I first heard these words from my older brother Geoff after he experienced Kids Are Heroes Day for the 6th time on September 14. I was a bit taken aback and asked him, “What do you mean we’re not a charity? We certainly are and have the paperwork from the US government to prove it!” He replied, “You are not a charity, you are a movement. You are helping to shape leaders out of kids from all over the world; you are empowering children in ways that nobody else is. But you’re not a charity.”
I’ve been thinking about that statement ever since. Well that might explain why we had no major sponsors this year, and had to dig in to last year’s coffers just to put on our event. Everyone tells me that “there are so many charities out there asking for money” and “the economy is still very rough right now”. But those are just excuses. If people don’t view us as a charity, and we approach them as if we are one, then why would they give money to us? I have been thinking about this over and over since our event.
September 14 was our 6th annual Kids Are Heroes Day, and it was by far the best one we have ever hosted. 37 heroes were in attendance and they came from 4 countries. The theme was “One World, One Community”. Many of the children delivered incredibly powerful speeches. They interviewed each other. They shared their charity work with the crowd. American Idol alumnus Rachel Zevita not only entertained us with her incredible voice, but gave the children lasting memories by generously interacting with all of them. One person approached me and told me this was one of the most impressive and important events he has ever attended. He gave me money and asked me to distribute it among the kids’ charities. There was no thought to donate to us.
Struggling with finances and donations is nothing new to nonprofit organizations. We don’t have that market cornered at all. But the sad part of it is, if we don’t do things differently we will not be able to host the 7th annual Kids Are Heroes Day. Period. And that is only the start of it. We fully expect to be a large operation one day, hosting events, clubs and camps all over the world and that will take some serious financing.
Every year, just by being there and showing me their passion, the kids give me the fuel I need to persist. This year I was given so much by them that I have never had more resolve to make this work than I do right now. So this is not a missive to ask you to donate $5 to our “movement” as it were, (albeit we’d never turn it down), but more to put it out there what we need and ask that if anyone reading this has connections to someone who may be able to guide us, or introduce us to someone else who can assist, then please stand up. In the meantime I will be seeking partnerships with businesses and/or people who can offer us the business savvy and direction we need to get over this hump and beyond. I fully believe we need to run things like a business and become self sustaining. I am not asking for fish, I want to learn how to fish.
Our event underscored the position I have held since the first one we held in 2008. Everyone should experience Kids Are Heroes Day for themselves. If you were in attendance, you experienced something magical. Jessica Fornwalt, the author of the article about us in the most recent Hagerstown Magazine, brought her mom to Kids Are Heroes Day 2013. This was the first event for both of them. Both left in tears of hope and all I could say to them was something along the lines of “I warned you!”
In her article Jessica said two things that come to my mind. One is that MaryMargaret our founder is “trying to change the way you think about children” and that we have a “one-of-a-kind” organization. I second both of those notions. Sometimes it’s the efforts that must break the newest of grounds that have the hardest time doing it in the beginning. And once they do it, they become an “overnight success” and people ask “why didn’t I think of that?” This is the position I feel we are in right now. But we have been chipping away at it for six years. I honestly believe that we are very close to making that breakthrough. We just need a little nudge.
Here is a pictorial montage of Kids Are Heroes Day 2013.