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What Matters?

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Prescription: Downtime

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves;otherwise we harden.”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


 

I have to say that March has been an incredibly crazy month. Life has been so full, so fast, so fun and so much…it’s been a bit like Christmas you can’t really even process what has happened because it is all overwhelming. It started with a huge event and continued with an unexpected ski trip and has truly been an incredible two weeks filled with family, friends, celebrations and fun.

Last weekend we were supposed to be out-of-town but my husband’s cold had us reschedule our plans. The result was an unexpected quiet weekend with everyone thinking we were gone. A gift from the universe for sure. It rained in LA, so it was fires and movies. Saturday was sleeping in and taking a long nap in the middle of the day, who does that? Sunday, came with kids in the house, walks with friends and a family dinner. Basically, all of lives pleasures.

What I always find so fascinating, is that I don’t see any of these gifts until I stop. Stand still. Pause. Listen. Reflect. Of course all of these gifts are all around me, but do I see them when I am zipping through my to do list? Do I notice the joy of being not scheduled? Do I see, really see the smile on my son’s face? Do I notice the beauty all around me on my walk? Do I appreciate life’s blessings? Do I stop to feel gratitude?

The answer is no. It is only when I stop, give myself downtime that I can hear myself, my inner voice speaking. Then in those magical moments I can feel the joy that comes from feeling grateful. I can see clearly what is important and where to redirect my time and attention. It is the quiet of downtime and the gift of rest that resets, refocuses and shifts our attention to what matters and where we are heading next.

The next two weeks are going to be crazy at work.  I am grateful for this respite, refueled and ready to roll up my sleeves and make things happen for those I am privileged to serve. Life is short but we all need to take a moment to simply pause and appreciate all our gifts, especially the gift of downtime. Hoping this weekend brings you yours!

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Today is the International Day of Happiness

“happiness is not something ready made. it comes from your own actions.”

Dalai Lama

Are you happy? Well if not, you might want to rethink that thought because today is the International Day of Happiness. A holiday we all should be celebrating. If this is the first time you have heard of the holiday, you probably are not alone and not to worry I don’t think Hallmark has created cards for it just yet. It seems that in 2012 the United Nations had an assembly on happiness and made happiness a resolution, recognizing happiness as a fundamental goal of the UN. In 2012, the United Nations deemed that March 20th would be the International Day of Happiness and the first year it was celebrated was 2013.

This international day is coordinated by the nonprofit, Action for Happiness, which is a nonprofit movement of people from over a 160 countries and growing. Their goal is to commit to building a happier and more caring society, where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others. The Dalai Lama is one of the organizations main supporters.

Just in case you need a little help to get in the mood, maybe Pharrell Williams can help you out.

So today, smile, eat healthy, exercise, be grateful, give back, think positively, spend time with friends and family, spend time alone, be mindful, dream, listen to music, say thank you and mean it, compete, be charitable and most of all do what makes you happy.

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 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 little help goes along way

Yesterday, I was at a work event with someone who also raises money for a living. This counterpart said to me, “What is your strategy?”  I looked at him a little bewildered by the question. Strategy and making a difference in the life of students doesn’t always align in my mind.  My bewilderment wasn’t because  I didn’t have a fund-raising plan, but rather because my fundraising plan is more philosophy, than plan. I looked at my counterpart and said, “My “strategy” is simply to help everyone. My competitors, anyone who ask, simply everyone…because the more people who I genuinely help the more people help me.”  The gentleman looked at me as if I were insane. I shrugged and said, “We all have our own philosophies but this is mine and I think we are all here to work together to help one another, it’s pretty simple.”

Don’t get me wrong, I completely admire people with strategic minds, but I do not really have one. I run more on heart, instinct, intuition and what feels right in my gut. So far, helping people has never let me down, in fact is just the opposite. Last night at dinner, I was sharing the story of my day with my family, the evening news came on, as I shared about my day, this was the story that aired…

The story of 18 year old Evoni Williams from La Marque, Texas who was working as a waitress when an older gentleman asked her for help. It seemed that his hands were not working so well and he needed help to cut his meat. Without missing a beat, Evoni just helped. What makes this story unique is not that she helped but rather that someone snapped a picture of her helping that went viral.

