Do you know about the Giving Pledge? I saw on Forbes.com that Bill Gates and wife Melinda, together with Warren Buffett, came up with the idea to get America’s wealthiest families to give away at least 50% of their wealth during their lifetimes, or upon their deaths, and write a letter explaining why. Since they launched the effort in June 2010, 91 people have signed on.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given away $2.4 billion. He has supported anti-tobacco efforts worldwide, clean air programs, education, government improvement, and the arts.
Carl Icahn, billionaire investor and chairman of Icahn Enterprises, has founded three charter schools in the South Bronx; its students have performed significantly better on the New York language and arts exams than the neighborhood average. His Icahn House in the Bronx houses homeless pregnant women and single women with children; he also supports a scholarship program at Choate.
On May 18, 2008, just days before Jessica Waters was to become 12, got the news that would rock her world. Finally, the trouble she was having with focusing and remembering in school was given a name. Jessica became one of the estimated 2.5 million Americans diagnosed with Epilepsy, a disease of the central nervous system.
Suddenly, this young girl who liked to think of herself as the ‘tough kid’ was fighting the battle of her life. In her teenage years she has experienced three kinds of seizures including seven grand mal seizures. And her medicine altered her personality. Jessica was told she could no longer ride her bike and coaches no longer wanted her on their sports teams. She was asked not to attend parties. She was told she would never be able to dance, tumble or cheer again – her great passions. She was harassed and bullied.
It was a summer camp, Camp Flamecatcher for children with epilepsy and other disabilities, where Jessica came to realize she CAN still swim, canoe, run, swing, and do arts and crafts. And, she saw other kids doing those things too.
“It really opened my eyes,” she said. “Kids don’t realize how much they can do. Camp taught me that epilepsy wasn’t a defining factor in my life.”
But that experience wouldn’t have been possible for her without a sponsor. It is a gift that she is paying forward. She founded Cupcake Charity (with support from her mom) to raise scholarship money to send other kids to Camp Flamecatcher whose families otherwise couldn’t afford the cost. Jessica raised enough for two partial and one full scholarship, and she is working hard to raise more this year.
The Camp experience also stirred her to action in another way. “People just don’t listen to young people well and I thought what better way to do something about that then to go for a title,” she said. “I researched the pageant organizations that care about what you do for others and that is what I am all about.”
Meet Miss Junior Teen Ohio 2012
At 15, Jessica – Miss Junior Teen Ohio 2012 – is a dedicated advocate for the Epilepsy Foundation, a member of her school’s Varsity Dance Team, a cheerleader for Beavercreek City Schools, received an All Team Academic Award and varsity letter for playing hockey, and is always looking for volunteer opportunities. Jessica is the youngest TWIG Auxiliary member for Dayton Children’s Hospital and is working with Julie Vann (previous mayor of Beavercreek) to establish a scholarship in honor of students her school has lost. For all that Jessica has accomplished, her list of accolades is simply too long to list.
I asked Jessica what her message is to other young people like herself. “I tell them to not let their disease or disability define them. You can do anything you put your mind to.”
I think that is a great lesson for all of us.
I’ve known Myrna Ethridge for about five years now, about as long as I’ve been working with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati. She is a board member of the YMCA Black & Latino Achievers Program who believes so wholeheartedly in the cause because she is so passionate about the success of young people. Several years ago the YMCA honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
I love being around Myrna because she always has a smile. This past year, however, I didn’t get to see as much of her. Myrna’s split second happened in 2000. Out of the blue, this vibrant wife, mother and grandmother was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH), a life threatening disease that has made even walking up a slight incline a difficult task.
Her challenges are real and her medication costs thousands of dollars each month, which was okay when she had medical insurance, but when she turned 65 in 2007, her drug plan was no longer covered and Medicaid only paid for a portion. An organization called the Caring Voice Coalition has eradicated her fear and eased her financial burden by providing her a yearly grant for the medications costs not covered by Medicaid.
It really struck a chord with me when Myrna told me the other day, “I probably wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the Coalition.”
And so, it was no surprise to me when her next sentence was, “It is time for me to give back.”
Myrna is organizing (with help from a small committee) a dinner fund raiser for the Caring Voice Coalition, which is headquartered in Mechanicsville, Va. Pamela Harris, the organization’s co-founder and president, will be the special guest.
