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Health

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Here to serve

On a rain soaked day, a couple of weeks ago I met the most remarkable woman for lunch, her name is Katie Quintas. Katie is a living example of C.S. Lewis quote, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an  extraordinary destiny.” Katie’s hardship re-routed her destiny.

Katie’s life was fantastic.  She had a husband, Silvio, she adored. A wonderful son, Bryan and a fantastic career consulting non-profits. Then all of that changed in 2006, when her husband Silvio was diagnosed with leukemia and six months later, her only child Bryan, was diagnosed with Stage Four Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at age 16.

Katie’s employer was supportive as she tried to manage a full-time job and the two most important people in her life’s cancers. What Katie didn’t realize was how was she going to manage to cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, update everyone on Bryan and Silvio’s conditions, deal with the offers for help, all while working and driving between two hospitals over an hour apart from each other? She was overwhelmed, wondered how families manage and didn’t even know where to look for help.

It turns out that she was not alone.

As 2007 came to an end, and both Katie’s husband and son were finishing up their cancer treatments, she began looking for organizations that help families through daily life during an illness, especially the illness of a child. In 2009, when she still hadn’t found an organization that fit the need, she began discussing the idea of creating one with her husband Silvio. With her husband’s encouragement, she did just that launching Here to Serve.org in 2011.

The Quintas family had been through so much but realized that there were so many people who had less. With Silvio’s support Katie set up her non-profit to connect and create online care communities that come in at the beginning of the health crisis to organize, friends, resources, medical information, funding, support all without overwhelming the caregiver, who is typically the parent.

As I sat at lunch and listened to Katie’s story, it was almost too much to process what she had been through but even more to grasp what she does for others. When we both went onto her web-site together and I saw what a care community looked like for a family, it was unbelievable. Once I was part of a sick patients community, I could sign up for everything from walking the dog, bringing a meal, doing laundry, running an errand, donating groceries and the list goes on. The services Here to Serve provides is everything that Katie needed when she went through this and didn’t have.

Sadly, Katie lost her beloved husband to cancer, but she said his memory still keeps her going. Katie told me, “I can’t imagine not doing this. Here to Serve gets me up in the morning, it motivates me and I was created to do this work. This is my purpose.”

Charity Matters.

 

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A beautiful picture

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On Sunday night I curled up on the sofa for one of my favorite TV nights of the year, to watch The Golden Globes.  Unlike the Academy Awards, this show feels like you are at a party you were invited to. So when I saw this story on last night’s news, about the Golden Globes and an amazing non-profit’s photography program, I had to share….  especially since this week was already devoted to photography and how it makes our world better.

In 2008, when Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz’s son, Pablo, was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer they wanted three things; to fund research for a cure, to help educate families dealing with cancer and to improve the lives of children living with cancer through the arts.  Pablo lost his battle at only six years old but his family was determined to help others and in 2009 began the Pablove Foundation to continue their mission.

So what does this have to do with the Golden Globes you ask? Well, one of their programs is called Pablove’s Shutterbugs and the goal is to give pediatric cancer patients a new perspective through the lens of the camera, in order to learn to express themselves and find  a new way of seeing things. Well one of these little shutterbugs was the cutest paparazzi on Sunday’s Red Carpet, take a peek…

Pablo’s legacy lives on in the over 1,000 students who have been reached through Pablo’s Shutterbug program since 2011. The foundation has funded over 19 research institutes worldwide with over 1.9 million dollars given to find a cure. Now that is a picture worth smiling for.

 

Charity Matters.

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Annual Worldwide Candle lighting

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The second Sunday in December is an international day of remembrance for children that have died. Every year, in the middle of this crazy hectic season, I curse trying to get to this candle lighting event, I am running on empty and overload, a million lists rushing through my head…..and then I walk into the auditorium…..where I am greeted by hundreds of faces, many who are wearing their deceased child’s image on their t-shirt or clinging to a framed photo, as if it is a life raft…and I pause.

