Featuring a local Cape Cod woman giving back to those who have been isolating for medical reasons with a fun outdoor activity, a Quincy Police Officer who surprised a local family with a very special pizza delivery, and of course your weekly motivation with JT’s Positive 5!
For students all over the world, college is affectionately known as “the best four years of your life”. Highly anticipated all through high school where many work hard for years to save money, get their grades up anxiously await that coveted acceptance letter, college is a time meant for studying, learning all you can about the career path of your choice, and maybe staying up a bit too late making friendships for life. Just two months short of what would have been for many seniors a celebrated graduation, the entire lifestyle of college has changed.
With many campuses closing their dormitory doors and moving to online courses for all, it is a challenging time for students who have been forced to move away from their friends and entire new, independent life. Yet for some, this drastic change of pace means more than just going home to be with families a bit earlier than they’d planned: for those who rely on resources at their college to get their work done, it can mean a loss of means to continue their studies. For those who work on campus, it can mean a loss of income to pay for their car, phone, or other bills. Far worse, for those who are international students with nowhere to go or come from a low-income family, it can mean homelessness.
“We had alumni and parents, faculty and staff reach out when the COVID-19 started to impact our student and the question they all asked was, ‘What can we do? How can we help?’ So this Lasers Helping Lasers relief fund really is in response to the community asking that question,” explains Chelsea Gwyther, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations at Lasell University. “We worked with a student who left his residence hall when this pandemic hit, and moved back with his family in a homeless shelter outside of Boston. Unfortunately, that shelter doesn’t have Wifi so this student takes his 18-year-old car and drives a couple of times a day to a Mcdonald’s parking lot so he can participate in his online classes. The determination of that student is just incredibly inspiring to all of us, and we’re committed just like he is to making sure that all students have access to a great education at Lasell.”
So far, alumni and friends of the college have gone above and beyond in their generosity to help support the local students. “The response has been absolutely phenomenal. Over $85,500 has been donated for this fund and that is going to go directly to helping students who are impact by this and helping the institution manage unplanned expenses by the pandemic.”
Interested in donating? Watch my full interview with Chelsea below to learn more, and visit https://www.lasellalumni.org/s/61/16/index.aspx?sid=61&gid=1&pgid=2068 to make your donation!
When I first started this journey of doing a charity blog, I had been overwhelmed with joy to watch my calendar fill up in February with events booked through the month of JUNE! It made my heart so happy to be able to not only tell the stories behind so many charities throughout New England, but to be able to give them something through my work that they could then use to help spread the word of all the good they are doing in our local communities. Yet very quickly, all of that changed as one by one I watched emails pour in with cancellations and postponements of the events that many times serve as an organization’s main source of revenue for the year. I thought to myself, “What are they going to do?”
In these past few weeks, I’ve watched as those responsible for organizing such major events have learned to pivot in this time of crisis. From virtual evenings of giving to online auctions and now, even a social distancing dash, it’s clear that each organization’s dedication to their mission is the driving force behind such innovation. At FMP Productions, the idea for a “Social Distancing Dash” stemmed from a passion for their charities and in an effort to find a way to keep them going when the rest of the world has stopped.
How does the “Dash” work? By signing up on their website, donors were able to contribute any amount they felt comfortable with starting at $25 to pledge to race. Then, from Friday May 1-Sunday, May 3 it was time to mask up or find a remote location in which to run and get out there!
For organizations like the David Ortiz Fund, President Hallie Lorber says this dash is critical to keeping their cause running as their major fundraising events including the Boston Marathon and a golf tournament were cancelled. “For us specifically, we help children who are in need of pediatric cardiac care. A lot of our kids are at high risk during this time-so they can’t get to the hospital to get the services that they need, they can’t have follow up for the surgeries that they have had, so a lot of them don’t have access not only to medical care but to their medication,” Lorber explained as she described the David Ortiz Fund’s mission. “We are very dependent, like other charities on hosting in person events, and we are struggling for a way to raise money to be able to provide the services. The Social Distance Dash is a way for us to supplement some of those events, and gives donors the opportunity to do something good while doing something good for themselves by getting outside, getting some fresh air, exercising, all while adhering to the social distancing policies.”
