A Passion That Doesn’t Fizzle


She is not yet 12 but Casey Sokolovic from Noth Carolina has an incredible vision of what she wants to do. It all started four years ago when she visited the the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, NC, on a family trip. There, she discovered the world of injured turtles being brought back to health by a team of dedicated volunteers. The visit had such an impact on Casey that she decided to take action. She chose to raise money for the rehabilitation center.

First she had to create an organization and “Help Them LAST” (which stands for Love A Sea Turtle) was born. Second she had to find a way to raise money. She decided to bake and sell turtle-shaped cookies. She participated in school fundraisers. She ignited the interest of everyone she could possibly find. And a few months ago, Casey was proud to hand to the center a check of $3,000 as a result for her efforts.

Although the money is good to finance the rehabilitation center, Casey’s impact on people is also surprising. Her family who had no interest in oceans is now devoted to sea turtle conservation. Her parents and her brother joined the cause and are fully helping Casey. The family even booked a trip to Barbados because she wanted to clean the beaches and talk to marine biologists working there. At school, Casey is sharing her successes and involves friends in her activities. They, in turn are very supportive and come up with new ideas.

Make no mistake, her dedication is serious because she knows sea turtles are disappearing fast and need our help. Casey who would like to become a veterinarian or a marine biologist, has other plans. She is creating a logo and setting up a website for “Help Them LAST”. The family has collaborated with coffee creator Joe Van Gogh to introduce a special Fair Trade Organic coffee blend called Sea Turtle Blend. You can buy it online and 10% of the net profits will go to the rehabilitation center. Via oceans4ever.com

What about you? Are you passionate about something? or are you hesitating among several interests?

Anyone Can Make a Difference


Ebony Shante Edwards is a third grader at Henry Heights in Lake Charles, LA. She is a good student and participate to a special program to get better grades. At the end of the year, prizes are awarded and when her name was called, Ebony Shante received a brand new bicycle. Since she already had a bicycle, she knew what to do. She went to the officials and asked them to draw another name to give the bicycle she had just won to another student.

The officials present at the ceremony were so surprised and inspired by Ebony Shante’s behavior that they decided to pass around a hat and everybody pitched in. They didn’t want her to be left empty handed and were able to give her a gift certificate. Ebony Shante already said she knew to whom she was going to buy something with her new prize. Via kplctv.com


Jeff Ziolkowski is a 18-year-old senior high school student from Flagler County, Florida. He just graduated and in September, he will be heading to the University of Notre Dame to study medicine. Is Jeff ready to start his college studies? Of course he is and maybe even more than is future classmates.

Since he wants to be a MD, what could have been more normal for him than volunteering at a clinic in order to learn, to feel what is it to be on the other side. So far he has dedicated more than 300 hours of his time to welcome patients or help them fill out forms. In my opinion, the most important of his deeds was to sit with them and just listen. We live in a world where we think we have no time to listen to others. And if we do ‘listen’, we are nodding while thinking about our answer. True? Next time you have a conversation with someone, pay attention at how much you are listening. Shift your mind and really listen. I guarantee, the person you are talking to will feel it. Via Flagler County News

How to Be a Good Listener (Wikihow.com)

Jeff Ziolkowski on facebook

A Sister Fighting For Her Brother Gets Help From a Famous Musician


Veronica De La Cruz is a former CNN anchor who has put a career on hold to save her brother Eric. He was diagnosed five years ago with severe dilated cardiomyopathy meaning his heart cannot function normally.  Unfortunately for him he was faced with a lot of red tape. The different healthcare systems available in the US and in the state of Nevada where Eric is living didn’t help him much or even refused to support the cost of his treatment. Basically it is the story of someone who was dying because he had no money and bad insurance.

This spring his condition worsened and it became clear he would need a heart transplant. But Veronica learned that administrators at transplant hospitals were reluctant to admit Eric, requiring supplemental insurance. While fighting with the bureaucracy Veronica  started a grassroots movement on the net through twitter. She asked for donations to help Eric but also to push for healthcare reforms in the US.


Her efforts attracted the attention of Trent Reznor, frontman of Nine Inch Nails, who decided to start a campaign to help Eric pay his medical bills. With tour mates Jane’s Addiction he offered special deals for the remaining shows on their tour. In less than two weeks Reznor raised close to $900,000 lifting the financial pressure on Veronica De La Cruz and her family. Eric is now waiting for a heart transplant that will, hopefully, give him a new lease on life.

Update: Please RT, donate or go to this page where now other celebrities are spreading the word about #Eric. (Thanks e. nacino)

This story is touching because it shows how as a group we can make a difference. Just a reminder that this week is World Refugee Week and you can donate to the UNHCR. Even a small token will be helpful! Added to thousands of other donations it will show how a group can be powerful.

