“Every new beginning comes from other beginnings end.”
May. A month full of joy. Sunshine, springtime, Mother’s Day, graduations and Memorial Day….I think of May as the gateway to summer. So how can we not be excited about that? The dictionary defines the word May as meaning “expressing possibility.” I can think of no better way to describe a month that is exactly that….so full of possibility.
Today is May Day, which is a holiday that is believed to have been started in Roman Britain around 2,000 years ago. Soldiers celebrated the arrival of spring by dancing around decorated trees thanking their goddess, Flora. Today, we still celebrate May Day but use the May pole instead of a tree….which must have been tricky…just sayin.
Here is to a month full of possibility, beauty, spring, celebrations and new beginnings. Wishing you the most joyful month!
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“The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all.”
As we all have watched the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Houston over the past few days, we continue to be inspired by the way that families, neighbors and even strangers have come together to help one another. It is how we are hard-wired as human beings, to reach out and help one another.
The city is literally underwater and it is going to take a big group effort to rally around and help these people out. Houston football star, JJ Watt of the Houston Texans began a crowd-funding effort to support those effected by the storm, if you are so inclined, the link is here to donate.
When moments like this happen, we roll up our sleeves, and reach out to help. It is during challenging times that we become the best of ourselves and who we are supposed to be to offer a storm of support. As we begin our week, remember that, “The welfare of each is bound in the welfare of all.”
Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch and inspire another.
“The world needs new leadership, but the new leadership is about working together.”
This past weekend was the last day of camp. I sat in the front row like a proud mother listening to 175 children that were not truly my own, talking about love and kindness and acceptance. Never have I been more proud. The lessons these 6th, 7th and 8th graders taught every parent in the room about their experience at camp were awe-inspiring. If ever this message was needed…it is now.
I am privileged to serve over 3,000 students a year, as the Executive Director of a non-profit leadership organization, which also runs a summer program. We have two full-time employees and hundreds of high school and college students volunteering that serve as camp counselors and mentors. Students teaching students, to listen to one another, to respect and learn from different opinions and how to work together towards resolution. Ultimately teaching them how to lead.
Every night as I watch the news and see the continuing political discord rearing its ugly head, I can’t help believe that our children will be better than we were, they will learn, listen, come together to lead us all. These children are our hope…just as one of our students said, “It is an eyeopener to learn that you can do something to change the world…”
“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.”
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day loved by some and despised by others. Regardless of where you sit on the Valentine’s spectrum it is a day to think about those you love, and what could be so bad about that?
I know, I know, Hallmark has commercialized the holiday but Valentine’s Day is nothing new, it has been celebrated since about 270 AD. The history goes that Pope Gelasius was not a huge fan of the pagan fertility celebration and decided to re-invent the day, so to speak, by honoring St. Valentine’s death instead…not so romantic…
The first Valentine’s cards or letters began in the 1400s. In Great Britain Valentine’s Day began to be celebrated around the 17th century and Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines, as early as the early 1700s.
According to the Greeting Card Association, it is estimated that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards will be sent this year and according to Forbes, Americans will spend 18 billion dollars on Valentines purchases today.
So, whether you are a fan of the holiday or not. Acknowledging those we love on this day, is something human beings have been doing for centuries. We could all use a little more love in our world…regardless of your feelings about the holiday.
As Thoreau said, “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
As January comes to a close, I realize it really has been quite a month. The post holiday recovery, a busy time for my non-profit day job, a new President, and few needed holidays. So it makes perfect sense that with all of this going on, that I have not really had time to make my New Year’s resolutions. It is better late than never!
While I could barely get a parking spot at the gym, the first few weeks of the month…it seems that those well-intentioned souls are already beginning to slack off on their resolutions, which seems like the perfect time for me to kick in with mine. To help me along, I pulled out my trusty copy of Write It Down, Make It Happen by author, Henriette Anne Klauser. The book’s author believes and proves that writing down your goals in life is the first step in achieving them.
