Blog for Kids Are Heroes

Posted by Gabe on June 29, 2009 under Kids are Heroes | 7 Comments to Read

Kids Are HeroesYou might have noticed I have an image on my sidebar that links to Kids Are Heroes.  This gave me an idea.  I have had many requests for guest posting and/or to have people write about what we are doing with our web site.  It seems natural that I offer the same capability to my colleagues as I have here.  So, all you need do then is copy the HTML code shown below and put it at the end of your sidebar.  The image itself is 134×71 pixels.  If you eliminate the ‘sm’ towards the end of the jpg file name, you will get one that is 267×142.

If you copy this code to your blog, please let us know in the comments section so I can tweet about it.  If you write a blog post and include the logo, I will not only tweet about it but I will add the post to our press box!  Thanks for helping us get the word out about Kids Are Heroes!

<p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.kidsareheroes.com"
target="_blank">
<img src="http://kidsareheroes.com/linkpics/kahlinkpicsm.jpg"
border="0" alt="Kids Are Heroes"></a></p>

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Posted by Gabe on June 23, 2009 under Social Media, Twitter | 17 Comments to Read

Don't steal that post!I recently wrote a post, “To Follow or Not to Follow” that yielded incredible results (in my world) in terms of retweets and comments.  When I wrote it I had no idea it would get that much attention.  I figured then I had the key to “How to Write a Popular Blog Post”, (soon to be on the best-seller list),  so I wrote, “Is Twitter a Time Suck?“.  I honestly thought this would do even better because of all the input from other people, but I was wrong.  It garnered a few comments but not nearly as many as the former mention.  So I will not be making my submission to Doubleday just yet.  Today I figured, why not ask my Twitter colleagues what they would like me to blog about? That might prove interesting.  I was a bit uncomfortable posing the question because in my eyes it is a bit presumptuous (like they care what I write anyway) but I pushed on.  I received a thoughtful reply from @AmyShropshire: “How about a post on how to properly credit people on Twitter.  Seems timely after what happened to your blog post.”  “Good one”, I thought.  Whether my colleagues are interested or not it should be talked about.

What Amy is referring to is Rule #7 from “Why I Blocked You” from the aforementioned post on followers: “I blocked you because I just discovered that you wrote a blog post a week later that was titled the same as mine and paraphrased my thoughts without any credit. “  This did indeed happen to me. Can I prove it was copied? No – that’s because it wasn’t, word for word anyway.  The title was the same, the blog post came out a week later (after mine had gotten lots of recognition) and many of the concepts were the same as mine only abbreviated.  They were shortened because we are all told that people who read blogs don’t actually like to read so we are supposed to make things short. (As you can see I don’t necessarily believe that.) And that person was one of my followers.  Now can I prove he did anything?  No.  After all it could have been just a coincidence, right?

The point of this post is not to “out” anyone, but to remind us all to give proper credit if an idea is spawned from another post, web site or tweet.  People who plagiarize are going to continue to do it and wouldn’t even read this post, so I know I won’t reach them.   We simply want to remind people who might not have even thought of it to give credit to the person who wrote the material that influenced you or that you have used.  In fact, it is best to get permission if you copy something directly from someone else’s blog, but at minimum tell people where you got it from.  The ironic thing is that my post that was suspiciously reworked somewhere else originally gave that very person credit for partially influencing me to write that post.

If you don’t believe things are stolen from blog posts, then you haven’t seen what happened to Danielle (@extraordmommy).  She has a friend who lives in the Czech Republic who happened to pass by a new grocery store that had a life-size picture of Danielle and her family plastered right in their window!  It was an ad for the store, done without their knowledge or permission.  (Read the entire post here.)  That picture originated from her blog.  So the opposite side of this coin tells us that we all should be protecting our materials more efficiently.

I’m also sure that the photographers out there would like me to make certain you are not stealing pictures for your blog posts.  I get most of mine from I-Stock – I pay a small fee to use each one.  It really doesn’t cost that much and it can really add to the flavor of the post you have written.

Now I have also discovered that other people have “pinched” the logo from our Kids Are Heroes web site and used it on their blog.  They use material from our web site, without asking permission.  I haven’t gone after them because they write very favorably about us and provide a link to our web site.  Having said that, most of them contact me to ask permission before they do it.

