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On Sunday I’ll be running the Detroit Marathon with a bunch of friends including my partner Jason Mendelson who is running his first marathon. Becky Cooper, our CFO, and Jill Spruiell (Jason’s EA) are also running their first marathon, as is Andrew Tschesnok, the CEO of Organic Motion.
As this is my second marathon in my Random Act of Kindness series, Amy and I are again raising $10,000 for someone on GiveForward. We’ll be matching $5,000 of contributions from this community with a gift from us of $5,000. Our recipient this time in Max Simmons who we refer to as Jedi Max. We don’t know Jedi Max – we just know he’s fighting cancer and is awesome.
Here’s Jedi Max’s story:
Max is a fun-loving, spirited seven year old who has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforming or GBM, a type of brain cancer. It is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The doctors have already removed most of the tumor, though he still has a long road ahead. He will be receiving chemo and radiation. Max’s treatments are an hour’s drive each direction and he will be receiving them for six weeks, five days a week. His parents, Jay and Scott, are concerned about not meeting the non-medical expenses such as gas, food, and other things that may come up. With how things stand now, Jay may not be able to return to work. Max loves everything Legos and Star Wars. He is doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and wears his heart on his sleeve and his heart is as big as Texas. He is a true Jedi Warrior!
Let’s end Friday on a high note. The recipient of our first Random Act of Kindness in support of my marathons is now cancer free! If you go out this weekend, do a random act of kindness. Buy the meal for a young couple in the same restaurant you are in. Tip 50% instead of whatever you normally tip. Do something unexpected for someone you don’t know.
When you support a family member in need, you’re doing the right thing. The community you are part of is counting on you, and fulfilling your obligation to them is part of being a member of that community.
What happens, though, when you help someone you don’t know? What happens when one community deliberately seeks out someone who needs a leg up and attention and support and reaches out – with no possibility of reciprocity? That feeling is extraordinary, and as I run the 29 marathons I’ve got left to go to make my 50 marathons by age 50 goal, I have been thinking harder about fundraising as part of this experience.
After my close friend Andy Sack was diagnosed with testicular cancer, the impact of a medical emergency really hit home for me. Andy’s fully recovered after surgery and a 62 day chemo regimen – the experience caused me to think a lot about what families go through when a loved one is ill.
During this time, I met Ethan Austin, the co-founder of GiveForward at Lindzonpalooza. I was blown away by what they are doing and decided to team up with them to do 29 random acts of kindness over the next few years.
For each of my upcoming marathons, I’m going to run in support of one of the GiveForward campaigns. Amy and I will kick off the fundraising with a commitment of at least $145,000 ($5,000 per marathon) and encourage our extended community to contribute whatever they can. We may increase this amount in the future ($5,000 will always be our minimum) depending on the total level of contribution (more contributors = bigger contribution from us.) I’m also going to do some random things for the people who contribute on a marathon by marathon basis – look for me to have some fun with this rewarding my community for helping with a random act of kindness.
The people we will support will not be people we know. Rather, they will be people who inspire us and who we want to shine a random act of kindness on. Our fundraising efforts will be a complete surprise to these families, and our hope is that we can create a little unexpected joy for the people we support.
The first random act of kindness is Justin Salcedo from Devine, TX who has testicular cancer. I’ll be running the Missoula Marathon on July 8, 2012 in Missoula, Montana for him. His family friend set up a GiveForward page for him and wrote the following description:
Justin Salcedo is from a small town south of San Antonio, TX. We live in Devine, TX. He is a good athlete, a good son, and a good friend to everyone. Always has a smile on his face. He just recently found out he had testicular cancer. His mother is the one who told me the story of how he found out about his cancer. I have known him for about 17 years. My sister-in-law baby sat him when he was little. My son and Justin were in pre-K together, they were in little league baseball, our local youth basketball league, Middle school athletics and 2 years highschool athletics. So for this news it was a shock to me and I am not his immediate family. It feels like dream…..
The GiveForward campaign is called Kicking Cancer. Our goal is to raise at least $10,000 by May 31st to help out Justin and his family. Let’s do this for Justin and show the world how the power of a community can deliver random acts of kindness.
PS – if you can’t afford to donate, I urge you to share Justin’s GiveForward page on your Facebook wall or give Justin a “virtual hug” by leaving words of encouragement on his page. Neither of these things will cost you a dime but they might mean the world to Justin.
In the “truth is stranger than fiction” category, my CU Boulder bathroom donation (well – the gift I gave to CU Boulder that resulted in me getting to name a bathroom) made the TV news tonight in Boston on Fox 25. There’s apparently a new bathroom news cycle because of William Falik’s gift to Harvard Law School for the Falik Men’s Room at Harvard Law School. While my bathroom at CU Boulder doesn’t have the same elegant name (it’s known as RRM 209 in the ATLAS Building, or the Feld Mens Bathroom on Foursquare), I’ve got a better quote: ““The Best Ideas Often Come At Inconvenient Times – Don’t Ever Close Your Mind To Them.”
The two minute news clip, along with a Skype interview I did this afternoon, follows. MIT – my offer is still open – don’t flush it.
Last week I was called out on a blog titled Stop Squawking; Embody The Change. In it, Nilofer Merchant (the writer) asserts that while my writing about the lack women in tech / entrepreneurship / computer science is useful, it doesn’t have much impact. Nilofer says:
“Those posts are all “Yeahness”; maybe they are helping educate the few people on this earth who haven’t read the research, statistics that says that diversity of opinions improves the performance of any workgroup. Perhaps they counteract the “women just want to have babies” or “women don’t take risks” posts out there.”
She goes on to make a call to action for me and a few others, saying:
“If Mark, or Fred, or Brad wanted to actually see things change, they have to be willing to be changed. They have to have their networks changed. They cannot stay in their current circles, talking to the same people they already talk with, and then imagine they will run into more women to invest in. They cannot expect things to change by asking “boy, I wish things would change”. That’s a gesture. A politically correct gesture, sure, and maybe it gives the warm fuzzies, but accomplishes little else. It is certainly not embodying the necessary change. To move from impossible and unattainable to possible and attainable is more than chopping off a few letters. It means we need to embody the change.”
I agree strongly with Nilofer that we need to embody the change. Since I don’t agree that all I do is write about the issue, I left a comment with a few examples of the things that I actually do, rather than just write about, to address this issue.
One of the things I do is chair the board of the National Center for Women & Information Technology. It is well documented that there is a significant gender imbalance in IT. Only 18% of computer and information science degrees were awarded to women in 2009 (11% at major research universities), though 57% of college degrees are awarded to women (source: NCWIT By the Numbers 2009.) One of the things I’m especially proud of is the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing.
The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is designed to reverse this trend by identifying, recognizing and supporting young women interested in and aspiring to pursue a major in computing. It was created in 2007 and has grown to a combined National and Affiliate program with local awards serving 22 states in 2011. To date NCWIT has recognized 855 young women and plans to grow the award program to a reach of 10,000 young women and recognize 1,000 award recipients annually. I wrote about my experience attending the 2010 awards and spending time with the winners, including the college scholarship that Amy and I decided to give each winner in the spur of the moment.
The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is much more than an award program. Recipients are provided long-term support for their interests in computing through peer networking, mentorship, scholarships and access to opportunities. Applications are now open to any high school young women residing in the US. Please encourage all the young women you know to apply before the end of October.