The result of Evoni’s helping hand was not only a news piece, thousands of Facebook shares but even more was a college scholarship, simply for helping someone. Helping isn’t strategic and Evoni’s innate kindness is a perfect example. Helping is simply what we are here to do, to help one another. We all need it and we all are capable of giving it. It is just that simple.

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Service

“Use your life to serve the world, and you will find that it also serves you.”

Oprah

This quote could not be more true. The most fascinating thing is that when we set out to serve, we are not looking to receive but rather to give. To help a cause, be apart of something bigger, volunteer in our children’s classrooms and the list goes on as to why we serve.  We do these actions for a variety of motives but thinking about what we get from giving is never one of them.

What is so fascinating is that as the years roll by and the service continues, grows and expands so does what comes back. It is hard to see at first, oh of course, there is that immediate warm fuzzy feeling you get from doing something great. There is no better feeling than knowing that you have used your life to make another’s better.

I have served in so many capacities in my five decades and all with different motivations. As a young girl I served because I was told to. As a teen I served because that’s what my friends were doing. In college, I served because it was a great way to meet people and do something nice for someone. As a young mother, I served to make new mom friends and to begin to show and teach my children about giving.

It was only later, when I was overwhelmed with grief, lost and bereft that service healed and saved me.  Like a lifeline to a drowning victim, service was there to rescue me as I was going under from grief. Service pulled me from my despair and showed me so many others whose lives were in need. Being able to help families at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, not only healed my grief but it gave me a new purpose.

Now decades later, it sounds so cliché to say you get what you give but honestly, you get so so much more. My life is beyond abundant, I could have never dreamed this journey. I ask God each day to use me towards my greatest purpose as I continue to strive to serve. It is a privilege to know that you have used your life to make an others better. Truly the greatest gift of all.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Dear Rosalynn

Last Friday, was the most amazing and unexpected day. It wasn’t because it was 85 degrees in February that made it so glorious, but rather the invitation to celebrate Rosalynn Carter’s 90th birthday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena that made it unforgettable. This wasn’t just any invitation, it was a love letter from one friend to celebrate another’s birthday in the most spectacular way.

These friends were not just any friends, but a remarkable man, author and school principal named Dan Horn and his dear friend, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Dan wanted to celebrate this special friendship in an exceptional way. A morning filled with performances from his amazing students at St. Genevieve’s School at the Rose Bowl and his special birthday gift, a documentary film made by his students for over four years of Rosalynn Carter’s truly extraordinary life. It was a love letter to a woman who has quietly changed our world.

The story all began with a letter written over 30 years ago from a young man named Dan Horn, who had read Rosalynn Carter’s biography and reached out to her via a letter saying that he would like to meet her. To his surprise Rosalynn replied, the two had lunch and as Dan said, “Lunch was life changing and I just had a hunch that we were going to be friends.”

Flash forward a few decades and here we all were in the Rose Bowl watching the world premiere of this documentary about this beautiful friendship between a former First Lady, one very special school and a principal. In the hour hundreds of us sat and watched the story together, we were inspired, elevated and simply blown away by what the Carters have accomplished in their lives.

Photo courtesy: The Carter Center

This soft-spoken mother of four has truly had a remarkable life. Helping her widowed mother raise her younger siblings at age 13 and putting them all through college. Supporting her husband in her roles as First Lady of Georgia and of the United States. It was learning about the depth of her humanitarian efforts that were truly inspirational. Her tireless work for Equal Rights, the creation of the nonprofit The Carter Center, whose mission is to promote human rights the alleviation of human suffering.  Rosalynn’s passionate work in eliminating the stigma of mental health, the couples work with Habitat for Humanity that put the organization on the world’s stage and the creation of the Rosalynn Carter’s Institute for Caregivers, to name a few.

One post is not enough to cover the tireless, bold and beautiful work this First Lady and author of five books has accomplished. In her words, “we just planted a few seeds.” but as the film and students of St. Genevieve said, so beautifully, “Thanks to the Carters we know we are all capable of changing the world.” Based on what we all saw last Friday, I do believe they will.

 

Charity Matters.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Touched by an Angel

 

“We are each of us angels with one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

Luciano De Crescenso

I’m not sure if any of you remember the infamous tv show Touched by an Angel? The shows premise is about an angel named Monica who is tasked with bringing guidance to people who are at a crossroads in their lives. The show ran for years and honestly I only saw a few episodes. I started following Roma Downey on Instagram recently and perhaps as a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about angels lately.

