All this week we spoke with people who represented a charity, foundation, or fundraising effort in some way. It was an honor to present and promote a variety of people who are giving in some way, or those who are making it possible for others to do so. People are so generous with their time and resources throughout the holiday season. We wanted to remind everyone once again that the need continues to exist for people and organizations everywhere, even after holidays are over. There are so many ways to give. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s time, sometimes it’s a hand or an ear or a voice. . in this case it’s a meal and a friend. We’re closing out the week with an incredible, local, grassroots charity program, Aid for Friends. If ever you’ve heard someone say, or have yourself said, “we need to help people out more here at home”, this organization is the epitome of that sentiment. So read on. And be sure to take a look back at the previous posts for this week.
So spread the word, share the information, and by all means if you possibly can… give!
January 10, 2015: Give a Little Bit…Steven Schiavone on Aid for Friends
WHAT DOES AID FOR FRIENDS DO AND HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN AROUND?
“We just celebrated our 40th anniversary last year and we provide free meals and friendly visiting to people who are home bound and isolated- mostly frail, elderly people. 28% of the people we serve are age 85 or older but then there’s another 27-28% that are age 60 or younger. There’s a fair amount of younger disabled people that we take care of. People with amputations, diabetics, people with MS, victims of serious accidents, even crime. We’re actually one of the biggest providers of home delivery meals in the area. Right now we’re doing about 360,000 meals a year. We’re serving 2200 people on an aggregate basis throughout the year.”
IS THIS STRICTLY FOR PEOPLE IN NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA?
“No, we serve the whole five county area (Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester) and we also serve maybe 10-20 people in Burlington county (New Jersey).”
HOW DID AID FOR FRIENDS GET STARTED?
“My mother actually started it (Rita Ungaro-Schiavone). She was a volunteer social worker at a YWCA. She used to work for the Cardinal’s Commission on Humans Relations downtown at 222 (Philadelphia Archdiocese building). She met this Quaker woman there that ran this “Y” on Arrott St. in Frankford. Her job was to wait for people to come in there with their problems. But people were calling in who were not able to leave their homes, so she went out to see them. It’s funny, this cold day reminds me of the day we went to see Dorothy. I was actually with her that day. I’ll never forget it. Going into her house, it was so cold you could see your breath inside her house. Dorothy was about 60, but she had the mind of a 5 year old. She was a hoarder and you were literally walking through a maze of piles of stuff about five feet high. She was very upset and crying to my mother saying she was tired of being alone and hungry. She said “My neighbors hate me ’cause I get my food from their trash cans. They throw things at me. I haven’t had heat in three weeks. I’m not able to cook or care for myself.” She had a little container of rat poison on the table and told my mom she was ready to end it all that day. So mom made two promises to Dorothy: one: that she would feed her and two: that she would be her friend. And she did keep those two promises.”
“She made similar promises to about eleven other people. So she was cooking for eleven other people and bringing them the meals and visiting with them for a little while. They weren’t just hungry for food, they were hungry for contact with people. For some people, their relatives have all died off or maybe they were the black sheep of the family, no one really wants to deal with them for one reason or another. So they’re in their homes all alone, forever. It’s basically like their own little prison. She (my mother) was determined to help these people any way she could. It was very fortunate that she worked down at the Archdiocese because she met lots of clergy people from other denominations as well. She was part of this group called the Christian Family Movement that was about actualizing your faith by doing good works. She was fortunate because those people were among the first volunteers for Aid For Friends, helping Mom cook the meals and taking them to the people and visiting with them. Through her connections, she was able to get speaking engagements at churches.”
“For 30 years, my father drove her to whatever church would have her speak and recruit volunteers. This was in the mid 70’s when lots of people went to church, and were younger, especially in this area. We estimate that over those 30 years that she did that, she recruited at least 20,000 people face to face. She was able to grow Aid For Friends to a point where today, we feed 2200 people throughout the year. It’s not a holiday program where they only get a meal for Thanksgiving. They get them all year long. The meals are always free. There’s no sliding scale. There’s no time or area limit, no age limit. The only reason we don’t serve people under 18 is because if you’re that young, there’s other programs for them. This is a godsend for these people because without it, they’d be lost. We think over our 40 years we’ve probably served around 14,000 people. Some people will come on late in the year but get counted for the year. Some will come on and come off quickly. For instance, if you had an operation and didn’t have anyone home to take care of you, and we found out about it, we’d help you with meals and find someone to deliver the meals.”
HOW DO YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THOSE IN NEED?
“It’s a combination. I would say most of the people are nominated by other people, social workers, agencies, home nursing agencies call us a lot, hospital social workers call us a lot. Clergy call us. When we get a call about someone, we’ll go out and visit them and try to assess their situation as best we can, determine if they’re truly home bound and isolated. The problem is, times are hard for a lot of people, so people will try to get meals, and I understand that, but these are home delivered (free) meals. The person that deliver the meals is a volunteer and taking their time out to do that, using their own vehicle and gas. So that’s why we want to make sure that the people that we serve have no other way of doing that. We have to respect the efforts of the visitor. If you’re able to get out and walk, then there’s other avenues available to you. They’re not necessarily easy. If you’re very poor, you’re probably not able to afford a car. There’s also the problems of living in an area where there aren’t good supermarkets. That’s difficult, but our resources are limited so we focus on people that aren’t able to care for themselves.”
HOW DO YOU GET DONATIONS?