At the Bourque Family Foundation, this struggle is all too understood. On Wednesday evening, the Foundation was scheduled to have its annual Gala that brings in a large portion of revenue for the year meant to go towards Pete Frates’ mission of supporting ALS care & research. “With what we’re going through right now, we’re just holding tight. Everybody’s in the same boat,” Ray Bourque explains. Yet with this unique opportunity, Ray says he’s been excited to get outside and have the opportunity to bring support back to their foundation- and yes, Ray himself participated! “We’re challenging everybody to get out there and have a bike ride, walk a mile, run a mile-walk 5 miles!” He and his wife, Ray said, had been walking three to five miles a day and are more than ready to get out there of course wearing a custom-made Boston Bruins mask!
Yet while they may have different missions, the overall message that was resonated throughout talks with both Hallie and Ray remained the same in support of all the charities benefitting from the #SocialDistanceDash. “Regardless of who you’re gonna donate to, just be active and get involved. A small donation goes a long way.”
To watch the full video from the #SocialDistanceDash, see below. Don’t forget to Like & Subscribe on Youtube to keep up with my latest content!
Who’s up for a challenge you can do from your couch?! Everyone? Okay, good.
Let’s start by introducing you to David, the Founder of DocPPE that launched an incredible new startup in response to the need of extra masks not only on our front lines, but in our communities. A software developer for 20 years who has founded his own companies and attended law school, David was inspired by his wife who witnessed the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) herself working as a physician at Boston Children’s Hospital. As she continuously shared her concerns, David being an entrepreneur himself felt compelled to do something.
“From start to finish, we’ve been doing this for four weeks. I had the first design done in 4 days, tested within five.” David’s team, which consists of several family members, friends & manufacturers, also includes his wife: she donated her two weeks’ vacation time to devote it instead to getting the necessary supplies out as quickly as possible. “We’re working night and day to get these things out,” he explains. “My wife is a great woman and donated her vacation time to make masks. I don’t know how you get much better than that, to be honest.”
An American-made product with a facility right at home in Boston, David says he’s been taking calls constantly. “It’s crazy because we have a live chat on the site so it comes to me directly. I’m the one who answers, I’m the one who’s there and people are like: Are you real? Ae you in America? Is this a real thing?” The skepticism, he says, is understood. “Because everybody buys this stuff online and they’re not getting it, they want that assurance that they’re actually going to get what they pay for.” To ease concerns, David has taken to giving out his personal cell phone number. “We’re for the people, by the people.”
So, what’s this challenge we’re talking about? If you are able to donate anything from $5-$500 (of course, more is always welcomed!), David will match that donation of masks to go to either front line workers or Navajo Nation, who do not have access to PPE. “If you donate 500, we’ll match it with another 500. When friends start sharing with friends making this a competition to get it to healthcare workers on the front lines.” The response so far, he says, has been overwhelming as they have partnered with Blue Sky Entertainment to get well-known athletes like Andrew Raycroft & Charlie Coyle to show their support. “Everybody’s starting to come out and they want to help. It’s so nice to see the communities, the personalities and different celebrities come out and want to help people.”
So far, DocPPE has been able to donate supplies to Boston hospitals such as South Shore, Beth Israel, and Mass General Hospital. Want to join in and help? Donate here and challenge a friend to do the same!: https://docppe.com/donations/
CAPE COD, MA- With all of the heartwarming stories coming to the forefront these days, it’s not rare for me to tear up a time or two at hearing how so many local heroes are stepping up to help their neighbors. It is, however, rare for me to do so several times in just one call. That’s what happened when I spoke with Shari, “Chief Executive Mermaid” behind Mermaids on Cape Cod. Getting to know Shari over the years as we bumped into each other at local festivals, the “Mermaid Truck” gal always had the cutest setup of all the vendors. Her mobile truck, set up so anyone could hop on and shop great local outfits, jewelry and accessories always had me leaving with something!