It is then, in this moment, that I know what is truly important. It is here, as I begin to hear one parent share the story of their child’s short journey on this earth and the big impact this small life had on so many, that I know what matters. In this room is full of sniffles, tears and broken hearts the traffic is forgotten, the holiday list vanish and all that remains is love and compassion.

The emotion is palpable and the love and connection these people feel for one another, although strangers, is real. For each of them has walked this path, a hellish journey where they never feel whole again because they have lost a child….their child.

Over 40 years ago, in 1969, a chaplain at the Warwickshire Hospital in England brought together two sets of grieving parents, realizing that the understanding and support they could give one another was greater than he could provide. At that kitchen table the Lawley family, Henderson family and chaplain, Simon Stephens created The Society of Compassionate Friends.

Today, The Compassionate Friends has over 700 chapters nationwide to offer friendship, understanding and hope to bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents and family members when a child has died. There are TCF chapters in more than 30 countries around the world, lead by volunteers who are bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents.

This Sunday, December 11th at 7pm, in time zones across the globe, the world’s largest mass candle lighting event will create a 24 hour wave of light in remembrance of a child gone too soon. I will be lighting a candle for so many, gone too soon and once again be grounded in what it is that truly matters…..love.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Friends with Causes

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Last week I was invited to my friend, Alexandra Dwek’s home for another amazing and inspirational evening in support of Friends with Causes. Not book club or bunko but girl’s night with a wonderful speaker, cause and philanthropic goal. We are always surprised by the non-profit, the speaker and are completely engaged and last week’s dinner was no exception.

The first speaker was Kate Edelman Johnson, who shared the journey of her loving husband’s slow deterioration with Alzheimer’s. Kate reached out to her friend’s daughter for guidance, Patti Davis, who been through the journey with her father, Ronald Reagan. Kate spoke about what caregivers and loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients endure with this disease.

Kate began attending Patti’s Beyond Alzheimer’s support group and soon realized that she was in the position to not only support Patti’s amazing work but also the bigger problem of funding Alzheimer’s research. So Kate founded the Deane F. Johnson Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. She told us that without the discovery of new treatments, the number of Alzheimer’s victims will grow from 35.6 million to 65.7 million in 2030.

As we listened to Kate share her journey and then Patti Davis sharing hers, both as a daughter and as someone who has spent the last six years with these families in her work. Patti told us, “You need to be with other people who know what you’re going through, who won’t judge you or dismiss you. Several group members have told me that, before coming to this support group, no one had ever asked them how they were doing.”

These family members become patients too with this disease and it is people like Kate and Patti who take their suffering and turn into hope for others, that continue to inspire.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Not the only dreamer

earvolution-dream

As we wrap up our week on dreaming big, I can’t let the moment go by unnoticed, that I am not the only dreamer in my family. While my husband and sons enjoy reading Charity Matters, they have been pretty clear that they do not much enjoy being written about.  However, when you are married to an entrepreneur who has spent the last two years dreaming of a product and that dream becomes a reality….well I had to make the exception….whether he likes it or not.

As I have mentioned before, I am married to a tri-athele who loves to spend time outside, running and cycling. A few years back, when he was riding with a buddy using ear buds, he watched as his friend was almost hit by a car because he didn’t hear it coming.

That moment got him thinking, dreaming and trying to find a way to eliminate ear buds. Well, my dreamer has not given up and has given everything to see his dream become a reality. Last week he officially gave birth to his dream, AudioNoggin. Wireless surround sound blue tooth speakers that mount on your helmet or hat and produces amazing sound. He is creating an Earvolution and a new way to hear your music.

Like all dreams, whether starting a non-profit, a blog, writing a television show or dreaming of a product….they all take a community of people to become a reality. Since you are my community, I had to share this moment with you.

Christopher Reeve said it so well, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” 

Making dreams into reality is a dream come true.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Live for Others Foundation

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No matter how many post I write, the miracle of the human spirit always continues to inspire me and leave me in awe. The one I am about to share, is no exception. It is the story of an Orange County, CA teenager named Tim Vorenkamp who was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called Synovial Sarcoma. A cancer so rare that is only strikes 1 to 3 out of every million. The boy as rare as his cancer, determined to make a difference with the hand he was dealt……which is exactly what he did.

