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Two blind brothers…

While the post name sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, it is the reality for two New York City brothers Bradford and Bryan Manning who were diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a form of macular degeneration at the age of 7. Growing up they knew that their eye sight would continue to deteriorate over time, potentially leaving them both blind.

Rather than having that as a disadvantage both brothers pursued their goals attending University of Virginia and began careers in finance and sales. The two decided to quit their day jobs and begin a clothing line that would raise funds to cure blindness. Bradford, who is on the board of the Foundation Fighting Blindness believes that the science is there and that the research funding can cure their disease. The result is Two Blind Brothers.

These two brothers have made it their mission to help cure blindness. Their clothing is soft, has braille tags, which the brothers were taught to use as children for the pending loss of their eyesight and is flying off the racks. More than that, all of their proceeds go towards finding a cure. They do not take a salary and donate everything towards their mission.

They both believe the cure is with in sight. As Bryan said recently,”Call me optimistic but there is a cure in there.” Something we all want to see.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

A birthday present to present

The other day I shared the fact that this week Charity Matters celebrates its 6th birthday. Over 800 posts, hundreds of interviews, nonprofits profiled, inspiring people met along the way and countless hours logged sharing this crazy journey with you.

Well it seems that it just wouldn’t be a proper birthday without a birthday gift. So, Charity Matters will be getting a new website and updated look for its 6th birthday. Truly the gift is for you, because without you there would not be a Charity Matters.

My hope is that the new site will be easier to read, to enjoy, to share and most of all to inspire a mission of love, compassion and service. So stay tuned…..because all good gifts are worth waiting for!

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

 

And the beat goes on….

As Father’s Day is quickly approaching, I begin thinking about my dad. A wonderful man, with a big heart, heart disease and a history of heart problems. My Dad and I still spin together at least twice a week and he will be 78 this fall. However, a few years back, while in spin class my Dad’s heart stopped, while he was on his spin bike. Technically he died. Thankfully, due to the gym’s quick response and having a defibrillator (think the paddles on medical tv shows) close by, his life was saved.

The other day I came across the story of Michael Salem and it reminded me so much of my dad. Mike Salem was also a great guy beloved by all and in 2002 he was playing golf with friends when his heart stopped. Sadly, there was not a defibrillator near by and he did not survive. His company and co-workers wanted to do something in his memory, the result is The Mikey Network. A non-profit whose mission is promote healthy heart living and to provide public access defibrillators, which they call Mikeys.

Since 2003 the Mikey Network has raised millions of dollars, trained thousands on how to use defibrillators, placed hundreds of defibrillators in schools, camps, police cars and in public transit. More importantly than that, they have saved over 15 lives (that they know of) and counting, all because of one man’s legacy.

We never know when our time is up, that is something I have witnessed with both my parents. As a result, everyday when I exit my spin class with my Dad, I say loudly (in front of the entire class), “I love you Dad.” It just takes one moment to change everything….and it is people like Hugh Heron and The Mikey Network who have changed that moment for so many families.

I can no longer take moments for granted….and the beat goes on…

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

800….who would of thought?

In 2011, I had a dream. A dream to tell the stories of people who inspire me, who make our world better each and everyday and who are truly unsung heroes…non-profit founders. This dream, woke me up in the middle of the night and was so real that I wrote it all down. That dream became Charity Matters.

No matter what has been happening in my life, good or bad, I have not given up on that dream. I interview, I write and I search for these people and their organizations out in every spare minute I have. A strange hobby perhaps, but it has become my mission, a daily reminder of gratitude, perseverance, the joy of giving and my purpose.

As Leo Rosten said,”I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think that the purpose of life is to be useful, responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”

So today, I take a small pause to recognize the 800th post and to thank you for being here with me along for the ride. I am beyond grateful for each of you, your friendship, loyalty and generosity in sharing these posts and spreading the word that Charity Matters.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

Cell Phones for Soldiers

 

As many of you know I run a non-profit youth leadership organization as my day job. One of the things I love the most about my job is having the privileged position to inspire thousands of middle school students each year by teaching them how to serve others. In order to do that effectively, we look for non-profit partnerships with amazing causes. This year we partnered with a remarkable organization called Cell Phones for Soldiers, that was started by two kids, brother and sister, Rob and Brittany Berquist in 2004.