When I write I try to include references to as many other people as I can.  After all, why would someone want to hear only my thoughts when I can provide those of others as well?  This also brings these other people back into the conversation which makes blog posts and comments on them more interesting.  So it is only beneficial that you give credit where credit is due, even if it is just for the inspiration.  Thanks, Amy!

If you have any, kindly share your horror stories in the comments section.

Update: 6/24/09.  As I thought about this post and all the attention it is getting early on I thought about what can one do to protect your material.   I admittedly know nothing about this subject.  I also wondered how would I know if people were copying me?  So I Googled a good portion of a sentence in the followers piece and came up with just one result – mine.  My guess is that most plagiarism would go undiscovered because people don’t have the time  to be that vigilant because it assumes people would even want to steal their stuff, of which many are not convinced (as I am not).  Also like me, they wouldn’t know how to go about finding copied pieces other than by simple googling.  So, if most people are like me, then their blog posts are very vulnerable to plagiarism.  With the amount of people blogging I would also guess that many are not even being read let alone stolen.  But then we refer back to Danielle’s case – it does happen indeed.

So in an attempt to offer everyone something on how to protect your material, I bellied up to the Google bar and found this: “Protect Your Blog and Counter Copyright Thefts” a piece by @tibipuiu.  He prefaces his post by providing a disclaimer which I respect and also repeat – as I mentioned I know little about the subject. Hopefully I will never need to become an expert on it.

Also just in is a wonderful and informative comment from one of my favorite tweeters Kyra (@milogirly) that has some great detail on how to detect (and deal with) plagiarism.  Thanks so much for offering this kind of help to everyone, Kyra!

And as a final note Cory (@corynhughes) sent me a link to a timely post about the editor of Wired getting outed yesterday for plagiarism regarding his book about how content should be free. Fabulous! 

Is Twitter a “Time Suck”?

Posted by Gabe on June 18, 2009 under Social Media, Twitter | 13 Comments to Read

I Have No Time for Twitter!This subject is dear to me as evidenced by the fact that this is the second post I have written about it.  When I talk to people lately the conversation invariably drifts towards Twitter.  I must admit it is me doing the driving here because I feel I am sitting on a gold mine and want to share it with others. “Hah! I have no time for something like that!” is a common response I get.  I look back at them dumbfounded wondering how they can discard something so quickly.  I have also discovered that my reactions to that statement have not been admirable.  I tend to get flustered, trying to recount all the ways that it has helped me but the longer I do it I sense that my monologue is falling on deaf ears.  So I decided I would just leave the subject alone.

Then my brother called me the other day.  We discussed his recent trip to Uganda with an organization called Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW).  As an ambassador for the group he is tasked to help market their cause to others.  Of course he knew about our recent PitchTV win, a contest conducted by Sir Richard Branson, so he asked me if I thought it would benefit SCAW to send in a pitch.  This is a long shot and in my eyes not the best use of their time and resources if all they are trying to do is expand awareness about their organization.  I told him, “Not sure about that, but I would highly recommend that they use Twitter.”  His immediate reaction was, “Oh – they would never have any time for that!”  As usual my blood pressure started rising and I was off talking about how it has helped Kids Are Heroes immensely.  I was making some inroads with him but hadn’t convinced him till I told him that the Ryan’s Well Foundation is using it. (Isn’t that always the case?)  After our long discussion he decided to bring it up to the powers that be.  He did just that and the response was they “hadn’t taken Twitter seriously up to this point” but they would take another look into it. 

Now I am not calling out SCAW for not taking Twitter seriously.  All most people hear about are the politicians using it as a mouthpiece and Ashton Kutcher ranting on about something or other.  I honestly believe Twitter must be experienced before its value can be determined.  As a matter of fact, Twitter in and of itself has no intrinsic value.  The value is realized by the effective use of Twitter.   However, the point of this exercise for me is to see if there is a better way to get the point across.  So I posted this question to my Twitter colleagues: “If you are trying to convince someone to use Twitter but they say they have no time, what is your response?” I learned a number of lessons from putting this question out there.