Yet in talking with her this week, I saw another side of Shari I had never seen before. Instead of being her laughing, contagiously bubbly self, she was heartbroken for her fellow artists and fiercely determined to make waves of change. “In March, I was at the Boston Flower Show and they were closing it and packing up due to the virus. They had said they weren’t going to close, but turnout was so low and things were just starting to happen, so they had to. Everybody was crying and having a tough time, and that’s not usually what the vibe is there. It was very dark and sad, and I couldn’t fathom what this would be like,” she explained. “The woman next to me looked at all her stuff and realized she didn’t have another event to go for four months, and all of her creations that she’d worked so hard on were perishable. We looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do?’ and I said, ‘I’m going to figure this out.’
After going home and racking her brain of how she could help those that just lost their entire livelihood all night, Shari said she remembers seeing the sun rise the next morning was suddenly inspired. “I saw sunrise with the trees and just said to myself, ‘I need to rise up.’ I started drawing rough waves, the sun rising up, the waves rising up, and realized in this distressing time we need to create some joy and rise up together.” After watching many of the funds created for such smaller local artists going to larger corporations, Shari knew what she had to do. “I’m going to raise some money. And it’s not going to be for big companies or big organizations.”
Quickly, Shari began reaching out to local organizations to guide her in her mission and fellow artists responded. “Steve at Cape Cod Textile, he came in and said, ‘Let me design something and if you sell them, I’ll just give them to you so all the money can go where it needs to.’ The Cape Cod design was him.” Pointing to a long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt in our Zoom call (which she’d tied together to hold hands and I’m not crying, you’re crying), she explained that the 15 stars on the flag design were placed to represent each of the towns on Cape Cod where in each, local artists reside. How have the sales been?
“I’ve cried a lot in gratitude,” Shari admits. “We’re shipping 500 pieces a week, which is stressful as well as keeping my business afloat working till 10-11pm at night and waking up at 7am. But with every package, I say thank you to the customer and thank you to God.” The humble artists refuses to take most of the credit, however. “This is from our community, your community, not us. The money is just from them,” she explains of how the funds from each purchase go directly towards local food banks in Sandwich & along the South Shore. “$500 keeps the food pantry alive for the community. If you give them $1, they can go to the Boston Food Bank and get 20 cans of corns to stock the shelves here. So far, we donated $1000.”
Want to help be part of the effort and grab some custom-made Rise Up swag yourself? Visit the Mermaids on Cape Cod website at https://www.mermaidsoncapecod.com/ and check out Shari’s full video interview below.
BOSTON- When Shop The Cue owner Lindsay Reilly watched a heartbreaking video of a New York nurse taking off her mask to reveal raw and bleeding her ears after wearing protective equipment all day long, she knew she had to do something to help. As Reilly saw the nurse fashion a homemade headband after a long, 12 hour shift, she had one thought. “There was a nurse spending their time when they get home after a 12 hour shift to put buttons on a headband to solve their problems. We should be able to do that, especially since I had a sewing background and a sewing machine,” explains Reilly.
Quickly, Reilly and her team at Shop The Cue got to work on headbands that could be used to protect the ears of those wearing masks by holding them together with buttons. “We had such a powerful network platform, I just asked myself: How can we use that to make a difference in the most impactful way with these headbands?” Once the word of her good work got out, the response grew overwhelmingly as nearly 600 orders flew in within a matter of days. Despite the positive reaction, this meant a bit of a struggle for Reilly. “I’d order fabric or buttons and it wasn’t coming as expected so the need got bigger. We got bombarded with orders,” she explains. It didn’t take long for the shop owner to realize she was going to need an extra hand in getting them together. “There was no way we could keep up.”
As a small business, Lindsay says it’s been a whole new ball game working in a situation where the products are newly developed and an immediate need. “Normally, you develop a product, market it, produce it and we have time to do that. In this case, one of my girls is going through all of the emails of people who are really in crucial need of these.” Watching the order numbers go up as their material stock and the ability to fulfill orders quickly went down, Shop The Cue’s network made a plea for help on social media that brought in an outpouring of support from the community. “Everyone in the community reached out, small businesses or friendly neighbors or Cue supporters to help build kits. We created kits for people to pick up on the curbside to help sew them within a matter of days.” One gentleman named Chris of Custom Sports Sleeves in Worcester approached Lindsay and her team with a generous offer that would help her not only reach her goal to fill current orders, but keep production going strong for the new ones flowing in. “He said ‘Hey, I have the material, we’re local and we can do this for you in a day. What do you think?’ Immediately I just said ‘You are an angel, and yes!'” Other businesses like Christa Hagearty of Dependable Cleaners and a local salon owner in Quincy also stepped up to help out. “It’s really the small businesses that are coming together, and that’s where the impact that’s being made the most.”