The author tells stories of people who have done just that, and the way they began to realize their dreams. What I love the most about this book is that, in addition to asking you questions that slowly unravel your goals, each chapter ends with a little homework assignment. So as we say goodbye to January and hello to February, I have a clarity as to which direction I am headed in 2017. That in itself is an amazing resolution!
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.
Have you ever heard a speaker who left you thinking? Really thinking? Two weeks ago, I attended an event down at USC that left me deep in thought. The talk was given by a local priest who had worked with Mother Teresa years ago in Calcutta, when he was on a year’s sabbatical. The Monsignor spoke about being lost and shared his journey of self discovery during his time in India serving the poor.
He spoke about feeling, ” so alive and on fire” about his time there and the work he was doing with the poor, the sick and the dying. This feeling had him, at times, contemplating staying permanently in India. The priest shared this idea with Mother Teresa, who told him to, “Go home.” The priest in turn told each of us,” that we must all findour own Calcutta and that love is a decision.”
As fall kicks into gear and we all begin to settle into our new school year routines, one thing that I always look forward to is watching my boys participate in sports. There is nothing more fun that sitting with a group of parents who are all cheering their children on.
A few weeks ago, I sat down for lunch with an amazing woman and non-profit founder, named Clare Gurbach. Clare has two daughters that are college athletes and her youngest daughter seems to be following in the family footsteps. We talked about our children, sports and the moment that all of those came together to inspire Clare to help so many children keep playing sports.
Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?
Clare: “In 2007, I was watching our oldest daughter play volleyball and seeing the disparity in resources between our team and one we were playing. The other team did not have nice uniforms. Some of the girls had masking tape on the back of their shirts for their numbers. Many did not have knee pads or proper shoes. Our team had everything and a professional coach as well. Winning that game 25-2 was not a good outcome for anyone.
We were called to action to “level the playing field” in providing uniforms, sports equipment and resources for under-resourced Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. We named our non-profit The Saint Sebastian Sports Project after the patron saint of athletes.”
CM: What fuels you to keep doing this work?
“Seeing the huge impact we are having as we have grown. We know that sports help children in so many ways. Beyond the obvious physical benefits of playing sports, children also learn sportsmanship, commitment, and leadership and have fun at the same time. Our students must maintain a minimum GPA to play on their teams so they are incentivized to work hard in school.”
CM: When do you know you have made a difference?
“When we see the smiles on the faces of all the children we serve. When we visit the students at school and bring the schools’ funds and equipment to support their sports programs. When students attend our various tournaments, camps and college visit days at USC and LMU. Many of our students are now trying out for their high school teams that never would have had this opportunity in the past.”
Tell us what your impact been?
“During the 2009-2010 academic year, we were able to support seven sports programs. This academic school year we will assist 39 schools with grants and will serve at least 2,500 students this year.
There are 100 schools in Archdiocese of Los Angeles that need funding. We hope to find more foundation money and person donations to fuel additional growth in the future.”
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.
Yesterday was the first day of fall. In LA, we had an unusual crisp, 75 degree September day with big puffy clouds and the tiniest hint that perhaps Mother nature was up to something. As I drove home from my son’s high school football game, I felt joyful. Let me be clear, it wasn’t the score of the game that put me in the mood, but rather the feeling that change was in the air.
There is something that happens with change, it brings little pieces of hope and inspiration. As I sat in crazy 5 o’clock LA traffic, with the sun roof open, I had my first glimpse of fall.
No, it wasn’t a tree with turning leaves, but rather a women whose car was broken down. She had a look of fear and panic on her face and then something magical happened….two separate men parked their cars and rushed out to push the women and her broken car through crazy rush hour traffic.
Perhaps, an everyday occurrence…..but to witness chivalry, kindness and compassion, to this Angeleno, the first and best sign of fall…..and the feeling that change and hope was in the air.
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.