“There’s two primary types of volunteers, and we are volunteer driven, they do 99% of the work. We have volunteers who will deliver meals. They come to a freezer site once a week (we have about 230 freezer sites in the five county area in churches, a few in businesses and organizations, but mostly in churches) , get 7 meals, and bring them to someone like Dorothy. They sit and talk with them for a little while. If they see problems, they can call the office. There are a couple of outreach workers out there (in the office), and they can sometimes find different types of aid in case they need it. We also provide things like freezers and toaster ovens because some people are so poor that they don’t have a working oven or freezer. If you don’t have those things, you can’t utilize the food. Our meals are taken in frozen and delivered frozen, so that way they can do it once a week.”
“The other primary volunteers are the cook volunteers. We distribute aluminum trays, plastic bags and menu sheets. A lot of people will have a little extra (already) or make a little extra knowing they’re part of the program, and they bring those trays home, use their own foil, fill out a menu sheet stating what is in the meal, the date it was prepared and there’s a checklist of common food allergens. They put it in the bag we gave them and twist tie it off and freeze it. After they have several in their freezer, they bring it to their church freezer. Then they’re available to the visitors to come and pick up. We also have cooking groups who make meals in a congregate setting. Protestants like to do that as part of their fellowship. We also have a couple of Catholic Churches that are high meal producers for us for a number of years. St. Dominic’s on Frankford Ave. has been our top meal producer almost since the beginning. They do like 13,000 meals a year. It’s really something. We also have a kitchen here where groups can come in and cook. 10% of the meals actually come from here. Our kitchen is pretty big. We also have food in the warehouse that cooks can come in and use. Most of them buy the food themselves, which is pretty amazing. We also have a couple of churches in Bucks County, like St. Ignatius, that also do about 10-12,000 meals a year, as well as other churches.”
DO YOU TAKE FOOD DONATIONS FROM PEOPLE?
“Yes, we take canned goods, non perishables.”
HOW ARE YOU FUNDED TO KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS, ETC?
“That’s a constant struggle every year. It’s a combination of individual donations, which is the vast majority, we get a little bit of state money (5%) through PCA (Philadelphia Corporation for Aging) they help us buy the aluminum trays. There are some grants from foundations and also United Way and federal, state and municipal employees that have their own version of United Way.”
HOW CAN A PERSON GET INVOLVED WITH AID FOR FRIENDS?
“They would call our office at 215-464-2224 and ask to speak to Lynn, Jeanie, Natalia or Mary. They handle the intake of the volunteers, particularly visitors.
We are always looking for donations. We do as much work as well known organizations, and maybe they’re more skilled at public relations or have more resources than we do, but we don’t have the money to spend to get our name out there. But we are very efficient. The volunteers are doing most of the work so every dollar you donate is multiplied 7 or 8 times in kind by the visiting and food value. This also saves tax payers a ton of money. Otherwise, many of these people would be institutionalized. Take 2000 people at $50,000-100,000 a year, you’re talking 100-200 million dollars a year for nursing home care. Our budget is $900,000 a year. There are organizations that serve the same number of people we do and their budget is about three times the amount of ours. No one here is making really big bucks, no advertising agencies or media campaigns. It’s all about helping people.
Visiting volunteers is always our greatest need. You have to very reliable since that person is relying on you for their food. There’s a background check. Then they go once a week or even every other week.”
DO YOU ASSIGN SOMEONE TO A PLACE THAT’LL BE CONVENIENT FOR THEM?
“That’s what we try to do, to make it as close to where they are as possible. Like I said, we have 230 freezer sites, so there’s a lot of places in the area, diverse areas you can go. People that are in the city, where maybe the neighborhood isn’t the best, that’s where the greatest need is.
People who are somewhat social, visiting is probably the most rewarding. Friendship is always a two way street. People tell me all the time that they got more out of it. If you think of all the time people spend watching TV, being on the computer, playing games….if you took just an hour a week or even every other week, it really changes someone else’s life. Someone that has no one at all, now they have a friend when they didn’t have one before. I’ve done it myself and I can tell you this: you are a gift to them but believe it or not, they become a gift to you.”
January 9, 2015: Give a Little Bit…Erica Conway & Angela Wilbert on The Women’s Club of Broadmoor.
What is the name of the organization that you run?
“The Women’s Club of Broadmoor.”
*Co-Presidents Angela Wilbert and Erica Conway*
(Broadmoor is a residential community located in Gloucester Township, NJ)
How did you come to be involved with them?
Erica: “My husband grew up in Broadmoor and when I first visited this development, I fell in love. After moving into the development shortly after having my second son, I knew I wanted to be involved in all the wonderful activities the Women’s Club assisted with. I joined my first year of moving into the development in 2007. This past May, I became Co-President and have been very happy and honored to be apart of a great organization with fabulous members.”
Angela: “I lived in Broadmoor my whole life and my husband, growing up close by, had many friends in Broadmoor. We could not think of a better neighborhood and community to raise our three children. Growing up in Broadmoor, I had first hand experience with all the wonderful activities the club provided for the children of the neighborhood and wanted to be apart of keeping these traditions. In May, I joined an outstanding group of women on the executive board and became Co-President. I consider myself very lucky and proud to be a part of a wonderful organization with so many amazing people.”
How many women are currently involved?
“To date we have 91 members and 21 business sponsors involved with our organization who assist the club in various ways for our activities and events.”
What kind of charitable activities do you engage in throughout the year?
“The Women’s Club has been very active in the community for years. This year we added a few charitable events that we feel are important.
Back-To-School Supply Drive:
We hosted a back-to-school supply drive for our local public school which provided approximately 20 backpacks filled with supplies for each grade level (PK-5th grades).