Tim used his illness to help bring awareness to this horrible disease and to establish the Live for Others Foundation.

Sadly, Tim lost his battle on January 10th, 2016 but his legacy lives on in the foundation he and his family began. As he said in the video, ” Battling cancer you never lose, and you will never lose. Even if one day the fight ends! Once something like this happens, you never lose, you just start a new journey.

Charity Matters.

 

 

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Glassbaby

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A few years ago, I was worked to put on a Women’s Entrepreneurial Conference, that highlighted amazing women who had started incredible companies. One of our guest speakers was a woman named Lee Rhodes, the founder of Glassbaby.

Her story and business, a true social entrepreneur, where beyond inspiring. I never forgot but just recently received a Glassbaby candle as a gift and thought her story was worth sharing with you. When Lee was diagnosed with lung cancer she had an epiphany. She began to, “see the inequities of cancer, people who could not afford their chemo, the bus to get to chemo, or a lunch to sustain them through their treatment.”

So in 1995, when she was going through her third battle with cancer, as a mother of three…her husband came home from a glass blowing class with a little jar. Lee dropped a votive in his homemade creation and knew it was something special. In 1997, she began making these beautiful votives and giving them as gifts to dear friends and by 2001 Lee was selling Glassbabies out of her garage with the goal of donating as much as she could to support those with cancer.

Today, Glassbaby has donated over 3 million dollars to charities and has started their own 501c3, non-profit called the Glassbaby White Light Fund. The goal is to continue their mission of lighting the way for those in need.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Cancer Support Community

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When actor Gene Wilder passed away a few weeks back, I was reminded of his beautiful love affair with Gilda Radner and their subsequent involvement in cancer support. Wilder’s death coincided with a lunch catch up with a friend, who works for the organization that helped Gilda Radner through her battle with ovarian cancer, Cancer Support Community.

As I caught up with my friend, Meg Symes of Cancer Support Community, she told me her own story of watching her mother go through cancer in the 70s without the support, community or a place to go where it was “socially acceptable to have cancer.” When cancer struck Meg decades later, she was blessed to have the resources her mother did not. When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of supporting those with cancer Meg was all in.

Meg explained that Cancer Support Community was founded in 1982 by Dr. Harold Benjamin to provide free support, cancer education and hope. “So no one needs to face cancer alone,” patients and their families learn skills to enable them to regain control and restore hope. Patients and families can attend workshops, classes, yoga and come to a safe warm welcoming place that feels like home and gives the support needed to take on cancer.

 

In the Pasadena chapter alone, Cancer Support Community serves over 1,100 people a year, all free of charge. Today, Dr. Benjamin’s concept of providing support, education and hope for people with cancer has expanded to over 100 locations worldwide. Regardless if you were Gilda Radner, who attended the Santa Monica location or in Tokyo or someone here in Pasadena, because of people like Meg and thousands of donors and volunteers…..no one has to face cancer alone.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand Up 2 Cancer

standup2cancerI don’t know about you, but I have always adored Katie Couric. I follow her on Instagram and for the past two weeks every day she has posted a picture and told the story of someone’s life affected by cancer. Each story more devastating than the next, with faces of children, mother’s, grandparents….each one of us knows someone who has been affected by this horrible disease.

Katie has been involved with an organization called Stand Up 2 Cancer. It began as an idea in 2008, to bring the entertainment industry together to raise funds for cancer research. Tonight, once again they will do just that.

 

Since 2008, Stand Up 2 Cancer has raised millions of dollars that have funded over one thousand cancer researchers and 19 cancer dream teams put together to end this disease. So, tonight turn on your tele to be entertained, inspired and to join in this fight that Stands Up 2 Cancer.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The other side

the other side

It is that time of year again, the house that was once  full of noise and chaos, begins to empty out as the kids pack up and head back to school, in our case off to college. Something I’m not sure I will ever really get used too. Last year when we went from one gone to two, it nearly took me down.