A Noble Hiker Inspired by a Hero


Some people go half a world away to fill their desire to help. Rory Fanning from Chicago, stayed in his home country and just walked from the east to the west coast. It took him 8 months and 2,700 miles to reach his goal.

The aim was noble. While training for the Army in Fort Lewis, he befriended Pat Tillman, the famous Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals football star who was later killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. The news of Tillman’s death deeply affected Rory. After he left the Army, working as a banker, he found our society greedy and selfish. Disillusioned, remembering his conversations with Tillman, he took action and decided to raise money for the foundation created by Tillman’s family after his death.

Rory Fanning decided to walk rather than run or use a bicycle. His philosophy? “The slower you go the more you take in.” This allowed him to meet many more people whom he high-fived, chatted with and sometimes moved, sprinkling Tillman’s “leadership through action” spirit along the road. Additionally, he raised $35,000 in his friend’s name.

Now Rory has new goals, new roads to travel. His next step? Ireland where he will walk and talk to more teens, more colleges students, more families, more detainees with whom he will share his experience.

To learn more:

Rory Fanning’ s facebook page and website where he chronicles his journey. A great read!

The Pat Tillman Foundation

Picture by AdventureRequired

Knowing Exactly What You Want


These days, football players seem to be doing more than football.

22-year old Myron Rolle, born in Houston, TX, is an oustanding athlete who was ranked number one high school prospect. He then helped Florida State University win many victories. Having just graduated he seems promised to a brilliant NFL carreer. Yes?

No, because the safety of FSU has other ambitions. He wants to become a neurosurgeon. Many would just be happy with a career as a football player or a doctor in their lifetime. Not Myron who has very specific goals far in the future. He has earned his bachelor degree in 2.5 years and will be heading soon to Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar, to earn a M.A. in medical anthropology.

What about his potential NFL carrer? Recruiters will have to wait as Myron put the emphasis on studies. Also, having just created a foundation bearing his name to support global health and education, he has already planned after retiring from the NFL to go back to the Bahamas, where his parents and three of his four brothers were born. There, he will open a free health services clinic on Exuma island.

His parents played an important role in creating an atmosphere of respect and drive. At home, the brothers learned to address everyone with “yes, sir” and “no, sir.” If a question was asked, no one would answer “what?” While driving, Myron’s father made sure to ask questions, so there was no idle time for their minds. Because his parents believed that an idle mind lead to trouble. Obviously they were right, as besides Myron, his brothers include a lawyer, a banker and a nursing student.

Myron Rolle’s website

How Passionate Are You?


Passion doesn’t always mean ambitious projects to save the world. 

Last year, Dorothy Aho retired from Hidden Oaks Middle School in Prior Lake, MN. During her 35-year career she was recognized as great teacher who inspired students. She loved children and was always looking for ways to lift them up.

Just before her retirement, five years ago, she wanted to change the after school activity and decided to create a charity-based program. Teens in Community Service, or TICS, was born. Combining her desire to help others and her experience in making blankets, Dorothy felt she could teach some valuable lessons. Kids joining the program learned to cut and sew small blankets which were then donated to children who needed them.

This act of helping, of giving selflessly is a skill that must be learned at a very young age, insists Dorothy, because it will become natural throughout your life. With the TICS program students feel they are making a real difference in the world. Kids in need receive warm and beautiful blankets. But Dorothy says she herself benefits from the project because she can meet and interact with children and give back to her community.

Ready to save the world one blanket at a time? Through a simple project you can also help your community. What skill do you have you could share for a few hours a week? Even though you feel like you have more important things to do, the simple fact of helping selflessly will come back to you in amazing ways! Try and let me know. ;)

By the way, you would think that Dorothy is now enjoying her retirement. You would be wrong. She couldn’t quit teaching ‘cold turkey’. She is now a substitute teacher. Via savagepacer.com (Picture: Josh Chase)

The Power to Fight Your Doubts


Sean Stephenson is a 30-year old American inspirational speaker from Oak Brook, IL. He is a successful psychotherapist who is pursuing his PhD. He has worked at the White House for former President Bill Clinton. He has recently released a book and has appeared on Oprah and CNN among others. Envious? How about that: he is 3 feet tall. Still envious?

Born with an extremely rare genetic disease, osteogenesis imperfecta also known as brittle bone disease, he has defied odds since the doctors had told his parents that their baby wouldn’t survive 24 hours. They were partially true since from his birth until he reached 18, he broke his bones 200 times. But Sean had a secret weapon: his parents.

Knowing that the future for their newborn son was uncertain, they decided, beside their unconditional support, to emphasize on a few points. First they made Sean focus on what he could do and forget what was not physically possible for him. They also used an egg-timer and made him limit his self-pity episodes to 15 minutes a day. No more! When in pain, which meant often, they asked him to focus on pleasant memories. Finally, their most important decision was to refuse to hide him.