Cookies for Kids Cancer Bake Sale:
During our Annual Halloween Parade we hosted a Cookies for Kids Cancer bake sale at our local park. Members donated baked goods and we raised $500 for childhood cancer. We split the donations to assist a local family with a child who was diagnosed with cancer and with ‘Cookies for Kids Cancer Foundation’ to assist with research.
Drink for Pink Wine Tour:
Our club has sponsored a team, Bosom Broads of Broadmoor, for the Susan G. Komen 3 day Walk. As a fundraiser, we hosted a bus trip to brunch and to 3 local wineries. We raised approximately $500 and all the proceeds were donated to the Susan G. Komen 3 day.
Food Pantry Donations:
At our last official meeting of the year we collected donations for a local food pantry. With our donations from our members we were able to fill their pantry right before the holidays.
Having a public school in our backyard gives our club a great way to assist local families. Together members were able to sponsor a family and purchase needed items to help during this special time (the holidays).
National Night Out: We celebrated National Night Out in August with a community-wide block party, including a DJ, a bounce house, games, food, and more.
Most of our funds being raised for our charities, activities and yearly scholarships are through our memberships and business sponsors.”
What inspired you to start taking on various charity projects?
Erica: “As a former volunteer coordinator for a local university, I had experience in local organizations that need assistance and being a mother of 4, my heart always goes out to children and women in need. Philanthropy has always been a passion of mine so when I became co-president this past May; I knew this would be a great way to give back to the community.”
Angela: “I have always been happy to donate my time and assistance in volunteer groups and being a part of the club has allowed me to see the benefits of giving back to community. Being a part of such an outstanding executive board, I can see the potential our club can accomplish with the hard wok of its members and allow us to expand our charity further than our own neighborhood.”
Is there anything coming up in the near future?
“We are currently planning a volunteer opportunity at the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey located in Camden, NJ. We will be providing dinner to 21 families that are residing there while their children are receiving treatment at the local hospitals.”
Is there any way for people who wish to help out when you are fundraising to get in touch with you?
“We can easily be reached at email@example.com and we would be happy to accept donations for any of our charity activities.”
Do you need to be a member to get involved?
“Since memberships are our main source for funding many of our activities, events and charities, we encourage our community members of Broadmoor and surrounding neighbors to become official members. However, we are always open to anyone joining us at our many activities and events throughout the year. Another great way to be involved is for local businesses to become business sponsors. Our business sponsors are included in our bi-annual newsletter, social media pages and at our activities. Our community consists of approximately 1000 homes.”
(You do not have to be a Broadmoor resident to be a business sponsor.)
January 8, 2015: Give a Little Bit…Trish Adkins on Alex’s Lemonade.
YOU DO A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF WORK WITH THE ALEX’S LEMONADE STAND FOUNDATION, CORRECT?
“Yes! Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer raises funds for childhood cancer research. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease of children under 17 year olds in the united states. Of course those cancers, brain tumors are the number one killer. Yet, childhood cancer research is grossly underfunded.”
CAN YOU TELL ME JUST A LITTLE ABOUT THE MISSION OF THAT ORGANIZATION?
“Alex’s fills in that void and raises funds to support projects looking for cures, safer treatments and also research into survivorship and late term side effects of cancer and its treatments. Alex’s fills in that void and raises funds to support projects looking for cures, safer treatments and also research into survivorship and late term side effects of cancer and its treatments.”
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE ORGANIZATION?
“My oldest daughter Lily was diagnosed with ependymoma, a type of brain cancer, when she was 14 months old. When Lily was in patient at CHOP, it happened to be during ALSF’s annual Lemonade Days Fundraiser. I was depressed, angry and withdrawn. It was a bad time. My husband made me go downstairs to buy lemonade (he already knew of the charity). I heard Liz Scott, Alex’s mother, speak. She said the word “hope,” over and over and over again. She stood up and spoke about this hope for a cure and the battles that ALSF was fighting for our children. Alex, her daughter was dead. I figured if this woman who had lost her daughter could put her shoes on each day and stand up and speak about hope and fight; that I could get myself together and join the fight for Lily and for all children. Since that day in 2007, we were hooked on lemonade.”
WOW! SO LIZ SCOTT WAS ACTUALLY PRESENT AND SPEAKING WHILE YOU WERE THERE?
HOW LONG HAD IT BEEN SINCE ALEX HAD PASSED AWAY WHEN YOU HEARD LIZ SPEAK?
“Just shy of 3 years. Alex died in August 2004.”
I’D IMAGINE AT THAT TIME YOU MUST HAVE BEEN PRETTY FEARFUL TO SAY THE LEAST?
“Terrified. I’ve never been more scared in my life.”
SO HOW DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM HEARING LIZ SCOTT SPEAK AT CHOP TO YOUR CURRENT LEVEL OF INVOLVEMENT WITH THE FOUNDATION?
“During Lily’s treatment, we decided we would hold a lemonade stand. After she finished treatment and we were a bit more stable and settled, we held our first stand in June 2009. We set a goal of $2,000. And then we surpassed that goal and kept going and going. Now our goal is $10k each year. Last year we raised over $12k. And we just keep going. One cup at a time, until there is a cure.”
SO LILY IS IN REMISSION THEN?
“Lilly has been cancer free since her end of treatment scan in October 2007. (We don’t use the term remission for brain tumors. I forget why, exactly. Just a technical thing). In addition to our stands, we also speak at special events, to schools, corporate groups and businesses.”
WHERE ARE YOUR STANDS LOCATED?
“Our annual stand is always hosted in our front yard. On occasion we help with other stands in conjunction with special events.”