People like to ask, “Have you worked through it all?” Or “Once they leave it will be easier, you’ll be on the other side of it.” What does that mean, “the other side?” Maybe, I’m an exception here…and by all means, feel free to tell me if I am. I don’t think loss, grief, sadness is something that you “just get through.”

It is not like a marathon with a finish line and once you have run your race, there is a solid line to cross that signals the end and you cross under “the other side” banner. Rather, its feels more like walking with a heavy bag of stones and each day you can drop one and eventually the bag is lighter but somehow it doesn’t seem to ever leave, just get lighter.

Of course, there are a million moments of joy, fun, laughs and life in between. But those moments when you are alone and begin to think….you realize that the bag is still there. For me that is what loss has felt like. The loss of my mom and the loss of my children leaving the nest.

It is life, it is a part of the journey but I’m really not so sure about this other side…but I promise to let you know when I get there.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Finding the answer

finding the answer

I suppose when you pose such huge questions to the universe, as I did on monday with, “Where is the love?” The universe begins to send answers, and of course you begin to see answers everywhere.  So as we end the week, I thought this was the perfect story to share. If you have seen it once, it is more than worth seeing again.

It is the story of a man who received an organ transplant, more specifically a heart transplant and if ever there was an answer to the question, where is the love? It is here….

 

Two strangers connected by a heart and there is the love.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Simply no words…..once again

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In almost five years of blogging, I have rarely re-posted previous work. Last Saturday, I wrote a post about the Year of Magical thinking and loss. Little did I know that an earthquake of loss would hit our community within hours of writing it. Sadly, with a heavy heart, I am reposting this from a few years back…because there simply are no words…

Twelve years ago I had a phone call that changed my life, a car accident, a death and nothing was simply ever the same after that call. A dear friend just received that same call and so it all comes flooding back…the pain, the loss, the heart-break that feels like it will never end….it is simply too much. There are simply no words….

As I struggle with how to hold up my friend, I find myself thinking about loss and growth. I think many of us feel that growth comes in tiny layers added up over time and that each day’s journey gets us a little closer to inner-growth. I have a different theory.

I believe life is like an earthquakes where huge jolts cause cataclysmic shifts like tectonic plates to our souls. In nature these shifts result in mountains. Inside each of  us is a similar experience. When the rocking stops we somehow come out shifted. Our vision becomes clearer, we see what is important for the first time, we learn gratitude in everything and the growth is as monumental as a mountain. It is the growth of our soul.

When I sat down to write this week about soul, I had no idea how I would conclude. I certainly didn’t envision this, but as I struggle and question why? I know that why an earthquake has leveled a family, I can only pray that the shift will bring the strength, foundation, and the beauty of a mountain to each of them.

These are simply words, when there really are none…

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

When Breath becomes Air

When Ait becomes Breath

Have you ever read a book that haunted you? Spoke to you and really made you stop and think? I just finished one and I have to say, it felt as if the universe had given me a gift. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a truly beautiful autobiography of a Stanford trained neurosurgeon who discovers he is dying of cancer.

An extraordinary view of life, from someone who spent his trying to save others. A man who loved literature and found himself pondering the question of what makes a human life meaningful? He writes early on the book, “If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?”

Paul Kalanithi wrote of his experience of both living and dying, and how his perception of both changed through his journey with cancer. One of my favorite quotes from the book was, ““There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.” 

Such wise a beautiful words from a life well lived, and a legacy for all to learn from.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Billions in change

Billions in change

Over and over we hear it said that one person can change the world, a phrase I do believe in. Anyone who inspires change, knows it takes a village to do so. It is a global village that billionaire Manoj Bhargava is creating to deliver products that can directly impact humanity and he is seriously the real deal.

Manoj has taken his fortune, created from 5 hour Energy, to focus on three areas to improve the world;water, energy and health. His approach is to, ” make a difference in other people’s lives, not just talk about it.” A new documentary called Billions in Change, follows his journey. Take a small peak here at what one man can do to improve the lives of seven billion people.

As our world becomes increasingly smaller and the global village a reality. It is people like Manoj Bhargava, who will not only change our world but inspire each of us to do the same.

 

Charity Matters. 

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.