These two heard about a soldier with an $8,000 cell phone bill and decided that just wasn’t right. What these two siblings did next was even more surprising and the most inspiring story to inspire thousands of today’s kids.

Rob, who is now 27 ,and still runs Cell Phones for Soldiers has continued his mission to ensure that no military service person should ever have to pay to call home.  Today, his sister Brittany works in marketing for the Kind Company. To date Cell Phones for Soldiers has donated over 300 million minutes in free talk time, recycled more than 15 million cell phones and still mails about 1,500 calling cards to service men and women around the globe per week.

This past January, Robbie and Brittany were honored by Forbes Magazine in their 30 under 30 issue for their incredible, vision, service and mission.  What began simply because a brother and a sister saw an injustice and wanted to right a wrong, turned into something, so very right.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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 heart warming follow up of Saving Tiny Hearts

“If someone had raised funds for research for us 30 years ago and our baby was given a chance to live. Ten years from now will be a whole different ball game into medicine, science and technology into heart defect research.  We don’t want to wait for what doctors say ‘will be….’ we want to fund research to change the future for ‘what can be…’ for all children, like my beautiful Joshua suffering from heart disease.  Out of our heartache, there is hope….”

The words above were sent to me five years ago from non-profit founder, mother and champion for families dealing with congenital heart disease, Francie Paul.  I spoke with Francie and board chair of Saving Tiny Hearts, Larry Kluge, to see what has happened since they began this journey over a decade ago to bring awareness and research to Congenital heart disease .

CM: What do you want people to know about Congenital Heart Disease?

Francie: I want people to know that twice as many children die from heart disease versus all pediatric cancers combined and that cancer receives five times the funding for research.

Larry: Over a million children are born each year with congenital heart disease.

CM: What is your goal at Saving Tiny Hearts?

Francie: Our goal is to fund a project that will not only save our son’s life but to ensure that no one else should ever have to go through this.

Larry: We have been able to fund over 30 research projects that keep getting us closer to making this a dream a reality. We want to find the answer that makes Saving Tiny Hearts obsolete.

CM: What keeps you going?

Larry: The love, passion and support of our community is extraordinary and the researchers we support.

Francie: People carry you through your darkest days and they have made our journey all the more humbling. It is the heart, hope and passion of our team. We are all a part of this.

As Francie said, five years ago “Out of our heartache there is hope.”

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

Saving Tiny Hearts….

February is heart month. Over the years, I have interviewed so many people with such heart warming stories, but one that has truly touched me is the story of the Paul family and their journey as parents of a child living with congenital heart disease.

You may remember them, because they are extraordinary people who took their pain and turned it into a non-profit foundation called Saving Tiny Hearts.

When I first interviewed Francie Paul five years ago she sent me this note, which I wanted to share here today. On friday, I will tell you what the Paul Family is doing now.

 

Thank YOU for your beautiful post– we are extremely honored to have Saving tiny Hearts featured.

We did have high profile malpractice attorneys at our doorstep…practically before we were out of the hospital from Joshua’s firstheart surgery…it wasn’t who we were…our life’s mission came out of the greatest need for medicine and science into heart defects to catch up to support all children, like our little love, afflicted with heart defects.

Starting the Saving tiny Hearts Society began before our Joshua’s second heart surgery (- he has had 3) at 3 months old, after pediatric heart surgeons told us that there was a desperate need to fund research, that young hungry scientists were being turned down for government funding because they didn’t have enough monies to beef up their revolutionary proposals….which is where we would come in, to provide the seed money for it all.

Most people don’t realize that so many babies and children do not survive because of lack of research to save them.  We didn’t know that it was the #1 birth defect in the world and the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths….we didn’t know that it could happen to our baby.

Someone had raised funds for research for us 30 years ago and our baby was given a chance to live. Ten years from now will be a whole different ball game into medicine, science and technology into heart defect research.  We don’t want to wait for what doctors say ‘will be….’ we want to fund research to change the future for ‘what can be…’ for all children, like my beautiful Joshua suffering from heart disease.  Out of our heartache, there is hope….