WHEN DO YOU HOLD YOUR ANNUAL STAND?
“Always the second or third weekend in June. The next one will be June 6th, 2015!”
ANY IDEA WHAT YOU’VE RAISED IN TOTAL FOR THE FOUNDATION?
“Just shy of 60K.”
THAT IS AMAZING!
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS, ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO MAYBE JUST RECIEVED THAT SAME DEVESTATING DIAGNOSIS THAT YOU RECEIVED BACK IN 2007?
“Oh gosh. People always said well meaning, yet maddening things to us–like “everything happens for a reason” and “have faith” and “god never gives you more than you can handle.” All of those things, well, they are crap. It is devastating, it sucks. There is no way around it. BUT, there is hope, there is always hope–even when it appears there is no hope, it always shoves its way through and lights the dark. Hope is very pushy.”
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ALEX’S, STAND LOCATIONS, OR DONATION INFORMATION?
The foundation’s website is http://www.alexslemonade.org. Lily’s stand website is http://www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/1121380.
January 7, 2015: Give a Little Bit…Denise Trask on Autism Speaks.
WHO IS TEAM LUKE NAMED AFTER?
“Our son Luke. He was diagnosed with autism just after his third birthday. That was in July and in August of that year (2011), we were notified by my girlfriend, Shauna, that there was an autism walk. So we jumped on board and came up with ‘Team Luke, Walk to Talk’. He had starting walking at that point but wasn’t talking yet, so that’s how we came up with the walk to talk.”
HOW DID YOU FIRST LEARN THAT LUKE WAS AUTISTIC?
“We knew early on that he was developmentally delayed, just after his first birthday, he stopped baby babble. He was always doing “bababa”, “dadada”. When we came back from a vacation, and I know this is controversial, he had his shots. After that, we didn’t notice until probably a couple of months later, that it stopped. He was only doing the army crawl, he wasn’t cruising, not bringing himself up onto things. We noticed his grasp was real weak and all that. I kept telling our pediatrician “I just feel like he’s different”. He kept saying “Mom, all kids are different. He’s just not on the same page as your other kids.” Finally, he said to me “Ok, if you wanna go down, I have a friend that’s with the neurology department down at CHOP. You can go down, he’ll do a whole evaluation on him.” We went down there and they tagged him as having global developmental delay and we got early intervention involved right away. He was getting therapy at home three times a week. And we were seeing a developmental pediatrician down at CHOP. As time went on that’s how they came up with the autism diagnosis.”
YOU MENTIONED HIM GETTING SHOTS AND IT BEING CONTROVERSIAL. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT’S WHAT CAUSED HIS AUTISM?
“It hit something for me. I was never on board with that. I never really looked into it because Luke was our first kid in the whole family that it really touched home with. I have an older nephew who has Aspergers, and that was our only little inkling into this world. Then once we kind of looked into that, and I was reading up on it, and the word autism was introduced to it, that’s when we realized that was around his first year shots and could be true.”
WHAT DOES “AUTISM SPEAKS” DO?
“There’s all kinds of research that the money goes towards. Getting information to people. Coincidentally, about a week after Luke’s accident, we were still in the PICU at CHOP and I got an email. It was from Autism Speaks on wandering. I had heard something about that, but never really read up on it, or the severity of it. And I got this while we were at the hospital. And I feel like if this information was put out more often and was more well known, his accident may not have happened.”
WHAT ACCIDENT ARE YOU REFERRING TO? AND WHAT LED UP TO IT?
“We were getting all the therapies in place, getting Luke into school, early intervention stuff and he was progressing wonderfully. He was seeing a speech therapist, we were starting to get some words, he was making sounds and doing all the things a boy his age should do. He wasn’t quite at that level yet, but he was walking, running, jumping, all these things he had to learn how to do. He couldn’t jump for the longest time which is something you take for granted. You just don’t realize. Just pulling open a door, he didn’t realize he had the strength to open a door. Everyday when we would drop him off at school we would practice that. So we were finally seeing all these big steps. Then in August of 2012, my husband was home with Luke, he was watching tv, nobody else was home. Luke wandered to the front door, through the door, storm door, down six steps, into the yard that he had to open up a gate to get into, to the pool, went up another seven steps, opened up the pool gate which you had to put your hand over the gate to open up. He was always fascinated on spinning things like wheels and balls and all that stuff. There were always balls in our pool cause he would always throw them in from the yard into the pool. He would sit on the deck of the pool, when we were all in there with him, and spin the ball on the water and he would laugh hysterically. And I believe what happened was that he went to reach in to spin the ball and fell in. My husband found him, luckily. He was unresponsive and my husband did mouth to mouth on him and screamed for help to neighbors. Some neighbors heard his cry for help and came out. Our next door neighbor, Dan, drove them around the corner to the hospital ER. They worked on Luke immediately and tried to revive him four times, the fourth time finally worked. I got the phone call rushed to the ER and I just started singing to him all his favorite songs. I was just kneeling on the floor singing to him. CHOP had set up it’s medivac to transport him by helicopter to CHOP. They were in the process of undoing all of Frankford’s (ARIA Torresdale) equipment and hooking it up to their own equipment to prepare to be transported. I remember the one nurse that was on the helicopter telling me “just keep singing Mom. He hears you.” I remember thinking “Ok, what else can I do.” Because as a mother, I had to let all these people keep my son alive. They took him on the helicopter and we went by car cause they needed to have the extra staff on board with him. CHOP became our home for just under five months. We were in the PICU for about two to three weeks then went in to their impatient rehab department. Luke suffered brain damage, lost all full function of his body. He can’t sit up or hold his head up or anything. But he is making great steps. He lost his vision, which has now been regained. He was really, really sick for a really long time. He’s doing amazing. But a big thing for us, was because Luke was non verbal, he spoke with his face all the time. His eyes and expressions. That’s how we communicated with him. That was the first time, ever, we had lost all that. When he didn’t have vision or respond to our voices, wasn’t able to look at us, give us a smile, and he was looking at the ceiling, there was a blank look on him…that was what was most difficult. At that point we were thinking we could deal with anything, the brain damage, the fact that he wasn’t mobile anymore, we could deal with all that. But we needed to have that face back, we needed to have him smile and talk to us. His eyes twinkle when he talks. God has been working in little baby steps. Ever since this happened, I pray in little tiny steps. There were times I’d pray for him to be able to pee so he wouldn’t have to be “cathed”. And we’re getting little, tiny steps back. I remember the doctor telling us there was no brain connection for his vision anymore. They told us to hang onto hope, and if it comes back, it can function. It’s there, it’s not damaged, it connected. It found it’s way back. That’s what has gotten us to this point now, two and a half years later. Now we can talk to him and he smiles at us, knows who we are. We get laughs, we see his eyes twinkle again. It’s been a rough road.