I think the biggest lesson I learned is that not everyone, including people already using Twitter, sees Twitter as such a valuable resource as I do.  I started using it in December of 2008 with a stated goal that I wanted to get as much exposure for Kids Are Heroes as I possibly could.   My results have been no less than incredible.  The last time I wrote about this subject @BethSchillaci reminded me that one should indeed have a goal when embarking onto social media platforms in order to make sure time is used efficiently and expectations are set.  This is very true. To quote @JohnHaydon (again) about the value of Twitter: “The focus should be on “How can I use this tool to generate value” and not “What does this stupid Twitter thing do?”

I also learned (hopefully) that I should temper myself.  Yes I have gotten much out of my use of Twitter, but this will not be the case with everyone.  I also learned that after you beat your head against the wall so many times, that ends up being a time waster in and of itself.

So I wanted to share some snippets of what people said in response to my question.  If you were not quoted here and/or didn’t answer the question yet, feel free to answer it in a comment.

Q: If you were trying to convince someone to use Twitter but they said they have no time, what would your response be?

@mccmarianne: “I say too bad for them they are missing out!”
@emilyg23: “You can even text it in from your phone… super easy & quick.”
@LibraFitnessAus: “Twitter is a time suck for me, sometimes. I advise them to schedule times of day to check it.”  When I asked her to clarify “time suck” she said that sometimes she stays on longer than is necessary, but “In 5 minutes I get a 90% return, good information and interaction (my @replies, DMs, favs). ”
@AmyShropshire: “Twitter’s like a quick phone call. Stop by, say hello. Don’t need to be on all the time to connect.”
@inkcanada: “My response is, it saves time. Short bursts to all friends live at once is faster than hoping they all open FB or mail at same time, in time :).”
@kmog216: “If you have time to text you can tweet…”
@judithsoldyess: “Replace something you are already doing that doesn’t bring much value, and try Twitter instead.”
@turtlelady81: “I would say, “understood.” Twitter DOES take alot of time. . . my husband reminds me constantly.”
@paulsteinbrueck:  “Show how twitter is working for you and how much of your time it takes. Let them decide. IMO Twitter isn’t for everyone. (shocking!)”
@mpt2011: “Twitter DOES take up a lot of time. Your friends are right to worry.”
@hotspringer: “No time to Tweet? I figure they’re like me: addicted. Once they start, they have trouble stopping. Like now. Gotta go.”
@joshuadenney: “Share one insight, share someone else’s, add perspective to a discussion, follow/follow back interesting people-all this in just 15 minutes a day.”
@ApothecaryJeri: “You can’t afford NOT to spend a little time on the most talked about and influencial media today.”
@chicagocarless: “Businesses saying they have no time for social media in 2009? It’s like saying you have no time to pick up your office phone.”

To be fair, I had to add my own newly formatted short answer:

@KidsAreHeroes: “How much time do you spend marketing now?  How well is it working? Being on Twitter really doesn’t take much time at all. Your biggest challenge will be to stay off of it after you discover how productive its use can be – and it’s FREE!”

Knowing my friend @JohnHaydon would have an eloquent answer, I asked him specifically. Since he knew I originally directed this at a non-profit his response was: “Could you make time if you knew you could expand your impact and fundraising?”

All excellent and valid answers, and I thank everyone for chiming in.  I was offered another gem from @ApothecaryJeri that stuck with me: “I don’t try convincing people anymore to do anything~I offer, plant a seed, tell them if they want more info they know where I am.”  I hope to go by this mantra from now on…

So, if I find myself in this discussion again with someone who has never been on Twitter, I will point them to this post and let them start to decide if Twitter is for them and if they have time for it.  I hope that they will see that the proof is in the pudding – that this blog post was written from the responses I have received on Twitter.  It took me all of 30 seconds to post the questions – I think I did it two or three times – and look what we all have learned.

In the interest of full disclosure, I decided to reveal the replies I have received on Twitter regarding this post.  The title asks a slightly different question, which I think is equally as important: Is Twitter a ‘Time Suck’?