The With Every Breath dinner will be April 6, 2012 at the Sharonville Convention Center (11355 Chester Rd; 45246) beginning at 7 p.m. Cost is $80 per person. For reservations or more information, please call 513-374-8360 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT CARING VOICE COALITION
Caring Voice Coalition empowers patients with chronic diseases to meet the challenges they are facing by providing financial assistance, insurance education and patient support programs. Their holistic approach and comprehensive program currently assists patients in the Greater Cincinnati area and nationally.
Chronic diseases supported by the Coalition are Pulmonary Hypertension, Pulmonary Fibrosis, Alpha-1, Complex Partial Seizures, Infantile Spasms, Huntington’s disease, Congenital Factor XIII, Chronic Granulomatous Disorder and Narcolepsy.
Photo right: Pamela Harris
What a pleasure it was to accompany Patrick Nugent, vice president of development for Beech Acres Parenting Center, when Anderson Township students at Summit Elementary School presented him with a check. Such eager fundraisers! I couldn’t help but capture them on video too. Below is the write-up I did for Beech Acres and below that is a video that you’ve got to watch.
Five young enterprising philanthropists at Summit Elementary School decided one day they wanted to pool their talents to help a worthy cause. Together, fourth graders Payton Egan, Ali Madden, Lauren Arnold, Tori Madden and Jessie Headley approached their school counselor and crafted a written proposal. Their counselor connected them with school librarian Tonya Swisshelm, who had already decided to participate in the One for Books program in order to raise money for a chosen cause. This program allows schools to accept donations and use them to their choosing while Scholastic matches the amount collected and purchases books for needy children. It was a great fit to have the girls promote this program among students.
In that moment, Payton, Ali, Lauren, Tori and Jessie became organizers and promoters. Their cause was Beech Acres Parenting Center, an Anderson-based nonprofit that helps to strengthen families for children. The girls made signs that they posted around school and gave daily morning announcements to all of their peers. During the book fair, they were responsible for counting the money and posting the names of all of their donors on a hallway bulletin board.
It was a big job with a big lesson in giving back. On December 1, the Summit Elementary philanthropists handed a check to Beech Acres Vice President of Development, Patrick Nugent, for $115.50. The girls kept thanking Patrick for accepting the gift, proving the key lesson that it feels great to give!
So often I talk about how fortunate I am to be working with and among some of this community’s most generous individuals and organizations making meaningful impact.
The Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council (GCPGC) and its Voices of Giving Awards is one example. This is the fourth year I have helped them with post event coverage. The GCPGC is a professional association of individuals whose life work is to help to ensure the viability of nonprofits. This year at CET, a studio was filled with representatives from some of those charitable organizations as 22 diverse area philanthropists and two financial advisers – all of whom share a common trait of selfless generosity – were honored. Voices of Giving Award recipients have contributed to the long term sustainability of meaningful causes through bequests or planned gifts.
“Our honorees have been touched in diverse ways by area non-profits and their passion runs deep. Their choice to create a lasting legacy through causes so close to their hearts will impact lives now and in the future,” said GCPGC Voices of Giving Awards Co-Chair Carol Stevie.
2011 Voices of Giving Honorees
Heidi Jark and Steve Kenat on behalf of the American Cancer Society
Pauline Strayhorne on behalf of CET
Chuck Goering on behalf of Children, Inc.
The Honorable Julia A. Stautberg (posthumously) on behalf of the Cincinnati
Andrew MacAoidh Jergens on behalf of Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park
Dan and Irene Randolph on behalf of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Jack and Peggy Bunker on behalf of CISE Foundation
Harry Kangis and Julia Hawgood on behalf of Episcopal Retirement Homes
Anne Heldman on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
Oakley and Eva Farris on behalf of Northern Kentucky University
William and Phyllis Augspurger on behalf of People Working Cooperatively
Barbara M. Stern on behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati
John F. and Susan C. Hoerner on behalf of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati
John D. and Ruth Erhardt on behalf of The Wellness Community of Greater Cincinnati
and Northern Kentucky
Professional advisors honored:
Robert Brant on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
Timothy E. Johnson, Ph.D., on behalf of GCPGC
To view video interviews with the honorees on CET Connect, please click here.
For more information on the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council, please visit www.gcpgc.org.