I just put on my Facebook that this year, for the second year since the accident, that I was contemplating doing the autism walk again or not. It’s hard. We have a lot going on here. Luke’s one of five children in our house. It’s busy. We had another traumatic thing happen this year with my older daughter. It’s crazy here. I was thinking, “am I really gonna do this again?” It tugs at me. And I get people that start, around the end of summer, to send me messages and phone calls saying, “what are we doing for team Luke this year?” And I said, “I can’t let anybody down. I have to do this!” This is amazing. All these people are in his corner. Autism touches so many families. You hear about it now more than ever. I wonder if it’s our age? It’s constant. So I thought that I can’t ever NOT do it. It’s such a good group of people that support us and support the cause that I feel like it’s worth all the work, every year. We were able to raise close to $9000 this last year! Our first year, when we got the diagnosis and my girlfriend told me about the walk, that was in August of 2011 and the walk was in September, we raised $10000 that year. In one month! It was unbelievable! Every year we get sponsors. We have team Luke T-shirts. We sell the shirts and the money we raise we donate to autism. There’s a friend that Luke is in school with, another autistic boy; a group including his mom and a couple of other moms that gathered together wanted to move away from Autism Speaks and see if they can make an impact somewhere more direct and not so broad as a big, giant organization. So they started doing their own little thing and I thought it was so touching. So last year, when we made all the money from the T-shirts, we gave $1000 each to 3 separate families anonymously. The rest we donated to Autism Speaks.”
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO THAT?
“I feel like they needed a pick me up. Each family that we picked weren’t necessarily autism related. One family had a sick child. Another was just struggling. And another was a family that had just been through a rough road of one thing after another.”
THAT’S PRETTY COOL TO HAVE ONE CHARITY HELPING OUT ANOTHER!
“It felt really good.”
WHEN DOES THE WALK USUALLY TAKE PLACE?
“It was September our first year. October the following year. And this last year it was November. It was freezing cold. We got an email right after the walk that they’re gonna try to move it back to September. Because there’s so many families and especially for an autism walk, it’s all children. It was so windy and cold. We couldn’t actually do the walk physically. I brought him (Luke) but I was so nervous he would lose his breath from the wind, because of the condition that he’s in right now. We went and stayed in the stadium but when it was time for the actual walk we couldn’t do it. I was nervous to be pushing him in the stroller, the wind hitting him, and I couldn’t see if he need suctioning. Hopefully next year it’ll be back in September.”
HAS LUKE BENEFITTED PERSONALLY BY AUTISM SPEAKS OR DO YOU FEEL IT’S JUST ONE OF THE MANY ORGANZIATIONS OUT THERE?
“I feel like it’s the latter. Who knows if we didn’t have this accident, maybe we could’ve utilized it more. We got involved at first, had a good year. But for the last two and a half years, this happened and set us back from the autism part of it and now are dealing with something different. But I do feel like, personally, every little thing has to help. We have to come up with something. We can’t have all these kids struggling with this. Good parents are almost helpless. I remember there’d be times where Luke would act out in public and people would look at us like we didn’t discipline our child. They didn’t realize that he’s just acting out. I can’t snap him out of it. He’d throw himself on the ground, I’d try to pick him up. It was rare cause he was a happy kid all the time but it would happen occasionally. We’d see that (people reacting) and we’d be like “what can we do?” To look at Luke, you wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong with him. In fact, one of our visits to the developmental pediatrician, she almost questioned his autism diagnosis cause his physical contact was so good. You could go up and hug him and most autistic kids don’t wanna be touched. He was very affectionate and his eye contact was amazing. But there was something there. That’s why they have that broad spectrum. Some have a little, some have severe disabilities because of it.”
ARE PEOPLE ABLE TO JOIN YOUR TEAM?
“Yes. We’re open to anybody joining our team. Go to “Team Luke Walk to Talk” on http://www.autismspeaks.org.
This year we’re also actually thinking of doing a family fun day fundraiser. We’re trying to pick out a place and do it maybe in August. Organize a big day with a moon bounce, face painting and all that, make it a family day and raise money doing something like that. I don’t know how many people really want more team like shirts. (Laughter). We just wanted to try something fun and family oriented.”
January 6, 2015: Give a Little Bit…Eric Shipon on The Polar Plunge.
YOU RECENTLY TOOK PART IN A CHARITY EVENT, CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT THAT WAS?
