Variety During A Winter Storm

I said "Yes" to variety during a winter storm.

Colorado is infamous for its winter storms of Spring. This weekend blew in one of these storms. This weekend also happened to be the same weekend my friend needed an animal sitter while going to a funeral. 

So I said "yes". I found myself watching 3 horses, 2 goats, 4 cats, 2 dogs, and nearly 50 chickens. Now I'm no farm girl.....I've never handled goats, gathered eggs, or feed chickens. The sustained 60 mph winds and 30 degree weather blowing snow in may this job even more complicated. 

But, I had plenty of writing assignments to keep me busy while I spent the weekend on the farm. One writing assignment was unusual for me.

A lady and I were speaking during a networking event last week. During our conversation I learned she had a nonprofit with a mission that aligned with my passion. Her organization needs funds, and I have books that can provide those funds. She and I spoke about me selling my books to donate proceeds to her organization.

So I said "yes". I found myself writing this unusual assignment during this blustery, winter-y weekend.

An unusual weekend all around--donning overalls to feed chickens, then coming in to the warmth of the house to write a commercial for the sake of this organization.

Variety is the spice of life; if this is true, my weekend has been spicy. I am sure of one thing, because I say "yes" my life is full of variety. I am fortunate to live my passion every day. 

Soles4Soles Hikes to Costa Rica with an Orlando Writer

One question: “Will you go?” While I was in Nashville, I met a staff member, Lisa Pointe, from Soles4Souls. She kindly gave me a tour after I expressed my interest in social enterprise. From that initial contact I was asked to join a team from Ohio State University that would be doing a shoe distribution in Costa Rica in May and cover the story. What an opportunity! What an adventure!

A simple request is about to change the lives of several and I get to watch it unfold live.

As I landed I was greeted by 10 student athletes, their advisors from OSU, and Taylar Proctor from Soles4Souls. We boarded the bus and headed to our host facility in San Jose. The first evening was uneventful, settling in and doing introductions. Although the students came from Ohio State, home of the Buckeyes, most didn’t know each other.

The next morning though, we boarded the bus early to head to our first shoe distribution at a local school. The team of OSU athletes were diving in, sorting sizes, fitting shoes on little feet, and putting smiles on the little faces. While the kids waited their turn some of our team played soccer, jump rope, and basketball with the Costa Rican children; others put Buckeye “tattoos” on the kids. This team came to serve and serve they did! In under six hours we gave out nearly 1000 pairs of shoes.

The following morning was much like yesterday. Except today we stopped on the way to the distribution site to see where these children lived. The “shanty town” was little more than tin boxes housing as many as 14 people in a home not any larger than a tool shed. Our host said it was one of the most densely populated “shanty towns” in San Jose. Heartbreaking.

These kids definitely needed shoes. The OSU athletes worked tirelessly and quickly. Today more than 800 shoes were given out in under four hours! Again, the athletes didn’t just put shoes on the feet of the students; they interacted and played with them putting ear-to-ear smiles on their faces.

Saturday we were up at 5:00 am to take a bus ride (fully loaded with students and shoes with barely enough room to sit!) for three hours before hopping in a water taxi to ride upstream for an hour. The rainforest was our destination for the third shoe distribution and this was the only way of getting there. By this time the students had become friends. They bus was a frenzy of music, lively conversation, and bantering. Part of the intrigue of the week was watching these students go from nearly strangers on the same campus to a tight-knit group that want to stay in touch when they return home. Somehow serving others will break through the cliques and bind hearts and lives.

After settling in at the rainforest lodge we board the water taxi once again for a short ride upstream. The town has 400 residents and this distribution is open to all; however, due to our shoe sizes remaining we won’t be able to fit men or larger women’s feet. The team sets up quickly and welcomes the throng of people into a small school room to be sized and fitted. We are seeing moms and babes coming together, many without shoes on their feet. Each leave with a pair of shoes and a smile filled with hope on their faces. Sadly, there were some who were so used to walking barefoot, they left carrying their new pair of shoes. But, for many, entire families lives were changed that day by a pair of shoes.

Our last shoe distribution was scheduled as we descended the mountain to return to San Jose. Unfortunately, the road was closed and our team couldn’t meet the delivery of shoes to get where we needed to be. The last distribution had to be postponed for another trip.