As you know, I don’t believe in coincidences but time and time again angels cross my path in the most beautiful and amazing ways. Many of them I have met for Charity Matters, many have become friends but each person has come into my life at just the time they are needed most. Each beautiful person, teaches me, guides me and shows me the way. Over time I have been able to identify them as the angels they are and I truly believe we all have them, but do we recognize them in that way?

Angels have been a sign in my life ever since my mom died, over a decade ago. Recently, I was talking to a friend who had lost her husband unexpectedly. I was telling her that when my mother died, a friend called me and said, “Heidi, please look for the signs.” To be honest, in the trauma of unexpected loss it is hard to look for anything, let alone function, but low and behold the signs kept coming, over and over…and all of them were angels.

Years before my mom’s death, my sister had given our family these angel necklaces that were big, silver and well, we never wore them. Oddly, the first time the three of us were together we all had the big angel necklaces on. I lit a candle the day after my mom’s death and it melted into angel wings, I was given angel statues, and on and on, angels began to appear everywhere.  My mom was amazing but angel wasn’t really a word that came to mind in describing her. If we were playing a word association game, the words would be more like smile, joyful, fun, happy, loving, gracious… but not angel.

A year after her death, when a group of us got together to start a nonprofit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we needed a logo. A friend said, “let’s have our children all draw a picture and submit them to the hospital to choose.”  Yes, you guessed it, the logo was this angel and still is. We were trying to get the nonprofit off the ground and this charming gentleman, who lived on Angelo drive, became one of our guardian angels in Spiritual Care.

Since that time, more angels have come across my path than we have time for and each one has been a gift in my life bringing  guidance, direction, support and is always the right person at just the right time. Angels are everywhere we just need to look a little closer to see them…but trust me they are there.  Do you know who the angels are in your life?

We are each angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Investing in the future

People see inspiring stories and send them my way all the time, to me it doesn’t matter where the story comes from as long as it is full of goodness and inspires us to be better. A friend sent this one a few months back and the good news is that there has been so much good happening in the world that I am just now able to get this in the queue.


Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN Orange County Register

The story is about an amazing couple Marty Burbank and his wife, who were planning on buying a big boat because of their love of sailing and the sea. Marty and his wife attended church and listened to their pastor talk about charity, kindness, compassion and giving.  The sermon had a powerful effect on a man who was getting ready to spend his life’s saving on his dream boat. Marty Said, “I can invest in a boat or I can invest in 26 kids and their lives. I am just grateful for the opportunity.”

Take a peak and see what the Burbanks decided to do with their one million dollars.

The Burbanks are examples for us all. While we may not be in positions to give as generously, they certainly inspire me to rethink how can I truly make a difference. Such a beautiful legacy of generosity, kindness and compassion.

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Small steps toward making change

This past weekend a friend of ours,  invited us to a workshop he was teaching. The seminar was  focused on wellness, aiming at the overall message that most of us are suffering from some sort of burnout. The purpose was for us to look at our lives in four sections and recognize whether we are not taking care of our physical selves, our mental well-being, our connections with others or in a bigger context addressing our lives purpose.

It was a fantastic way to begin the year (even if we are already a few weeks in) and kick-start those New Year’s resolutions. We discussed such basic things as nutrition, fitness and sleep, all things that most of us can work on improving in one way or another. What was fascinating was the science that showed how significantly our productivity increases once we invest in ourselves in any of these areas.

More than breaking down our health, physical and mental, we talked about unplugging. Something that truly resonated with me. Our teacher offered such simple suggestions as creating a nighttime ritual or schedule of unplugging. Creating a device free zone or space, leaving the iPad anywhere but next to the bed at night…something I really need to work on.

Other areas we discussed were our connections with others in this world, how we can improve those and ultimately how all of these things come together toward finding our purpose. I came away inspired and committed to continuing my New Years resolution of daily meditation and a renewed commitment to unplugging. It was a fantastic way to pull back and look at our lives in these four areas, decide what area to focus on and more than that, ways to take the first small step towards creating change.

As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Here is to taking small steps towards big changes.

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 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 rare moment

We do not remember days, we remember moments.”

Its a rare moment when the house is quiet, the morning is still, technology dormant and my mind is calm. The boys are back in school and the silence is deafening. Where are these moments? Are they always here?  Or I do not look or choose to find them? Or are they simply an unexpected gift?