“I took part in the Polar Plunge On New Year’s Day (along with my oldest daughter, Lexi, 20: younger daughter, Billie, 17, served as “official photographer” and organizer!).”
WAS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME PARTICIPATING IN THIS EVENT?
“It was my first time participating in any sort of “polar plunge.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
“I loved the event, and feel that it barely scratched the surface as to how big it could be. I understand that similar “plunges” went on in Brigantine, Margate and other beach locations in the immediate area, but feel that this infrastructure was not taken full-advantage of. I have some definite ideas as to how this particular plunge could be both larger and more lucrative.”
CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THAT, WHO THE EVENT BENEFITTED AND WHAT YOUR VISION IS?
“The event benefitted MS. I have two dear friends, both young, in 40s and just turned 50, suffering from MS. I’ve seen the effects, read about the condition, and wanted to do something to start the new year to “pay it forward.” I also see permutations of a charity that my daughters and I launched in memory of my wife, “Have a Catch for Barb” — it is catch related, and I envision lots of catches prior to running into the ocean…”
WELL YOU OBVIOUSLY SURVIVED THE ICY WATERS, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?!
“The icy waters were indeed freezing, unlike any cold I’ve ever felt. While not feeling my leg and feet for a bit, the thrill of the event and the adrenaline rush were quite exhilarating. I kept thinking, “If Washington and his troops could cross the Delaware, I could handle a quick dive into the ocean for charity!”
HAD YOU DONE ANY PRIOR TYPE OF FUNDRAISING FOR THIS ORGANIZATION?
“I’ve only donated small amounts of money to MS in the past; I hope to have the means to do more in the future.”
ARE THERE ANY OTHER EVENTS COMING UP THAT YOU’D LIKE TO GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT?
“As mentioned, I am looking to take “Have a Catch for Barb,” the charity in memory of my wife, Barb, who passed at the way too young age of 49, and whose tagline is “Tossing Cancer Aside,” to a national level in the next 12 months. That is my passion — to help our family, and the thousands of others living thru the loss of a loved one, to cancer, or any ailment for that matter.”
OBVIOUSLY A VERY PERSONAL ENDEAVOR FOR YOU, WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITHIN THE CHARITY?
“I, along with my daughters, founded, and I serve as Executive Director of “Have a Catch for Barb.”
WHAT KIND OF FUNDRAISING EVENTS OR EFFORTS ARE GOING ON WITH YOUR CHARITY?
“There are a few online initiatives just beginning, via the sale of charity and celebrity merchandise, that is ongoing at both the website, http://www.haveacatchforbarb.org, and the Facebook page, “Have a Catch for Barb.” In addition, there will be a second Flyers Alumni Game in Warminster, PA in March to benefit the charity. We are also hoping that the 76ers basketball team, the NHL, and ESPN Radio make good on their offers to have some activity for the charity.”
THAT SOUNDS VERY EXCITING! IF PEOPLE WISH TO FIND OUT MORE, GET IN TOUCH, OR
CONTRIBUTE IN SOME WAY, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY OF DOING SO?
“I can be contacted directly at Eric Shipon, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the Facebook or website listed above. My direct phone number is 267.886.7566. For photos from the event, there are a bunch on the Facebook pages of Kelly Green and Eric Shipon. The photographers were our kids, Billie Shipon, my daughter, and Maya Green, Kelly’s daughter. They rocked it!
All Photos courtesy of Eric Shipon. Photographed by Billie Shipon and Maya Green.
January 5, 2015: Give a Little Bit…Dave Scheuring on Hogs and Heroes.
WHAT DOES HOGS AND HEROES BENEFIT?
“It was set up to benefit first responders (police, firefighters, EMS) and the military.”
WHAT DO THEY DO FOR THEM?
“We hold events to try and raise money to donate to other charities that benefit these folks. We’re a 501C3 organization. We can donate directly to other 501C3 organizations. We go out and find those organizations that do things more directly for the welfare of first responders and military and raise money for them. The way the laws work for non profits, we can’t donate directly to a single person, we have to donate to larger organizations. Then it’s up to the charities we donate to to decide where the money goes. For instance, we just did a crab cake dinner to raise money for an organization called Operation Homefront. What they do is take care of the families of currently deployed military. They’ll do things like buy a new transmission for a car of the wife of a deployed gentleman cause she’s gotta take kids back and forth and work. We found them recently. We look for organizations that coincide with our mission and work hand in hand with them.”
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GET INVOLVED WITH HOGS AND HEROES?
“Personally, I was looking for something to do with a motorcycle organization. I fell upon this when I went to a beef and beer, at this chapter, for a military vet that got injured in a motorcycle accident. I was just going to be supportive of their efforts and ended up talking to the folks that were running the chapter at the time. It seemed like a great opportunity for me to belong to something that both involved the motorcycle aspect as well as a charitable organization of something I believed in.”
HOW LONG AGO DID YOU GET INVOLVED?
“About a year ago.”
HOW DID YOU WIND UP PRESIDENT OF THE CHAPTER AFTER ONLY A YEAR?
“There was a lot of turnover. Some people left due to moving out of state and it left some vacancies in the structure of the organization and I ended up being appointed Vice President of the chapter relatively quickly after I joined based on recommendations from friends of mine that were in the organization. The term of our President was up in December and I guess some of the folks that have gotten to know me over the last year or so came to like the things I’m trying to do with the organization. I was nominated in November and voted into the position in December.”
IS THERE ANY ONE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS STOOD OUT TO YOU SO FAR?