@PediatricSafety: (after having read the tweet from FutureTweets): “Beyond a time suck…says the person talking to you at 2am :)”
@TalkStrategyNFP: “Yes, it is!! I’m trying to figure out how to be effective on Twitter without spending hours!!”
@KevinKopp: “No more than Facebook, yet MUCH more useful. ”
@nina0606: “It’s only so if you don’t know how to use it, which your blog helped me do! Understanding it is key.”
@FamilyEducation: “Like any tool, Twitter’s all in how you use it. It’s not inherently useful or useless, efficient or time-sucking.”
@SarahSonging: “Like any other techno-tool, Twitter can be used to your advantage or end up wasting your time. Use your head. :)”
@fentonslee: “If it is *just* a time suck, you are doing it wrong.”
@mjsweir: “It can be both. It depends on how you use it! I have learned so much about ed from Twitter that the pros outweigh the cons!”
@hiannie: (Our most unique response to date) “I respond to this with a song: JB Walker – You’re No One If You’re Not On Twitter…” ♫ http://blip.fm/~8nteb

I will add more as I receive them.

Three Great Kids

Posted by Gabe on June 13, 2009 under Kids are Heroes | Be the First to Comment

Jason, Garrett and Damon

Jason, Garrett and Damon

This morning was no different than any Saturday morning – I got up, fed the dogs, got my coffee and went to my office to check my Twitter messages and read the paper.  Living in a relatively rural area means that there is always a good chance that the local paper is going to have a story about kids doing great things.  Today was no exception.  Right on the first page of the Local section was a headline that read: “Elementary school students save lives with bake sales”.  After reading further I discovered that Garrett (10), Damon (10) and Jason (8) were holding a bake sale in a nearby town to support an organization called “Share Our Strength“, a group that fights child hunger in America.  The article even mentioned where and when the bake sale was to occur, which happened to be this morning from 8AM till noon.  MaryMargaret had a friend who slept over last night and their plans were to go to the pool, but we agreed we would first take a side trip to meet these kids and support their efforts.

We arrived at the Green Valley Pharmacy to see a crowd of people clamoring for cookies, cupcakes and moon pies.  I addressed a woman who appeared to be involved.  I asked her if she was Garrett’s mother.   She said that she was not Garrett’s mom, but she was the mother of Damon and Jason.  I introduced myself and said to her, “… and this is my daughter MaryMargaret-” and before I could get another word out she said, “Oh! You are from Kids Are Heroes! I have been reading in the papers about you and have actually been on your web site.  I recognized MaryMargaret’s name!”  Wow!! This was the first time that this has happened to us. Usually I have to explain the whole thing to a parent thinking that all the while I am doing so the parent is wondering who this crazy person is spouting off in front of them.  She immediately called over Garrett’s mom and introduced us.  Then she brought over the three wonderful kids who were behind this whole operation and introduced them.  As Ms. Halvis was explaining to the kids why we were there she teared up and had difficulty getting the words out.  This told me we had definitely made the right decision to come.  I am a sucker for emotion, because it simply validates how much someone actually cares.

After I speak to a parent asking them to nominate their child, I am never guaranteed that they will follow through.  We all know how chaotic family life can be and even with the best of intentions certain things are forgotten.  I really hope to be featuring these three kids very soon. 

To read the full Frederick News-Post article about what these boys are doing, click here.

Update 12/12/09: Although the moms were so taken with our wanting their kids to be featured on our site, they never followed through. Maybe they just lost track of things.  I am hoping someone finds this post and nudges the parents. We would still love to feature them on our site.

To Follow or Not to Follow

Posted by Gabe on June 11, 2009 under Social Media, Twitter, Twitter for Beginners | 72 Comments to Read

To Follow or Not to FollowEvery once in a while when I think of it I like to solicit questions from my Twitter colleagues to see if there is any way to help the newer signups out there.  I put out the call this morning and among others received this question: “What if I don’t follow back followers? Is it a contest to have the most? How can I ever read all those tweets?“  My answer is clearly that you do not have to follow back everyone that follows you.  For some it is a contest, but for most it’s about connecting with people.  And how do you keep track of all of them? The answer is that eventually if you follow enough people there is no way that you can.  You end up with Tweetdeck or some such application that can help manage all the people that you follow.

Then there was a tweet pointing to a post about annoying DMs that come with spammy links.  The writer mentioned that there should be no Twitter rules, but that he hates it when people DM these links after a follow (and so do I).

