I never cease to be amazed at how selfish, uncaring and shallow the human animal can be. From small acts of rudeness at the grocery store to brutal acts of violence in the streets, have we become so wrapped up in ourselves that no one else matters anymore? Then my faith in humanity gets renewed when I get asked to do something like this...If you've been with me since September, you'll remember my friend Kirk who invited me out to California to work at the
Life Changing Lives Charity Event (blog title "I Went Out There to Work"
parts 1 ,
7 )Kirk called me today because he needed my help. He'd been asked to write a letter of recommendation to help a teenager win a lucrative
college scholarship being given way by Coke. No problem! No one can write PR like Kirk. Small problem. Kirk does freelance PR, now, and no longer has snazzy corporate letterhead to put the letter on. That's when I got called. "How fast can you work?" was the only question. Kirk quickly filled me in a bit on Brant Whiting. I hadn't even seen the information yet, but I agreed to do it. Kirk's email arrived. Everything happened just as I asked and a pdf was on it's way to the desktop printer at
The Dresser in Fullerton, CA (Kirk's wife's shop) 25 minutes later. Yay! 25 minutes out of my life, and I might have just helped send a boy to college. I'll know in February... You might want to skim the next part, but I wanted to introduce you to the boy we're working for. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Dear Semifinalist Selection Committee,
I know that in common practice letters of recommendation are supposed to be kept brief so that the committee reviewing submissions can quickly get through the commentary on a large number of applicants.
In the case of Brant Whiting (17), I ask your committee’s indulgence in allowing me to take a little more than the usual word count so that I can attempt to adequately communicate the contributions and leadership that I have personally experienced in working with a truly remarkable young man.
I first encountered Brant in 2003-2004 when I was Public Relations and Marketing Director for IQAir Corporation.
IQAir is the world’s largest manufacturer of ultra-high efficiency air filtration products for hospitals in more than 100 countries, and they are widely recognized as the top consumer air purifier manufacturer for homes with people with allergies, asthma, and other respiratory conditions.
As part of my job, I was in charge of all of IQAir’s charitable giving and philanthropic projects – and that is how I came to first meet Brant Whiting.At the time, I believe Brant was about 11 years old.
He approached IQAir to ask if we would be one of the corporate sponsors for a project he had organized called “The Beanie Brigade.”
The Beanie Brigade collected recycled beanie baby toys and sent them to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq so that our soldiers could give them out to children in the war zone in an attempt to build better relations between U.S. soldiers and the citizens in these areas that were being ravaged by war and the many hardships that come with it.
As PR director for a large international corporation, I was used to meeting requests for philanthropic funding.
What I was not prepared for was to have an 11 year old boy meticulously detail for me a philanthropy that he had conceived on his own, personally raised the start up funding for, and successfully implement.
Brant’s dilemma was that the Beanie Brigade had now grown so large and so successful that he needed corporate support just to keep up on the costs of shipping the thousands and thousands of Beanie Baby toys that were now pouring in to his drop off locations.Brant’s presentation of the Beanie Brigade was remarkable, much better than the vast majority of requests that I received from experienced adult fundraisers – and I was more than a little struck by the fact that sitting across on the other side of my desk making this presentation was an 11 year old boy.I secured the approval of our company founder and CEO, and IQAir became the full time mail sponsor of the Beanie Brigade.
But quite remarkably, Brant’s follow through did not stop with his picking up a check every few weeks to cover postage.
He asked if our employees would like to also include letters of support to our soldiers.
I floated this suggestion at our next staff meeting, and it was very well received by our company employees.And very soon I began to see the “vision” Brant had for asking if our staff would like to include cards and letters to our soldiers with the shipments of Beanie Babies.
Simply stated – the soldiers wrote back.
Soon, an entire wall of our office was covered with pictures of soldiers distributing the toys to children.
We saw the bright smiles on the soldiers’ and children’s faces. (Often this was the first toy the child had ever received.
These were children who lived in homes with dirt floors.)
And the personal stories we received back from the soldiers touched us deeply.There was the doctor who told me about the little boy who was terrified to get a shot of penicillin, but he mustered up his courage to get the shot when he learned that if he got it the doctor would give his little sister the stuffed pink lion she had fallen in love with.I received a letter from a sergeant who had just lost 18 friends in a tragic helicopter crash, and the first package he opened after hearing the news was a box of Beanie Babies, one with a pin on it with the picture of a young woman who had died in Sept. 11.
He wrote me “After losing so many friends in one day, opening that box reminded me of why we are really here.And then there was the soldier who told me of the little girl clutching the blue teddy bear he had given her the day before – and she sat in the road next to an IED left by terrorist.
He said he thought the little girl believed the terrorists wouldn’t blow up the bomb with her sitting next to it… and the gift of a little blue teddy bear saved countless lives that day.But as a public relations professional, what really struck me about all of this was that an 11 year old boy had the vision of how to engage the employees of our company and not just make us financial supporters of his project.
He knew how to actually get our staff to emotionally invest in the lives of soldiers and citizens in countries half way around the world – and he planned and implemented this project completely on his own initiative.After the success we saw in working with Brant on the Beanie Brigade, we became corporate contributors to many other projects he developed: Read All Over, Just Do Right, Play It Forward, Yellow Ribbon Brigade, Choc Kids Cards, and 15 Pennies for Our Troops. To be honest, there were too many for me to even try to remember as I sit here and type, and each one of these philanthropies came from Brant’s creative vision and his ability to lead and inspire others.My appreciation of Brant is not just my own.
During the last few years I have been Public Relations and Marketing Director for the 25+ companies that make up The Stearns Corporation.
Glenn Stearns, our Chairman, is widely recognized for the philanthropic work of The Stearns Family Charitable Foundation.
Through Stearns I was asked to be on the Board of Directors for a book project that would recognize leading business leaders who have used their success to create successful philanthropies.
These are business leaders who for the most part are themselves multi-billionaires, and they have built some of the most significant charitable organizations in the world.
You cannot imagine my surprise when one day while reviewing who would be chosen for the book, I had another board member ask “Has anyone here heard of a young boy named Brant Whiting?”
Had I heard of him!
I’d watched him over the last 6-7 years launch numerous successful and well managed philanthropic projects.
I cannot properly express the pride I felt that day when I saw Brant chosen as the ONLY teenager to be included in the book.
(As a matter of fact, Brant is the only person included in “On Purpose” who is under the age of 50!)When it was finalized that Brant would be included in the book “On Purpose” – I told the editor that I wanted her to include the story of how and why Brant has dedicated his life the way he has to so significantly give back to helping others.
When Brant was only 8 years old, he suffered a full cardiac arrest caused by severe asthma.
While recovering in the hospital, he made a pledge that he would dedicate this second chance at life that he was given to giving back to helping others.
This was a promise made by an 8 year old boy, and now that he approaches 18 and his life as an adult – I can only imagine how much more this remarkable young man will contribute to giving back to the world around him.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 25 minutes. What do you think this kid will do with that education if he wins? I got to be part of that. Woooooooow....
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