“Yes, there is. One of the things we do is moral support capacity (in addition to fundraising capacity) that we call escorts. We will escort young military folks on leave from the airport to home. There’s a situation where they take veterans from this area down to Washington to visit the memorials. When they were coming home, I was involved, with about 200 other motorcyclists, in escorting them from Delaware state line to Springfield, PA where they were meeting for a dinner on their way home. It was a humbling experience to travel on the Blue Route, which was shut down in order for us to escort WWII vets and their families. To see the support from fire companies at every overpass, the support of other motorists on the road on the other side… Personally, I had an experience with a gentleman that had gotten off the bus. He took the time to come over and shake my hand and thank us for what we had done that day, which was very humbling cause all I had done was ride a motorcycle which is something I love to do on any given day. What these gentleman had done years ago in their lives for us to be able to live the lives that we live…for them to come thank us is a wonderful feeling. It’s was the one time that solidified me knowing that the decision I made in joining this organization was the right one.”
CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED IN THIS ORGANIZATION IF THEY AREN’T MOTORCYCLE ENTHUSIASTS?
“The organization was started by a gentleman that was a motorcycle rider, but we have different classes of members in every chapter. There’s a full member, a riding member and we also have associate members who are non-riding members that want to belong to the organization and be hands on doing what we do, and we have junior members who are under 18 that want to get involved early. Whether you ride or not, you’re welcome to join the organization. There are some positions within the organization that you have to be a motorcycle rider to hold. Our chapter is split up about 60/40 of riders and non-riders. So basically anyone that wants to be involved can be. We’re always looking to expand. Currently there’s 3 chapters in Pennsylvania (Lancaster, Delaware County, and my chapter in Montgomery County based out of Bridgeport) and we would love to have a number more. There are things that have to happen in order to start a chapter. You have to have a certain number of people and riders to start the chapter. They can certainly contact me and I can get them in touch with the right people to do that.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY EVENTS COMING UP YOU’D LIKE TO TELL US ABOUT?
“We’re in the works of putting together a blood drive that we’re hoping to do on February 28 which would be held in Conshohocken. There will be more information after this week about that. It’ll be on our website as well as our Facebook page.”
WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD GET INVOLVED IN THIS ORGANIZATION?
“Take a look at the way the world’s going, not only in our area but nationwide, with our first responders and our military and notice there’s a need. These folks have needs and they need some support from people. If that’s something that drives you and you have strong feelings for, this is certainly one of the many organizations you can get involved in to put some action behind those feelings.”
To learn more check out these sites. Please be patient, someone will respond as quickly as possible.
http://www.hogsheroesfoundation.com (main site)
http://www.hogsandheroespa2.com (Dave’s local chapter)
You can also link to Hogs and Heroes pa2 on Facebook
CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE CHARITY EVENT YOU TAKE PART IN?
“Sure. I took part in an event for Covenant House (last year, for the first time), which is an organization that opens it’s doors for homeless youth. The actual event is called “The Sleep Out”. Every year, different people get together and raise money for homeless youth. Usually in March, we go to the outreach center. This year I’m doing the one in Philadelphia (last year she did it in NYC). People get together and we sleep on the street outside the shelter. Primarily, it’s to raise awareness for people passing by, but it’s also for the kids, the kids that live there. To show them that people do care. That we’re willing to sleep on the street and be uncomfortable, even if it is only for one night, to show them that there are people that care and support them. It just gives them a little hope and courage.”
ARE THEY RECEPTIVE TO YOU? DO YOU THINK IT REACHES THEM?
“Absolutely. Everyone that’s participating, usually gets there around 7:00 pm. We get together, people from all walks of life. We all kind of mingle, talk about anything. Then we all go inside the facility and there’s a ceremonial type of thing. There’s chairs set up and all, and a couple of the kids that live in the covenant house and have used their services, who were once on the street and homeless, get up and tell their story. It’s pretty awesome. There’s little workshops where we get to break down into smaller groups and talk one on one with some of the kids. (Find out) what their struggles are, how they became homeless, where they’re at now in their life. Some of their stories are absolutely amazing. Some of the kids are runaways because of horrible situations at home. Some of the stories are tragic. When it comes to kids, there’s a special place in my heart because to them, at that age, the streets were a better choice than they’re home environment. It’s devastating.”
WHAT’S THE AGE RANGE OF THE KIDS?
“The kids that I met last year, ranged from 14-20.”
DO THEY HAVE ANY CONTACT WITH THEIR FAMILIES AT ALL?
“I guess it depends on each particular case. We were asked, obviously, not to take pictures with any of the children in case there is a situation where someone out there may be looking for them (in a negative way). We were allowed to take pictures of ourselves outside and all of course though.”
HOW MANY OF YOU TOOK PART IN THIS LAST YEAR?
“Last year it was me, my friend Nicole Fox, who I absolutely have to acknowledge. She’s a good friend of mine that works at the Covenant House in Philadelphia. She was the whole reason I started helping with this organization and charity. There were about six of us. Between us, we raised $11,000. It was pretty amazing.”
THAT’S INCREDIBLE! HOW IS THAT MONEY ALLOCATED?
“It keeps the lights on in the facility. It provides food and shelter. (Provides) bedding, essentials like toilet paper, conditioner, etc. Like when Nicole got started, she would drive a van around and pick kids up off the street to bring them to the Covenant House. When they’re there a little while and stable, they provide medical services, therapy, education, trying to stabilize them to send them on their way so they can live a happy, healthy life so they don’t go back to being homeless.”
DO THEY HELP THE OLDER ONES WITH JOB PLACEMENT?
