When I became single—again—in 2000 at age 62, I decided the time had come to make a list of all the places I wanted to go and things I wanted to do before I got too old.
This is what they call a "bucket list." My intention, however, was not just to do these things myself, but to try and turn them into fundraising adventures to benefit my nonprofit organization, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP).
I founded G-CAPP in 1995 when Georgia had the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the United States. I knew that adolescent parenting is far greater where there is poverty and its attendant hopelessness. The disadvantaged parents of the youngsters who have babies too soon tend to have been teenagers themselves when they became parents. Now their children follow their example, creating an intergenerational transfer of poverty. When children have babies before they themselves have grown up, gotten an education and a means of supporting themselves, the likelihood of their having a productive, middle-class life is greatly reduced.
Pregnant girls tend to drop put of school, and young fathers tend not to hang around to parent their child, thus depriving the child of that critical, loving male presence. I knew that the absolute best way to prevent disadvantaged young people from engaging in risky behaviors, including unprotected sex, was to help them envision a future for themselves that would be compromised if they had babies and didn't finish their education. Hope, we were discovering, was the best contraceptive. Fourteen years later, G-CAPP's work is to provide that hope in a future. It is what we call "above-the-waist work."
How Jane turned a family vacation into a fundraising adventure
The first "bucket list" trip to support G-CAPP was a five-day hike on Peru's sacred Inca trail culminating at Machu Picchu. It wasn't easy to identify enough friends who possessed both money and the level of fitness required for the 14,000-foot altitude and steep trail, but I managed to raise $100,000 and have a life-altering experience.
My daughter Vanessa wanted to go to the Galápagos Islands with family and friends for her 40th birthday, and because this was a trip I'd long wanted for myself, we turned it into another G-CAPP fundraising adventure. I arranged with Lindblatt Expeditions and National Geographic to bring 42 friends and G-CAPP supporters for a weeklong visit to the islands. The agreement was that if I could fill their wonderful ship, the Islander, with paying passengers, they would donate $100,000 to G-CAPP.
My ex-husband, Ted Turner, had made the Galápagos trip the year before on that same ship with his five children, seven grandchildren and the staff of the Turner Family Foundation. They all gave such rave reviews of the ship, its staff and food, the National Geographic naturalists and everything about the experience that I was convinced this was just what I was looking for...a multigenerational vacation for fun and learning. It was a little risky because the group would be very diverse and, while I knew everyone, no one else did and there was no guarantee people would get along.
Only two days before we embarked for Ecuador, I had done the final performance of the new Broadway play 33 Variations by Moises Kaufman. I had been suffering extreme pain in my left knee; cortisone shots were no longer effective and I had had to walk with a cane for the last three performances. (Because my character was dying of ALS and used a walker and wheelchair for part of the show, the audience didn't seem to notice the cane.) I was scheduled for knee replacement surgery 12 days later and, needless to say, I was worried about how I would manage on the boat and the long nature walks on lava rocks that are such a central part of the Galápagos experience.
There, too, I needn't have worried. For some mysterious reason, the minute we crossed the Equator, the pain stopped and I could get about sans cane. (The pain returned six days later, alas, as soon as we crossed back over! Hmmm.)
There is no way to truly capture the Galápagos experience with words. Fortunately for me, my daughter Vanessa is a great photographer, so I'll let her pictures tell the story of this special adventure.
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, June 19, 2013