30 years later, the boy who could break a bone just by sneezing is alive and inspiring others including me. I just tried an experiment and I encourage you to do it too. Tomorrow, throughout the day, time yourself while being on a self-pitying mode and you might be surprised at how short 15 minutes are. ;)

Via chicagotribune.com

Sean Stephenson’s website, Time to stand and twitter page

An Unstoppable College Student


Kristin Eliott is a 19-year old college student from Houston, TX. Since an early age her parents taught her the value of giving and helping. They took the family several times on trips to help the less fortunate in Mexico.

When she was 16, Kristin was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her thigh. It was advanced enough for doctors not to be very optimistic. She went through several rounds of chemotherapy but the treatment was not successful. The last possibility was for Kristin to have an 8-hour surgery on her thigh. This was followed by radiations treatment which badly burned her skin. Doctors did not expect her to have much function of her leg afterward.

Amazingly, she recovered and was quickly back in her volleyball team. The family took another humanitarian trip, this time to Zambia where Kristin was touched by the needs of the children. She decided that she wanted to do something for them, especially the orphans who had no place to stay. Returning to the US, she was handed another news: the cancer had spread to her lungs and she needed one more surgery to remove the tumors.

Around that time the Make-A-Wish foundation contacted her. They usually grant wishes of children and teens with life-threatening illness. At that moment, Kristin saw an opportunity, not for her, but for all the kids she had met in Zambia. She asked the non-profit to help fund her idea to build an orphanage there. She needed to raise $60,000 and through numerous donations, sparked by her resilience, ended up with $300,000. Next month, she will travel to Zambia again and will officially open the orphanage. The extra money raised will go to build an AIDS clinic in the same area.

This is a pretty amazing story for a 19-year old college student who credits her Christian faith with helping her to cope with cancer. You might think that your own actions are small in comparison to Kristin’s achievements. You couldn’t be more wrong. I believe that every single action counts to make our world a better place. You don’t need to travel halfway around the world to do good. I am sure Kristin would agree with me. Wherever you are and whatever is your situation, you can do something. And you don’t need anyone to tell you what to do. Intuitively you will know. Agreed?  :)

Kristin’s website: Kristin’s Heart

The Power of the Charitable Crowd


A real yearbook? A so 20th century idea?

When looking for innovation, teenagers can teach us a thing or two. Take the example of Catherine Cook. Have you ever challenged the idea of the ubiquitous yearbook? With her brother Dave, she did. When she was a sophomore at Montgomery High School in New Jersey, Catherine thought she could save some trees and revolutionize the concept of the yearbook to make it timeless, online.

In 2005, she launched myYearbook.com with older brother Geoff as first investor and CEO. Fast forward 4 years later and the social network has become one of the most visited place online. But what makes myYearbook stand out against giants like Facebook or Myspace is its uses of virtual money to fund charitable causes.

The virtual currency called “Lunch Money” is earned by completing activities on the social network or by purchasing it with real money. Then the “Lunch money” can be donated to one’s favorite charity. Six months after being launched, the results are already staggering. Members have saved 3 million square feet of rainforest, sent 22,000 books to Africa, and bought 40,000 pounds of rice for the hungry.

A 20-million members group can be very powerful and Catherine has found a wonderful way to harness that power. At the same time “Lunch Money” provides a great lesson. It shows teens that very small donations can add up to have a significant impact on the planet.

Life Is What You Make of It

by on May 21, 2009
in Awareness, Health, Sports, USA


Sometimes you have it all at a very young age.

American Mark Lewis was doing exactly what he wanted. Passionate about sailing since he was 12, he was enrolled in a program of college studies on a ship that was taking him for a 100-day trip around the world. It was all about meeting new friends and exploring cultures. Suddenly, it all came to a stop when a swimming accident in the Seychelles left Mark quadriplegic.

Life is what you make of it“, told him the doctor in the intensive care unit. Mark cried quite a lot but finally remembered those precious words. Nine months later he was back to school and graduated cum laude. More importantly, soon after he was in a boat, sailing again. He formed a sailing team and made an unsuccessful attempt at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Having learned from this, he is doing it all over again for the 2012 Paralympics in London.

What’s even more interesting about Mark, are his views on life. Supported by his family and having surrounded himself with great friends, he tells us that whatever path you choose, it will not go exactly as planned. Those misfortunes, you can use them to your advantage. As Mark says about his quadriplegia: “I am taking one of my lemons in life and turning it into an opportunity.”

I look at my own life and I see times where lemons were handed to me. Did I turn them into opportunities? Rarely but when I did, the lemons blossomed into wonderful experiences. How about you?

There is no time for regrets. More lemons are coming. More opportunities!  :)

Mark’s inspiring blog: Take On Life

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