“Oh yeah. There are services like job placement.”
HOW LARGE IS YOUR TEAM THIS YEAR?
“So far there’s 7 of us. We’re hoping that we’ll grow in numbers and donations.”
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE LAST YEAR, SLEEPING OUT?
“It was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited just to raise the money and then it was time. We met up at Nicole’s house and drove up to New York. We drove up with a bunch of people, it was a kind of chaotic. It was pretty amazing. They gave us cardboard boxes to sleep on. I brought extra clothes. I put on a bunch of layers. It’s not the same experience as being homeless cause you’re surrounded by a bunch of your friends, and because it’s for a good cause, you’re happy and excited. I actually did wind up getting sleep that night. I was able to bring as many layers as I wanted, whereas these children don’t have that many layers. They may not be able to find that many clothes. They’re not surrounded by their friends. They’re not laughing and joking. They’re under a stairwell somewhere alone, scared and frightened. It’s more about showing these kids that there are people out there as opposed to feeling what it’s like to be homeless for a night cause there’s no comparison. I would (and will) do it again in a heartbeat.”
WHY DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN NEW YORK’S LAST YEAR AND NOT PHILLY?
“No real reason. That was just what Nicole presented last year. It was just the way it happened. But me being from NY, it meant even more to me. Having all my friends from Philadelphia drive up to NY Covenant House made it a little more special for me. There’s 27 different locations around the country, Canada and Latin America. This year we’re doing it in Philly and maybe will again next year, or who knows, maybe we’ll pick another location.”
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH RAISING FUNDS AND AWARENESS ABOUT THIS?
“When it comes to homelessness in general, but especially homeless youth, people don’t wanna think about it. It’s kind of out of sight, out of mind. I’ve even found that when using social media, like Facebook, that it didn’t grab as much attention as if I were to post a silly article or a picture of a cute kitten. For example, last year, for a different organization I was posting about, it barely got any attention. Then two seconds later, I put up a profile picture of myself that received about 80 likes, whereas the fundraising post only got about 4 likes.”
EVEN IF SOMEONE CAN’T AFFORD TO DONATE, IT COULDN’T HURT TO PASS IT ON TO SOMEONE THAT MAY BE ABLE TO AND JUST TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE PARTICIPATION.
“Yes, even if my friends just share the link, I’d be so grateful for that. The more people who see it, the more awareness there is. Part of the sleep out for me, and you have more than 200 people sleeping on the street, people that are walking by, the pictures that are being taken, it’s making it more real. I think because it’s not my sister or father or niece or brother that’s on the street…if I posted something like “can you please help my brother who’s homeless and on the street”, I’m assuming there’d be a crazy amount of people to support me. Like I said, out of sight out of mind. It’s not personal.”
WHAT MAKES THIS CAUSE SPECIAL TO YOU?
“Living in Philly, I’m sure you’re aware, there’s always people asking for money, panhandling, asking for cigarettes. A lot of people out there get mad or upset about that. And that’s fine. But for some reason, I just have a sense of compassion for these people. Everybody has a story. When you see alcoholics or addicts on the street, a lot of times people don’t wanna give them money and I choose not to either. We feel like they’re just gonna use that money to buy more liquor or drugs, so I’ll give them a bottle of water or something along those lines. There’s a special place in my heart and I think some of that is because of my background.
Part of my background is that I am an alcoholic and an addict. I’m in recovery and just celebrated 6 years sober. I’ve been there (homeless) by choice cause that’s where the drugs took me. I had a mother, a home, a family, but there were nights that I did end up on the street cause that’s just where the drugs took me. Again, that was by choice just because I didn’t wanna be at home. I had a warm home, a warm bed, a loving mother, food in the fridge. So I can’t even imagine the abuse that goes on that these kids will run away just to get away from. Especially in the streets of NYC. Even Philly. It’s scary out there. There are neighborhoods that I wouldn’t even alone into at night. And these kids are sleeping on the streets, trying to find their next meal or trying to find a warm coat or blanket and they’re alone and scared. It breaks my heart.
A lot of people on the streets are drug addicted or suffer from mental illness, and I feel that more people need to be aware of them or have some more compassion for that. Everyone has a story. As an adult, you kind of make that choice, even if drugs and alcohol are involved, you’re old enough to utilize services on your own. Children are not able to make those choices. So places like Covenant House are absolutely crucial for helping the children.”
DO THEY GET ANY FUNDING FROM THE STATE?
“I don’t think so. They’re the largest privately funded charity in America. I like people to know that they’re also work to stop human trafficking in exploited youth. They hold a lot of workshops to try to bring that to light. That’s even more hush hush or not so in your face, the trafficking that goes on. It’s something we’d watch on a documentary on Netflix, but it’s happening right here in Philly. Before I did the sleep out last year and before I really started looking into this organization and becoming a part of it, I did not realize the amount of children that are trafficked and how big a problem it is. We don’t think that happens here.”
CAN ANYONE JOIN YOUR TEAM?
“Yes, I’ll give you the links (see below). Then on March 20, we all would go down to the Covenant House of Philadelphia which is in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, and sleep out. And I guarantee it would be the most satisfying, rewarding experience you’ll ever have. It’s for the kids and looks on their faces are priceless.”
How you can learn more and/or to help:
To join or donate to Babz’s team, the 215 all stars, click on this link:
http://covhou.convio.net/site/TR/SO_YoungProfessional/SleepOutYoungProfessionalEdition2015px=1812311&pg=personal&fr_id=1464To learn more about Covenant House:
And check out this video to learn more:
All Photos Courtesy of Babz Gaynor