I have written a few posts on Twitter followers, but all this made me think of a new approach.  Yes, there should be no Twitter rules, but I have some that I follow myself. I once came across a profile that said that this person doesn’t follow back if 1) There are few updates, 2) There is no conversation in their Twitter stream and 3) The person follows more than 600 people.  Now I got past #1 and #2, but what about #3?  According to her profile she wouldn’t follow me back just because I follow a lot of people. Hey, I’m a nice guy – she might be missing out on something.  Then I came to the conclusion that these are her rules and she has every right to stick by them.  As a matter of fact, I was very impressed with her putting them on display.  I clicked the Follow button anyway, with the hopes that she would bend her own rules a little.

So, I am putting my own personal rules or reasons out there for everyone to see – feel free to pick them apart, agree or whatever. I reserve the right to deviate from them from time to time – after all, they do belong to me. ;)

Why I Didn’t Follow You Back…
1) Because you are a dude who wears no shirt in your avatar.  No good reason – just don’t do it.
2) Because you have no (or very few) updates – especially if you are following a bunch of people.  How can I tell whether I am interested if there’s no substance?
3) Because you didn’t fill out your profile, or said you were from the “Planet Earth”, “Cyberspace” or “Everywhere”. Where you are from and what your passions are interest me.
4) Because you do not converse with others. If I see no @ signs in your stream it means in my mind that you don’t “get” what Twitter can do for you and you just want to hear yourself talk.
5) Because you have an animated GIF as an avatar – one with blinking sunglasses or animals jumping around.  Or also if you orient your picture sideways or upside down.  Too much work for me to talk to you face to face.  Your efforts to attract undue attention to yourself have backfired at least in my case.
6) Because all I see in your Twitter stream are retweets.  Although it is very generous to retweet, I am looking for people who can also think for themselves.
7) Because most or all of your posts send out the link to your web site.
8) Because you follow WAY more people than follow you.  Looks like you are spamming.
9) Because WAY more people follow you than those that you follow. Either you think you are a celebrity or you just want to hear yourself talk.
10) Because your profile pic is not updated, you have one tweet with a link, no profile…Really? Are you actually convinced that is an effective marketing method?
11) You have 10,000 followers and only 5 updates.  Your tweets aren’t that good!
12) Because your color scheme makes it so difficult that I can hardly read your profile and/or Twitter stream. Light pink on white and dark gray on black just doesn’t work, people!
13) Because you take the “What are you doing?” question literally and all I see are short posts on what you do throughout the day. Get over yourself.
14) Because your avatar is of a female chest shot in a bikini and you are going to show me how to make money filling out surveys all day. Really??
15) Because you tweet only sporadically – maybe once a week or so. How can I have a conversation with you?
16) Because you protect your updates and your profile is either missing or vague.
17) Because your avatar is disturbing. You got through every other criteria – you are social, profile is filled out, you are generous – I couldn’t imagine having to look at that avatar all the time.
18) Because I read in your profile a tweet that said “Get 10,000 followers easy using blah blah blah.”  Your follower count: 147.  Wow!!
19) Because your profile read “This is NOT SPAM!”  If it takes that much of an argument then I guess it is.

Why I Unfollowed You…
1) Because you sent me a link of how I can get 16,000 followers on Twitter in 90 days.
2) Because you used profanity in your tweet.  (I have a 10-year-old who is always looking over my shoulder.)
3) Because you stopped using Twitter.  If you haven’t tweeted in a month that tells me you gave up.
4) Because you stepped over the line.  You retweeted my tweet and I thanked you – then you asked me to retweet something of yours. That wasn’t cool.
5) Because you keep posting about how great you are and how we should see your web site.
6) Because you didn’t respond to my @replies.  I see that you are still tweeting but after several attempts to connect with you I have received no response.  No hard feelings – guess you are just not that in to me.
7) Because your posts are too much of a religious nature. I have nothing against religion but I personally don’t feel Twitter is the place to convert people. Let’s make a deal.  You don’t try and convert me to your religion and I won’t try to convert you to mine.
8) Because you clogged my Twitter stream with too many posts in a row – either repeating yourself or sending out multiple links. I tolerate that to a point but be careful with it.
9) Because I saw the tweet “RT @garymcaffrey blah blah blah” in your Twitter stream about a pyramid scheme to get more followers. It benefits him more than anyone and you just damaged your own reputation by using it.
10) Because you keep begging for RTs, votes and/or followers.  Believe me – it is great that you passed 100 followers but you are one of the very few who cares.  The followers will come naturally.  The RT’s will too as long as your tweets are interesting.
11) Because you asked me to join your mafia or be your spymaster.  These are two games going around Twitter.  If you are using Twitter to play games then you really don’t get what it can do for you.
12) Because you sent me an auto-dm with a spammy link and asked me to retweet it. WHAT?!?
13) Ok let me get this straight. I followed you, then you auto-DM’ed me back with: “I just gave you peace and happiness” plus a spammy link. If that wasn’t enough you added “You should send me a gift back.” Here’s my gift: UNFOLLOW.
14) So Donald Trump is going to make us all millionaires and you want to be the 500th person to tell me about it. You’re fired.
15) You sent me an @reply about how great a tweep I am. Now I normally would thank you for this, except I noticed you aren’t even following me. My reputation must be really awesome.  I see in your twitter stream that there are thousands of other great tweeps like me.  Do you really spend your day typing that stuff in??
16) You sent a #followfriday to me and others which was nice. What’s that I see? A spammy link in the middle? We are not stupid, spammers!