As 2018 begins, I find myself looking back at last year (one bonus of social media, it is all there) and seeing those moments. The rewind is somewhat like scrolling through a highlight reel of your life. Say what you will about social media and the images we choose to project to the world, our most authentic selves or not, we can now look and reflect on those snippets of joy.

When I reflect at last year, I see snapshots of friends, moments with my sons, images of service, the love of my husband, celebrations of life, laughter and a whole lot of sunset pictures. I see a life of joy, a life created of thousands of moments…some appreciated, some unnoticed, some snap worthy. This small reflection, this 3 minute scroll, fills my heart with gratitude. From the gratitude, springs joy and then hope…. towards another year filled with precious moments to treasure.

The phone buzzes, my tranquility interrupted, reflection shattered and a jolt to reality. On the line, a friend reaching out with another precious moment to celebrate.

Only one week into the New Year and I am determined to fill 2018 with remarkable moments and the wisdom to treasure them. Wishing you a year full of beautiful moments and now to get to work!

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2018 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.

What Will Matter

what-will-matter

I think the first week of January we are all in a bit of a post holiday haze. Trying to dig out from under the decorations, put away last year and try to get our head around the New Year. So much for us to process. I was looking at some old posts and came across this, which I posted exactly a year ago. One year later it still resonates as I begin to look at what 2018 can be and what is truly important in a life well lived.

This is the starting point for my New Year’s resolutions, hoping it helps you with yours…

what-will-matter-2

What Will Matter

By Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.

All the things you collected, whether treasured

or forgotten, will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.

It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and

jealousies will finally disappear.

So, too your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from or what

side of the tracks you lived on at the end.

It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.

Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter?  How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought

but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity,

compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered

or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence but your character.

What will matter is not your memories but the

memories of those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will

be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.

It’s not a matter of circumstances but of choice.

 

Choose to live a life that matters.

 

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2018 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.

 

Happy New Years 2018

“To make an end is to make a beginning.”

T.S. Eliot

Happy New Years! In full disclosure I am writing this letter on New Year’s Eve, but by the time you read this tomorrow morning your head may hurt, you may still have not gone to sleep or you will be having a fantastic lazy day in your pjs and I hope it’s the latter. I was recently asked what I do to prepare for the New Year and the question got me thinking about the quote above, “To make an end is to make a beginning.” Before I can begin the New Year I have to properly say goodbye to the old one, so here is my goodbye letter to 2017.

Dear 2017,

First, thank you for keeping us safe, happy and healthy. While I would not say that you were a stand out year, you were not horrible either. We had food, shelter, good health and love, so the basics for gratitude were more than covered. Please know how grateful I am.

Secondly, thank you for the memories. While there is not one standout huge moment from the year there was plenty of fun, joy and celebration. Seeing our youngest son get his driver’s license, first job and first car, trips with friends, special moments with family, traditions, The Dodgers in the World series, the incredible people I met through Charity Matters and all who support this work… and the list goes on. Each moment of being alive, surrounded by friends and family was a gift, so thank you 2017.

Lastly, I have to thank you for the challenges too. Last year was a hard one for me in many ways and so many times I wanted to give up, with my load feeling heavy and overwhelming. I didn’t give up but rather learned the lesson of perseverance. That is what you taught me 2017, to keep going, not to quit, even when things got tough. Now that 2018 is looming ahead, the gift of perspective has shown me that invaluable lesson.

So thank you 2017 and welcome 2018! I lam looking forward to you New Year. I love new beginnings, new chapters and fresh starts. I am excited for the year ahead, for moving the needle a bit farther, to start that book I have been thinking of writing, to continue to dream big, to help and serve more people and organizations and to use my time to make our world better. I look forward to using the new luggage Santa brought for more travels, adventures and time with ones I love. Most of all, I look forward to learning, growing and evolving from all the lessons and experiences you are bringing my way. I am ready for your 2018 so let’s get this year started!

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 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 Year Full of Surprises

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday and time with friends and family. As I begin to look back at this past year, I am truly inspired by the incredible people I have met and the amazing journey that Charity Matters continues to be. The surprises constantly take my breath away. Yesterday, I received one that has truly left me in awe.

