Hales Corners — Tracy Stayton refuted negative connotations about turning 31 by coining the age, "thirty-wonderful." At 32, she chose, "thirty-too-good-to-be-true." At 33, "thirty-free."
Stayton recently entered her "thirty-fourtunate" birthday year. Rather than celebrating herself, she will celebrate others by committing to 34 acts of service around the world.
To accomplish the feat, Stayton will have to relinquish everything: her job as aquatics coordinator in Irvine, California, many of her possessions and a guaranteed bed in her condominium.
"When there's a powerful idea, it takes preparation and sacrifice," said Stayton. "I have to completely relinquish my life as I know it."
Stayton is a Hales Corners-native and graduate of Whitnall High School. She is not married and does not have kids. 34tunate has been in the works for about a year, ever since Stayton realized her freedom as a "thirty-free" single woman afforded her opportunities to give back — no strings attached.
"The trajectory of my life has been a little nontraditional," she said. I'm at a place where I can do something different. I'm not saying everyone has to do this, but I have no attachments that keep me in one place."
Stayton has leaned on her marketing and communications work experience to connect with global nonprofits and organizations.
"I have binders filled with organizations to work with," she said.
The first act of service on Stayton's list is cutting her hair in honor of her sorority sister, Becky, who died from cancer in December 2012. Then, she will head to the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, to serve Thanksgiving dinner to more than 15,000 people. Stayton's year of philanthropy will end officially on Thanksgiving 2015.
"I have no put limitations on anything," she said. "I've let the need determine the works, so there isn't anywhere I won't go."
Stayton is also geared up to work with Habitat for Humanity in honor of her grandfather who worked alongside President Jimmy Carter to build homes for people in need. To commemorate the life of her uncle who died from HIV/AIDS in 1990, she will join Blood:Water Mission in Africa to improve water sanitation and AIDS awareness. Stayton and her father may also do a joint service trip to Vietnam to commemorate his time serving in the Vietnam War. Every act of service will be 10 to 14 days in length.
"I have no doubt (Stayton's) going to stay connected with everybody she touches and really make the effort because she genuinely cares," said Katie Muldoon, a friend of Stayton's since kindergarten.
Stayton's trip will be self-supported with the help of fundraising. She needs anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. Stayton has already raised $4,500 from her birthday party, which she used as a platform for a silent auction.
"She's really invested a lot of time in herself to come to this conclusion," said friend Rachael Koval. "This is not a one-year thing for her. She's always done these things in her life. This is just on a bigger scale."
Muldoon said Stayton is one of the most motivated people she knows. She has already completed two Ironman triathlons.
The only thing Stayton is afraid of is her return.
"The scariest thing for me is what I will do when I get back," said Stayton. "I'd be a fool to think I will not change on this journey."
Stayton hopes her year of giving will inspire others to commit to four acts of service a year.
"Imagine what could happen if everyone does four acts of service a year," said Stayton. "I see every year as being a '34tunate' year."
Supporters are invited to become a title sponsor of one day of Stayton's travels by donating $240 ($10 per hour, for 24 hours) in an initiative she calls, "Seize The Day." Others are encouraged to follow Stayton's adventure on her blog at www.thirtyfourtunate.com.