I don’t know if you had seen the movie ‘Something the Lord Made’ but it was an HBO movie about one of the very first heart surgeries ever performed, the Blalock-Taussig Shunt (-BT Shunt). It was the very first successful heart surgery that began with a blue baby as doctors were afraid to touch the heart and felt that of these babies wouldn’t live otherwise, so they would try this most revolutionary procedure on a baby first.  Nearly 60 years later,at 4 days old, after our baby was stabilized, he had a Blalock-Taussig shunt.

We can’t thank you enough for sharing our story; it has truly been a humbling journey for us and in the greatest of heartache, we have seen the very best in friends.  Can’t wait to read more Charity Matters and see all of the amazing things that are happening because of you.

With Gratitude & Very Best Wishes,

Francie

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

February is heart month

Today is February 1st and the beginning of heart month. Over the years, I have interviewed a number of non-profit founders who have started incredible organizations to find a cure for congenital heart disease, which is the number one birth defect in the world.

This month, I will share some of those stories with you and re-visit some old Charity Matters friends to update you on their progress. I came across musician and heart transplant recipient, Paul Cardall’s video the other day and thought it sets the stage for this important month.

So, as we begin the month of February, let’s all remember to keep our hearts open to those who suffer with this horrible disease.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

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.

 

Copyright © 2017 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 Empowerment Plan

This past week, you would have to be hiding under a rock to know there has been a lot of talk about empowerment, but today I would like to share with you an inspiring non-political, good old-fashioned kind of empowerment. It’s the story of a young woman named Veronika Scott, who in 2010 found herself in a college class with an assignment to create a product that would fill a need in her Detroit community. An assignment that would change her life and empower so many more.

Veronika  was the daughter of parents who had struggled with addiction and unemployment. So she found herself in a warming center for Detroit’s homeless with an idea to create a coat the could also become a sleeping bag. While she was working on her design, a homeless woman angrily confronted her and said, “We don’t need coats, we need jobs.” It was that moment that Veronika realized she could do both. She said, ” I wanted to create an opportunity, that I wish my parents had when I was a kid.”

In 2012, she created the Detroit based non-profit The Empowerment Plan, to elevate families from the generational cycle of homelessness. Veronika began hiring single parents from the local shelters, trained them as seamstresses to make the coats to meet the needs of the homeless community. More than that, she gave these women a purpose, a job, education, full-time employment and a chance to regain their independence.

Today, Veronika at age 27, has founded the non-profit The Empowerment Plan, employed 39 homeless women and made and distributed over 15,000 coats since 2011. As C.S. Lewis said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Veronika is a living example when she said, “No matter what you’ve gone through, you still can do a lot with what you have.”

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2017 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.

Operation Photo Rescue

Operation Rescue Mission

With the rain pouring down this past week in LA, I have been thinking about something that has literally NEVER occurred to me…a flood. I know, crazy isn’t it? However, floods are reality in many parts of the country and when a flood or natural disaster strikes, the first concern is safety, housing and food. Once those needs are met victims begin the process of recovering their possessions, most especially trying to find and repair their families photos. This is when Operation Photo Rescue steps in to literally rescue a families memories.

In 2006, photojournalists Dave Ellis and Becky Sell launched Operation Photo Rescue after they witnessed victims throwing out treasured family photos that had been destroyed. Their mission became, “Insurance doesn’t restore memories but we do.”

A few weeks after a natural disaster or flood, OPR‘s team of volunteers set up a location where people can begin to bring in the photos they have found to see if they can be saved and restored. The damaged photos are digitally copied and a host of volunteers from around the globe use Photoshop and give hours of time to restore the images.

Over 12,000 photos have been restored thanks to more than 2,000 volunteers around the world. For many of these volunteers the work behind the scenes becomes personal and being able to give families their memories back is a gift.