I have been called many things in my life but being named a Woman Warrior of 2017, by HoopLaHa is truly an unexpected  honor. HoopLaHa highlights Good News Only, and we are kindred spirits of sorts in telling stories of people making our world better. So, to be mentioned in the same breath as Annette Ross, author of  Where Fairy Tales Go and Karen Shayne of the nonprofit,  Women Survivors Alliance is beyond humbling.

As we begin looking back at 2017, I can say that I am proud of the work we are doing at Charity Matters. Grateful to each of you for following, subscribing, sharing and knowing that our world needs heroes and people to show us the way. These non-profit founders are my heroes and it is such a privilege to be considered amongst them as Woman Warrior of 2017.

Charity Matters.

 

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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.

Spirituality, Faith or whatever you call it…

Many of you may have seen this piece when it was published earlier this year by Thrive Global, who I wrote it for. However, this week as we celebrate Christmas it seemed the right time to revisit or reshare with all of you. This is probably one of the most personal stories I have done in the past five years but it also highlights the journey that has lead me to this place….and a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas.

I was recently asked about when my faith or spirituality began. I knew the answer but growing up being told to never discuss religion or politics, I was initially unsure how to respond. I have never publicly shared this story but once asked I felt compelled to share, because I am proud of this journey.

I grew up in a big Catholic family, maybe an oxymoron, but a fact nonetheless. That meant mass on Sundays, prayers at dinner and a Catholic education, Kindergarten through high school. All of these rituals became the building blocks for my faith. Like most religions in the world, the blocks that were presented to me were love one another, trust God, people are good, help one another, and believe in something bigger than yourself.

I thought I had a relationship with God, but honestly I didn’t truly know what that was until the fateful call in the middle of the night that truly changed the course of my life, fifteen years ago. My parents and their friends had been in a horrible car accident. My mom was dead, two of my parents friend were also dead and my dad and his best friend were barely hanging on.

That was when my relationship with God truly began. I prayed, begged, and pleaded with God to not make me an orphan and to save my Dad’s life. A man who has incredible faith. God listened and while my Dad had a long road, he survived and eventually thrived.

Unbeknownst to me, my mom had bought raffle tickets before her untimely death, and a few months after she was gone we received a call that we had won a first class cruise anywhere in the world. I was sure it was a sign but wasn’t sure what it meant? My husband and I picked a Mediterranean cruise, that had a list of places I had visited with my parents over the years. My hope was that somehow, on one of these stops, God, my mom or something would come to me and make sense of the insanity of my loss and overwhelming grief.

City after city on our stop, nothing. No signs from above in Paris, Florence, Venice or Rome. Finally one stop from our final destination, I had given up. We arrived in a place called Ephesus, Turkey. Because we had no idea what to expect in Ephesus we went with a guide through the ancient city.

You might have thought going to church every weekend of my life I would have recalled the Bible readings of St. John to the Ephesians or have known that when Jesus was dying on the cross he is believed to have asked John the Baptist to get his mother to Ephesus to keep her safe. Nope, I was clueless. We listened as our guide wove the history of Christianity, Judaism and the Muslim faiths into a beautiful tapestry that if all could hear, there would not be any religious wars. He was mesmerizing.

Then he took us up a hill to Mary’s house. Yes, THE Virgin Mary’s house. Really? How did I not know about this? The Pope had recently made it an officially site of pilgrimage. I stood in front of Mary’s little brick house, smiled for a picture not knowing what was about to happen. I walked into the darkened tiny room with a stone floor and was struck by the most overwhelming feeling. Tears streamed down my face, I could not speak (which lasted over 2 hours) and the emotions where so overwhelming, unexpected and powerful. Love is the only word that would explain how I felt, overwhelmingly loved.

Was it my mom? God? Mary? I didn’t and still do not know. My husband asked me if I wanted holy water, I nodded yes. He asked if I wanted to write on the wishing wall, I nodded yes. He asked me if this is why we won the tickets for the cruise? Tears streamed down my face like a faucet, as I nodded yes. I knew for some unexplainable reason that I was supposed to be there in that moment. A girl from LA with three small sons halfway across the globe and I was meant to be in Ephesus, my mom had brought me here for a reason.

That moment changed my life and I now know there is a power in the universe greater than us all. Whether you call it God, Mary, love, light, spirit…. it doesn’t matter but I know and believe it is real. Since that day almost fifteen years ago, I have used my life to serve others. I believe in the plan that has been set for me. A year after that trip, a group of us started a nonprofit to provide chaplains of all faiths at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Since that time, in all my work with nonprofits, I am privileged to see and feel that same goodness over and over. As they say, “Faith is seeing light with your heart, when all your eyes see are darkness.”