Why I Blocked You…
1) Because we have no relationship and you @replied to me with a link to your spam. Seriously??
2) Because your avatar and/or posts are pornographic or link to porn. Or if you have the word “Horny” in your Twitter ID.
3) Because your avatar is a pretty girl, your ID is cryptic, you are following a bunch of people and you have only one tweet that links to your spam.
4) Because you @replied to me asking me to do something that benefits you when we have no relationship.
5) Because you sent more than one direct message to me asking me to do the same thing.  If I didn’t act on your request the first time, leave it alone. I get so many requests and can only do so much.
6) Because you followed and unfollowed me several times in the past 24 hours to try and get my attention – it worked – I blocked you.
7) Because I just discovered that you wrote a blog post a week later that was titled the same as mine and paraphrased my thoughts without any credit. (Happened to me regarding this post.)
8) Because you actually had the nerve to copy the text of someone else’s reply to me and and resend it with your spammy link attached to the end of it. Wow! I can’t wait to buy your junk!! Are you kidding me?
9) Because you @replied to me (and others) with the words “Free affiliate software…”

UPDATE: 06/14/10.: I have noticed that services like TwitIn and Huitter have now said that by providing a way to mass unfollow and/or follow they are violating Twitter’s new Terms of Service.  I have noticed that, thanks to this effort, I have been getting fewer (if any) porn bots following me lately. (Thanks Twitter!)  However the spammers will never give up — their new way to get at you is to reply to your inbox with their spam. I see this a lot which instantly triggers a “block and report for spam” from me.  So please be very careful how you address people for the first time.  A request to follow or retweet, without any history, could get you blocked.

Why I Followed You…
1) Because your profile is filled out with actual places, names and passions.
2) Because you have a good amount of updates that vary in substance.
3) Because your avatar is of yourself and you are smiling.
4) Because I see that you retweet, converse and also have thoughts of your own.
5) Because your tweets are (at least most times) interesting and informative.
6) Because I see we have a chance of connecting.
7) Because you promote others’ causes that interest you whether they be professional or non-profit.
8) Because you engage with other people.
9) Because you have a relatively even follower/following ratio.
10) Because you are not hard-selling everyone. You are promoting something but being social first is encouraging people to see what you do after they connect with you.
11) Because you left a thoughtful comment on one of my blog posts – because of that I looked you up and discovered you. I may have missed you when you followed me.
12) Because I studied your profile and your Twitter stream. You are a parent, an educator, a philanthropist or someone I think that might really enjoy our web site.
13) Because I can see through your tweets that you are trying to help other people – to lift them up – this is what Twitter is all about!
14) Because I feel that I can learn something from you.  Whether it be cultural or otherwise, Twitter can be used as a personal enrichment tool.
15) Because you don’t pretend to be someone you are not.
16) Because you engaged with me in a friendly (non-spammy) way.  Again, I might have missed you when you followed me.
17) Because you are a genuine person who supports others.

What many people don’t realize is that when you send a link to someone you’ve never contacted before, that is spam.  That same link, if sent after you have connected with someone, becomes interesting and might open up new doors.  Take the time to connect with people – you will be amazed at the results.

