol to deal with this trauma. In fact, I failed college twice because of the alcohol.”
She eventually received her BA in Journalism, Advertising, and Mass Media Studies from UW-Milwaukee. But she also struggled with alcohol after moving to Milwaukee, a city in a state where it’s hard not to drink all the time.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, compared to Americans on average, Wisconsin residents drink more each month, drink more each month, and perceive binge drinking as a less serious problem.
“You asked me, you know, how long have you been sober? Well, I had a drink on Monday. So it’s a journey. Being sober is not a linear path,” said Nelson.
But this trip led her to her passion.
“After a suicidal episode, I realized that I wanted to do more with my life. So I created this organization and I’m helping nonprofits here in Milwaukee develop their fundraising strategy and achieve new donors, ”Nelson said.
You can learn more about Nelson’s philanthropy, and her life journey as a cancer and sexual assault survivor, at Roar Philanthropy MKE.
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