Charity Matters.

 

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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.

Pablove

The world is full of amazing and inspiring humans, they are all around us. When you have a moment to learn someone’s life story, it is a privilege to share it.  Last week, I had the most fun and fantastic conversation with Jo Ann Thrailkill, the founder of Pablove.org, a nonprofit whose mission is to invest in underfunded cutting edge pediatric cancer research and improve the lives of children living with cancer through the arts.  I know she will warm your heart  and inspire you as much as she did me. Here is our conversation:

Charity Matters: What was your background before starting Pablove.org?

JoAnn Thrailkill: In my 20s through my 40s I was a music video producer. I absolutely loved my job and was living a dream. I was a single mother with a fantastic life and career. When I met my husband Jeff, who is also in the music business, and we had our son Pablo, I decided to slow my career down a bit and focus on my family and time with my two sons.

When Pablo was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer in May of 2008 everything changed. I went from producing music videos to trying to Executive Produce Pablo’s treatment and care. While Pablo was sick we had so many people who wanted to help, bring food, do something. A co-worker of my husbands, started a PayPal account just so people could do something. We were so involved with Pablo we weren’t really aware of how many people were supporting us through this. 

Charity Matters: When did you realize you were going to start a nonprofit?

Jo Ann ThrailkillWhen Pablo died six days after his 6th birthday we were devastated,bereft and overcome by grief. We were also overcome by people’s kindness and generosity. People really wanted to help us in so many ways, it was overwhelming. When we went to gather pictures for his memorial service, we found so many photos that Pablo had taken with all of our devices. They were everywhere and we had no idea he was such a photographer.

A few months after his death, my husband decided to ride his bike across the country, to deal with his grief and process all that had happened. When he came back, his co-worker asked, “What do you want to do with this PayPal account and the funds?” To be honest we had forgotten about the account and didn’t think it could have had more than a couple thousand dollars. To our total surprise there was over $250,000 and in that moment we felt an overwhelming responsibility to all of these people who had supported us and Pablo.

When my husband said, “You need to executive produce this,” meaning the beginning of Pablove.org, that was the moment.

Charity Matters: Where did you start?

Jo Ann Thrailkill: I went to see Pablo’s doctor, to get a direction and he asked me, ” What would you have wanted that you didn’t have when Pablo was sick?” And my answer was a cure. So I knew we were going to need to invest in research since pediatric cancer research is so underfunded, only 4% of cancer research funding goes towards childhood cancer.

He then asked me what Pablo would have wanted and I knew it was something in the arts and Pablo loved photography. I knew that Pablo just wanted to feel like a kid when he was sick and that his photography had been a form of self-expression. So that is how we began the Shutterbugs program which teaches children and teens with cancer the art of photography.

Charity Matters: When do you know that you have made a difference?

Jo Ann Thrailkill: When the kids tell us that working with a camera and photography has been a life changing experience for them. That is when you don’t want to stop and know you need to keep going. In addition, to know that we have created an organization that is filled with optimism, joy and laughter. 

Charity Matters: Tell us the success you have had?

Jo Ann Thralkill: Our very first year in 2010, my husband did a bike ride across the country again but this time to raise funds for The Pablove Foundation and we raised over $500,000. The momentum continued and we were able to fund a grant our first year. Today, almost ten years later we have thousands of Shutterbugs in 16 cities across the country and have provided seed funding for pediatric cancer.

Since 2010, we have awarded more than two million dollars in Childhood Cancer Research Grants to over twenty institutions worldwide.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this journey and how has it changed you?

Jo Ann Thrailkill:  This entire experience has been completely life-altering for me. I think one of the major things I took away from my own family’s cancer experience was that just when you think the world is filled with darkness and hate, you discover that it is actually filled with love.

Things don’t always end up how you hope or plan that they will, but when we were in the trenches of treatment with Pablo we discovered the most amazing support from our community and everyone around us. This gave us not only the financial support but the emotional strength that we needed to start the Pablove Foundation. The experience of starting Pablove has allowed me to always see the light. I am now reminded daily of the love that surrounded me during one of the most difficult times in my life.

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