Ok – what did I miss? I’m sure quite a bit. If this is like my other Twitter posts I will be updating it from time to time as I learn more. Happy tweeting!

Just discovered this similar post by Lee Devlin. Might also be of help.

A Fantastic Organization

Posted by Gabe on June 10, 2009 under Family, Non-Profits | Be the First to Comment

Greg w/ Kids from Mityana

Greg w/ Kids from Mityana

I am going to deviate a bit from my normal type of post. My usual fare is dedicated to Kids Are Heroes, Twitter or something to do with our dogs and family.  This time I am going to discuss my brother Greg and one of the organizations he is associated with which is SCAW (Sleeping Children Around the World).

Quite a few years ago my brother had a life changing event which affected his entire outlook.  He had always been associated with social work as a vocation, but in the end that did not prove fulfilling to him.  He discovered his true passion, and that is traveling around the world to serve others.  For years beyond my count he has helped build homes for indigent people with Habitat for Humanity in every corner of the globe.  His latest venture is just coming to an end – in fact as I write this he is in the midst of a 15 hour flight home.  He visited Uganda where he helped SCAW deliver 6000 bedkits to needy children.

From the website of SCAW.org:

“Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) donations provide bedkits to children of any race and/or religion who will benefit the most; typically being located in underdeveloped and developing countries.  No portion of a bedkit donation is spent on administration — 100% reaches a needy child. Each *$35 donation (Canadian funds) provides a bedkit that consists of a mat or mattress, pillow, sheet, blanket, mosquito net (if applicable), clothes outfit, towel and school supplies. Bedkit contents vary from country to country depending upon local needs.  Since its founding by Murray and Margaret Dryden in 1970, SCAW has raised over $20 million to provide bedkits for over 900,000 children in 33 countries. In 2009 we will reach our millionth child.”

One of the keys here bears repeating: “No portion of a bedkit donation is spent on administration — 100% reaches a needy child.”  This is critical (and highly unusual) because people who donate to this organization can be assured that all their money is going to the desired purpose.

When Greg is at home he helps cancer patients by driving them to their treatments and connects with hospice patients in a way that can only be seen to be believed.  Due to his somewhat shy and introverted nature he would more than likely be mortified that this is being written about him, but I will just ask him to “get over it” because at the same time he is getting more exposure for his organizations.  He and I often discuss reasons for doing things such as this.  For him it is food that provides spiritual sustenance for him every time he does it.  He is not independently wealthy and must fund these trips himself.  As a matter of fact I don’t know how he manages.  He did tell me that if he had a sponsor he would make several more trips per year.  If this post touches you and you know of someone who is in the position to help fund some of his trips, please contact me here.

Many people have said very nice things to me about our efforts with Kids Are Heroes.  What makes Greg different is that he puts himself at risk each time he does this, traveling to places where diseases are more prevalent and where kidnappings are not uncommon.  This is something I do not believe I could ever do. Most everything I do is from the relatively luxurious comfort of my own home.  I would love nothing more than to be able to be the catalyst that helps him do more of what he is passionate about.  Greg is indeed a real hero.

UPDATE: 06/12/09 Well now Greg has returned home and has written a report of his experiences.  A very powerful read:

SCAW UGANDA DISTRIBUTION JUNE 2009
by Greg O’Neill

“While we try to teach our children all about life,
   Our children teach us what life is all about”. – Angela Schwindt

Imagine the joy and exhilaration of being greeted so enthusiastically by a sea of 500 smiling children dressed in brightly colored tee shirts of red, green, yellow and orange all cheering, chanting and clapping as the SCAW team approached them for 12 times over 10 consecutive days!  Each day we had a distribution was a true adrenalin rush for each of the SCAW traveling volunteers.

On one of the early distribution days, I approached an open truck loaded with children, parents and bed kits as they were preparing to return to their villages.  One boy wanted to share his feelings with me while at the same time representing all the other children on the truck when he said with a broad smile “we are very happy.”  He then went on to ask me if it were possible for him to go to Canada.  I told him that he certainly could provided he stayed in school and worked very hard.  He then asked me “are there any dark people in Canada?”  He seemed quite satisfied when I told him there were many Ugandan people living in Canada as well as people from almost all of the countries of Africa.  His next question was “what kind of food do you have in Canada?”  When I answered we had beef, chicken, goat, rice, potatoes and cassava as well as pineapple, watermelon and bananas he seemed quite overjoyed.  As the truck pulled away amid cheery good-byes and high fives, I couldn’t help but feel that in addition to providing a good night’s sleep to the 6,015 children who received bed kits, we may also have provided those same children with a beacon of hope for a bright future. 