Looking closely at every order coming in, she began to notice urgent requests for headbands are now coming from outside the healthcare field as well. “The last few days, I would say we’re noticing that it’s not just the nurses. We’re having people from police stations, a local bakery who needed headbands baking all week for Easter weekend, we have one restaurant that just bought 50 of them because workers for takeout are wearing the masks as well.”
Yet the response from those that have received their headbands reminds her every day that their hard work is worth every minute. “They send us before and afters of their ears of how much it was helping them, how they love seeing the small businesses come together. It’s the little things, and being a small business I can see if there is any sort of problem and fix it that day.” The only problem Lindsay says she’s encountered: trying to get to everyone as quickly as she can, without those in the most dire need paying a dime. “We’ve had to do completed -or not completed-at least 2,000 headbands just after week one,” she explained. “We have a fund that people donated to so nurses don’t spend a dollar, but if you’re reaching out to buy one for a friend or family member you can do that as well.”
Are you or is someone you love in need of a headband? Head on over to Shop The Cue to get yours or request one for a front-line worker here: https://shopthecue.com/collections/giveback
It’s the reason why places like Hallmark make so much money: a simple card is a quick and easy way to say everything from I love you, to happy birthday, or even just a ‘Hey, I’m thinking of you.’ The thing we forget from time to time as we rush between soccer practices and parties or back and forth to the grocery store for toilet paper is that ultimately, it’s the thought that counts. Which is why I’m encouraging you to grab whatever you have on hand regardless of if that is a stack of blank cards, construction paper and markers, the whole family or a friend over FaceTime to get started on making someone’s day just a little bit brighter.
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we all know that people around the world are struggling in many different ways. At the Miss Pink Organization, they understand the everyday struggle of those who have had or are currently battling cancer to both avoid the virus at all costs to protect their weakened immune systems while still receiving chemotherapy treatments. “Right now, anybody going to a hospital to have chemotherapy or anything relating to fighting cancer- you’re going in by yourself. Most of the time that’s a 5, 6, 7, 8 hour day hooked up to a machine. At this point, I don’t even know if they’re letting them walk around in the hospital. They’re just there with nobody to hold their hand, nobody to talk to,” says Fabianna Marie, Director of Pink Warrior Relations & Miss Pink 2017 who is a survivor herself. What originally started as an idea to set up a team to FaceTime the warriors blossomed into a major mission: collecting handwritten cards from as many people as possible to help bring a smile to those going through treatment. Fabianna told me about one of the warriors she recently spoke to, and why she believes these cards will make such a big impact. “She’s 28 years old with a one year old child. When she was going for her infusion she was all alone. For her, me FaceTiming helped- it just made the difference between sitting there and feeling so bad for yourself hooked up to a machine where you know you’re going to be sick afterwards and then let’s put the pandemic on top of it all.”
The pandemic has added a never-before-seen level of stress for many of the warriors Fabianna has gotten to know through the Miss Pink organization, including herself. “When someone is immunocompromised, it changes everything,” she explains. “You don’t look immunocompromised on the outside, so nobody understands that I’m still going through it if I go outside the house. It’s a huge deal to stay home and be proactive with your own health when lot of people aren’t worried that .” Her own family has had some very difficult decisions to make in recent weeks. “My husband has been a Boston foreman on a construction site, and was the only one going outside the house. His major concern was, nobody else could bring (the virus) into our home other than him. So for him, it was the push and pull of: Do I go to my job and make money for my family, or do I stay home and take that worry off our plate? Until the government put that ban into place, he had planned to tell his boss that he would prefer to be laid off. He was scared,” she admits. Yet through this struggle, Fabianna is well aware that she is far from alone. “Anybody that’s going through that, we’re all scared. There is no other way to put it because we don’t know about tomorrow. We don’t know where this is going at this point.”
HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: There IS something you can do about it! Just making a card with sweet notes of encouragement can bring a moment of peace to those who need it most. It’s a simple action that can not only help you pass the time during your quarantine (BIG SHOUT OUT TO YOU if you are staying home to protect others!!!!) but also serve as a fun activity to do with the kids, your significant other, or your best friends over video chat. If you have a bit extra to spare, you can even go the extra mile of chipping in a gas or grocery card for your warriors to help them make it through this time financially as well.
To see mine, check out the video I made below! (Please be kind as I test out a new editing tool this week working solely from my smartphone.):
More about The Miss Pink Organization: Our mission is to relieve stress of the financial burden that can occur during cancer treatment. This can be due to leave of absence from work, lost income or fixed income. We offer support through meals, childcare, cleaning services, gas and grocery cards, and other special circumstances that can interrupt the effectiveness of treatment on a case by case basis.
FRAMINGHAM- “Ladies first,” my oh-so-gentlemanly husband said with a smile as we stepped up to the edge of the pool at Exhibit A Brewery in Framingham. A frigid 46 degrees outside, there are very few reasons why I might be about to jump into a pool filled with cold water. Yet watching so many others go before me and knowing the reason why we were all there, I had put on my (pink) big girl leggings prepared to make a splash…literally!
Raising one hand and holding my nose, I jumped in knowing the funds that each team raised at the day’s Polar Plunge Challenge were going to benefit the Special Olympics of Massachusetts. It’s a cause that is close to the heart for Kelsey Roth, General Manager of Exhibit A Brewing in Framingham, who explained how he began volunteering with the organization just last year at their summer games and was inspired to bring the Polar Plunge Challenge to his own backyard. “I was just blown away by what they do to help people with intellectual disabilities and create such a great environment for them. So often, people who have intellectual disabilities are always focused on the things they CAN’T do. But for the time that they’re out there doing these activities, it’s really focused on what they CAN do that day and for those people, it’s a life changing moment.”
Thanks to the combined efforts Kelsey, Exhibit A’s Head Brewer Matt Steinberg and just over 50 fellow plungers, Fundraising and Events Coordinator for the Special Olympics Meghan O’Neil reported $8,500 was raised. “This goes towards the venues, athletes’ uniforms, equipment, lift tickets for skiers, things like that,” she explained. “This helps them focus on competing and having fun and meeting new people, so we’re really excited for the support that comes from the community.”
Also contributing to the plunge in a more unique way was a company called The Spa Wagon, a mobile sauna with an inside temperature of 190 degrees. As someone who is notoriously known for always being cold (I will always be #teamsummer), this caught my attention INSTANTLY and I just had to learn more about the fact that yes, you can actually have your own personal sauna brought virtually anywhere a truck & trailer could fit. “Originally, we’re from the Ukraine and it’s part of our culture since we were kids to go to saunas and try to get some quality heat. That’s one of the things that we were missing here, so we try to bring that culture here and give it to the public,” says Klim Gotovkin, who donated part of the day’s proceeds directly to Special Olympics MA. Of course, I had to go inside myself and check it out-and it did not disappoint! With steam billowing out each time you opened the door, it was a perfect way for those dressed for summer to get some much-needed warmth after the chilly dip.
Outside, the beer garden featured Exhibit A crowd favorites like the Cat’s Meow, Demo Tapes, and Goody Two Shoes. Inside, more craft options were on tap to pair with food from local restaurants to keep plungers warm (like the delicious Shepherd’s Pie made by Red Heat Tavern that I may or may not have had several mini-cups of. You know, because they’re mini, so no calories, right?!). The brewery’s presentation didn’t disappoint: those who participated in the challenge were invited to dine under perfectly hung string lights at a buffet set up alongside the giant tanks and canning line to make for a unique dining experience. Bummed you missed out? Not to worry-Exhibit A is known for hosting several shindigs throughout the year in the same setting, so just keep an eye on their website for the next upcoming event.
Want to see for yourself how much fun you can have giving back at their next event? Check out my vlog post below-don’t forget to hit SUBSCRIBE while you’re there! 🙂 To join in the next plunge, sign up for the next Special Olympics MA Polar Plunge on their website at: https://www.specialolympicsma.org/events/fundraising-events/polar-plunge/