Serving others changes lives. As nearly 2,000 pairs of shoes were given out during our six days in Costa Rica we watched the hearts of the OSU students melt. We watched athletes who had never spoken on campus connect on social media and plan to meet regularly once they returned home. We watched as the team stooped on bended knee to share a small gift, a kind word, or a hug with a child that spoke another language. Language, age, and location should never be a reason not to serve. Serving makes all of those things irrelevant and will give you an experience you’ll never forget. I know I’ll never forget how humbled and honored I felt to be invited to write about and participate in a life-changing experience. I had a front row seat as many of these students shared that they had never left the United States to serve others.

Soles4Souls doesn’t just change the lives of those who receive shoes; they change the lives of all who take a few days out of their life to serve. One question: “Will you go?”


Hidden Inside a Hug

Near the Mills 50 District a hidden gem is being constructed. This hidden gem, a custom home, designed and built by Silliman Homes Cityside, will be finished in October 2015. Why is this hidden gem more noteworthy than the other homes they build?

This 2,594 square foot home, House of Hugs, is being sold at market value and the proceeds are being donated to three of Orlando’s charities: Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, Florida Hospital for Children, and the Greater Orlando Builders Association’s (GOBA) Foundation. These three charities depend on philanthropic donations. Florida Hospital for Children states one out of every two children who need care in the community are served at the Hospital. The Boys and Girls Club serves nearly 13,000 children in Central Florida each year. GOBA Foundation has given more than $1Million to youth related charities and scholarship funds throughout Central Florida. The fundraising efforts of these organizations obviously touch the lives of many in our community.

Lives of our friends and neighbors are touched by these organizations and will benefit from the “House of Hugs”.

The recent groundbreaking was attended by Gary Cain, President of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, Dick Batchelor, Board Chair of Florida Hospital for Children, Marla Silliman, Senior Executive Officer of Florida Hospital for Children, Eric English, Publisher of Charity Magazine, and other community leaders.

Silliman Homes Cityside is grateful for the support of its contractors and United Legacy Bank. Without their support the construction would not be possible. Hidden within the Mills 50 District is a home that will welcome a new family. In addition, this House of Hugs will serve the youth of our community at-large through the proceeds of the sale.

“Silliman Homes CitySide is doing good in our local community. Thanks to their ‘House of Hugs’ project, we will have the ability to continue providing over 3 million hours of service and support in the areas of academic success, good character & citizenship and healthy lifestyles for the more than 13,000 young people we serve annually,” said Gary Cain, president & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. “We are grateful for this opportunity and thank everyone behind this project for making children a top priority.”
“Bill Silliman has been a champion of Florida Hospital for Children for many years and we are thrilled with the announcement of his new gift through the House of Hugs. Combining his great talent as a home builder to support one of his favorite charities really is a winning formula. Bill has a deep passion for not only building homes, but building community. It is heartwarming to think that the home owner will not only get a well-built home, but also the special added benefit of knowing their home helped support children’s care at Florida Hospital. Bill really has a heart of gold and the children and families we serve are blessed by his generosity.“ David Collis, FL Hospital Foundation


Kicking…..for the Kid’s Sake

The largest high school soccer tournament in the state is run by volunteers. However, the most impressive part is these volunteers do it on behalf of families whose children are diagnosed with cancer. This year the Kid’s Sake Foundation is providing a vehicle to a family that has a 2 year old fighting for her life, going through chemo and radiation treatments. The father is working to support his wife and four young children, including Sophia, the two year old battling cancer. Dad is putting all his efforts into providing for his young family; Mom is physically worn out tending to her little girl full-time and caring for the other three children. The Kid’s Sake Foundation is the beneficiary of the 19th Annual Hickory Point Invitational Soccer Tournament so they are able to provide a vehicle to this family. Twenty-four teams, 16 boys and 8 girls, will travel from their local high schools from across Florida to descend in Tavares, Florida from December 29-31, 2014. They compete at the Varsity level during their winter break. The teams arrive excited to compete while supporting a great cause. More than 2,000 athletes, family members, coaches, and spectators gather to watch the competitive games. We invite you to join us in “Kicking….for the Kid’s Sake” by becoming a sponsor, making an online donation, or attending the Hickory Point Invitational Soccer Tournament.