Another highlight of the trip for me was spending two weeks with the members of the Inner Wheel Club of Kampala.  They are clearly an amazing collection of ‘angels’ who worked tirelessly and seamlessly not only on behalf of the children, but also making sure that the experience of the SCAW team was as enjoyable as it was comfortable.  To them I extend my deep thanks and gratitude for their warm, gracious and generous hospitality and especially for their friendship.

Last but not least, I would like to express my thanks to each and every donor who contributed bed kits for this distribution.  It was a joy and a privilege to represent you and present your gifts to these children and their very appreciative families.  Endless expressions of their gratitude were conveyed to us every day through their smiles, their gestures and their “thank yous”. 

As we leave Uganda having completed the distribution, the faces of the children and the gestures of gratitude from the children, their families and members of the community at large are indelibly etched in my mind and my heart.  I will return to Canada with humility, a profound respect for the people whose lives have touched ours and a deep appreciation for all that we have waiting for us back home.

(Extremely well put.  Now I know where the lion’s share of the brains ended up in my family…)   I spoke to Greg on the phone today and the conversation was very inspiring.  It had me dreaming of joining him on one of these missions someday…

So, What’s Next?

Posted by Gabe on June 3, 2009 under Kids are Heroes | 5 Comments to Read

What to Do?It’s been just over a year since MaryMargaret and I created the Kids Are Heroes web site.  Quite a bit has happened since then, especially in the last five months due to my Twitter involvement.  We have over 50 children that we recognize – they hail from as close as a few houses down our street to as far away as Texas, California and Alberta, Canada.  Every once in a while I will do a web search on “kidsareheroes.com” as I did this morning only to discover many more sites referencing us – some I knew about and others I did not.  I did find an independent review of us that was done without our knowledge and/or participation by Dana from Common Sense Media.  I think it accurately depicts us a a grass roots movement with a lot of potential once funded.

Speaking of which, this month is particularly exciting for us as our pitch is now airborne (all throughout the month of June) on all Virgin Atlantic flights thanks to Richard Branson (@richardbranson) and his Pitch TV concept.  We entered this contest in April and have the great fortune of winning and being featured first on the debut of his PitchTV show.  We can only dream of the possibilities that may unfold from this opportunity.

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Richard Branson’s Premiere PitchTV Show

That certainly doesn’t mean we can sit and wait by the phone.  That is not an activity that sits well with me, anyway.  Although the idea of the pitch is to connect with a person or group that has the ability to fund our idea so we can take it to a global level, there is no guarantee this will happen right away or even at all.  So for us it is business as usual.  We will continue to speak at events and schools when invited, try to uncover and recognize new heroes, help kids and parents get started and of course tweet about it on Twitter along the way.  We ask all of you to continue to spread the word about what we are doing and sooner or later this will become my life’s work as is my goal.

I really would like to thank the folks that have supported us up to this point.  There are so many of you who have been doing just that – if it weren’t for you we would never have had a chance at winning the PitchTV contest.  John Haydon (@johnhaydon) has been very generous as of late in creating innovative posts about our efforts.  I must acknowledge again the support from @SocialPMChick for writing a very nice post about us, as well as @LoobaLee for generating a contest around voting for us. @GinaRau has run several posts focusing on our heroes.  @Jyl_MomIF invited us to be guest tweeters for their GNO party which was a lot of fun.  @Tumblondad interviewed us for our first podcast a few months ago.   Then there is @MickeyGomez who reached out to me so that her volunteer organization can help us.  I certainly cannot forget about my very own sister and biggest fan Maureen (@moelib) who has been “too busy” for Twitter as of late but is always very supportive on her Facebook page.  There are so many more of you that are “religious retweeters” of our posts on Twitter (and Facebook) and I truly thank each and every one of you.  The word about Kids Are Heroes is indeed spreading at a very rapid rate I am confident that only more great things will result from it.