It seems fitting to end the week where we began, with Aaron Siskind’s quote, “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

 

 

#GivingTuesday 2016

giving-tuesday-2016

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, a successful black friday, are enjoying your cyber monday and are now ready for the most important day of all…tomorrow’s #GivingTuesday. What is #GivingTuesday, you ask? It is a movement that began in 2012 to celebrate and support giving and philanthropy.

More than that, #GivingTuesday has become a global movement that last year united over 70 countries around the world by sharing our human capacity to care for and empower one another. And today more than ever we need to be doing a little bit more of that…

What I think is even more fantastic, is the volunteering efforts that go along with the day.  If you are not sure where to start then merely go to the #GivingTuesday link here and you will find a list of local volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. Last year alone over 700,000 people volunteered for clothing drives, tutoring projects and a wide range of activities aimed at helping local non-profits across the country. Almost 40,000 charities, corporate and civic partners registered to officially be a part of Giving Tuesday this year.

Sheila Herring from the Case Foundation was quoted as saying,”The biggest thing for us is that Giving Tuesday directly challenges Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where you have analysts lining up to look at the numbers as a gauge of the health of our economy. What if, as a nation, we focused that kind of attention on giving and we wanted that to be our identity?”

What if? Our world would be a better place. And it already is because what started as an idea, just five years ago, raised over $116,000,000 last year for charities and causes around the world. When we come together in unity, we can make beautiful things happen. I can’t wait to hear what you are doing tomorrow on #GivingTuesday.

 

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.

Being an influencer or just being real

influencer

I recently watched a segment on 60 Minutes about “influencers.” Yes, Kim Kardashian and a host of other people I have never heard of all trying to gain favor amongst advertisers for surprise…guess what….our attention…which of course equates to dollars.  I get it, I do.

I don’t write for myself, well kind of, I do… but truth be told I write to inspire people to want to help others. Sounds crazy I know…but the more people who are inspired the more that are helped..it is just that simple. So, in watching the 60 Minutes piece, I probably should have been inspired myself but somehow I felt the exact opposite. The reason being, is influencing others from their vantage point, does not feel authentic, but rather feels sad.

Of course people want to be entertained, they want to watch others glamorous lives, none of this is new. Yet, the need to win over others for something external, is where I am having an internal struggle. How can I judge the Kim Kardashians of the world, when in reality the more people I “influence” the more people I help. That makes me as much a part of this ugly system as the people featured on the show….and for whatever crazy reason, I am having a hard time with that.

No, I am not better or worse than the Kardashians, the youtube makeup artist, the international sensation who does the splits around the globe or a funny guy who cranks out 6 second Vine videos…each person brings their own talent to the world and each of us vie for the same thing…attention. Honestly, a painful truth to admit.

I must confess, for me, it’s not about your “eyeballs” it’s about your heart and your soul. If one person is inspired to do a kind thing for another because of what they have read here…well then my heart is full and my job is done….influencer or not…that is the real deal.

 

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.

TED

photo credit: Forbes
photo credit: Forbes

Last weekend, I attended my first TED talk. While I have listened to an occasional talk here and there, I am one of the rare people on the planet who is not addicted or really even familiar with TED. I was even more surprised when I learned that TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a non-profit organization….but isn’t everything these days?

The TED concept was created in 1984 from Richard Wurman’s observation of three amazing fields converging, technology, entertainment and design. The very first TED talks included demos from revolutionary new products, the compact disc and the e-book. However, even with such a wow factor the conference and idea lost money and six years later, in 1990 Richard Wurman tried again and this time it worked.

A decade later, media entrepreneur, Chris Anderson met with Wurman and in 2001 Anderson’s non-profit, the Sapling Foundation acquired TED. Anderson believed in the concepts that make TED great and was determined to seek out the most interesting people on the planet and let them communicate their passion.

 

So as I sat in an auditorium and listened to speakers talk on such topics as, The Future of Women in Science, Troubled Water on water conservation, Transforming Prisons from the Inside, Out, Accepting my transgender daughter, and the list goes on….I was inspired. Each speaker and topic more unique than the previous, and yet they were all the same.

What was it that made this very different group the same? Their passion. Each speaker was passionate about their topic and their passion and insight was real, it was human and the hundreds of us in the audience became one…..and that is the magic of TED.

 

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.