Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hope Next Exit Raffle - The Sequel

Hope Next Exit is back. Actually 'Hope Next Exit' never really left and is a mantra I try to live by as it pertains to fighting cancer. The Hope Next Exit Raffle is back. If you are not familiar with the birth of this Hope Next Exit picture on the left, it began late 2009 when my wife was diagnosed with cancer a second time. For those familiar with my entire story, please bare with me while I briefly share it for those that arrived to this post without the full story. I go through life assuming everyone knows my story because I have shared it so many times. Recently, however, I have been reminded on several occasions that the masses are not familiar with my story. By recent, I literally mean yesterday based on interaction with Michelle Jacobs (@BklynRunner on Twitter). We have chatted in passing on Twitter and share common Twitter friends so I assumed she was well aware of my losses. Yesterday, I was sad to see that Michelle's Mom, Ida Jacobs, was not doing so well. I reached out to see if I could help and we exchanged a lot of messages. Ultimately I learned that Michelle's Mom was deep in sleep and had been the entire day. This was a mirror image of my father's last day before passing. What our respective parents also shared was that they each had leukemia. Anyway, I offered what I could to help and I shared a very personal story and could only hope it helped. That really is why I share my story....hoping it helps someone in a similar circumstance or someone that has been through trying times and needs to know there is an amazing future beyond hardship. It usually does and that is one of the many blessings that comes out of the my experience. Unfortunately Ida passed away last night. My prayers are with Michelle and all of Ida's friends and family. Mom is now an angel...pain free and dancing. I will keep her and this story close to my heart as I push towards Ironman Wisconsin on September 11, 2011.

Back to the short but full version of my story. Over a 15 month period of time beginning late September 2002, my father was diagnosed with leukemia. While he was fighting, my wife Crea became pregnant with our first child together, Isabella Soleil Wilno. In August, 2003, Isabella passed straight from the warmth and comfort of being with Mom for nine months to God. She passed away at birth and shortly after, my Dad was told treatment would not help. I moved out to be with my parents until he passed which took place in January 2004. Shortly after, while pregnant again, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. We had the tough decision of fighting the cancer first or giving birth to our son Jaden first. We opted for the latter.......my son was born a healthy and fat child....two weeks later my wife was dealing with all the things that come with fighting cancer. She beat it. She is tough. Almost 5 years to the day later, we were back at the doctor thinking we were beyond this cancer forever. Instead, the doctor told us the cancer had returned. My wife beat the cancer a second time in early 2010. Along the journey we met with various surgeons and in one particular waiting room (which I like to call the 'Theater of Good News to Come), I saw the 'Hope Next Exit' picture above. It became our fighting words. After her successful second battle with cancer, we threw a party called Hope Next Exit and I launched the first raffle.

Almost a year has passed. I am now participating in my 11th Team in Training event, the Lavaman Olympic triathlon on April 3, 2011. It is one race on the road to Ironman Wisconsin in September. As I type this entry, I have raised approximately $13,000 for this race. I am in the running for Top 3 fundraisers. More importantly, life to date I have raised $93,000 and am $7,000 away from my lifetime goal of raising $100,000. None of this is about the glory or prizes or being a top fundraiser or even being acknowledged. For me it is about setting goals beyond my reach and chasing them down. It is about living up to the promises I made to my Dad and Isabella and my wife. It is about making sure cancer makes an exit in the near future. We need a cure. We must find a cure. That is why I am here and that is why I am launching


It is simple. I am selling 250 tickets for some cool prizes. You can see the list of prizes and some pictures of key prizes by clicking the HOPE NEXT RAFFLE PAGE. The details are at this page but in case you do not want to leave this site, here are the details:

1 ticket for $20, 3 tickets for $50
If you give an odd amount, I will give you tickets based on this formula (e.g. $70 = 4 tix)

I will do my best to cut off the raffle at 250 but it may go slightly over. I have mailed letters out about the raffle so I have no idea what money is in transit. My goal is to be as close to 250 as possible so your chances of winning are as advertised.

Prizes As of Now (retail value approximately $2,250)
HP MediaSmart Server EX495
Gateway Laptop - 15.6" Blu Ray, 4GB 500GB
Monster Beats by Dr. Dre headphones
Lexmark S815 Genesis All In One printer
HP Photosmart e-All-in-One printer
Punk Rock Racing Gear
Deacon Jones Autographed Football
Avatar 3 Disc DVD Set
DVD-CD Set: Date Night + Glee Rocky Horror Picture Show
$50 Starbucks Gift Card

You do not have to do anything other than click on the link in the top right of this page. It will take you to my Team in Training fundraising page. You donate and I will make sure to allocate tickets to you. I will create a separate blog entry tracking raffle ticket holders but as of now, we have sold 132 of the 250 tickets. Only 118 tickets are left!!! Current ticket holders are as follows (please let me know if I am missing you):

Zsolt Kiraly1
Calvin Lin3
Maura McCartan2
Nick Gardner6
Dena Grablowsky3
Caryn fishler1
Mark Kristof7
Brian Ring6
Christopher Rake6
Abhay Kulkarni6
Michael Miller3
Josh Spector6
Kristy Brown1
Laura Maloney6
Michael Miller3
Christy Noel1
Bethany Chaney6
Ron Harvey6
Eric Orvieto3
Jenna Chastain1
Eileen Wolpe6
Sarah Hughes1
Michel Holtz1
Bryan Sloan1
Scott Clausen1
David Pittman1
Elizabeth Ryan1
Jennifer Zenuch1
Douglas Sawyer6
Lori Jomsky6
Jennifer Conklin1
K Melissa Galyon2
Edward Schober1
Rosalinda Batson6
Fern Oliner3
Nadim Bacchus1
Penny Sprague3
Christopher Hancock2
Kristea Cancel3
Brett DAvis3
Jason Zacher5


Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Big Victory - My SB Auction Journey

It will be big or it will be nothing.

These were the words I told my wife and emailed to Lori Jomsky when the crazy eBay idea entered my head. A lot has transpired since I exclaimed these words two weeks ago. Along the way, my already high faith in people soared, my already certain belief that cancer will be cured solidified and, although I had a moment of lapse when eBay pulled my auction, my belief that blessings come from trying times was confirmed.

Over the years I have raised over $80,000 to help fight cancer. On that journey, not too many creative juices were required. Out of the gate, the circumstanc

es of my story were so current that people openly pulled out their checkbook. Lose a father, lose a daughter, watch your wife fight cancer while pregnant with your son……………..that tends to tug at the heart strings. All I did was share my story as openly and honestly as I could. I have done that ever since in the attempt to end cancer……in the attempt to show people a way to their abilities………in an attempt to maybe help a struggling soul along the way. That coupled with increasing endurance race distances coupled with perhaps a Super Bowl Pool or raffle here and there lead me to where I am today.

Jump to January 15, 2011. I had just watched Green Bay destroy the Atlanta Falcons while I sat in the living room wearing the first ever Atlanta Falcons hat I owned. I grew up in Atlanta (and Florida which is why I also cheer for the Dolphins) but in 44 years never owned a hat. After the loss, I had a Sixth Sense type of moment where I realized earlier in the year I broke down and bought a Boise State Broncos hat to watch them lose and end their run at a National title. I also broke down and bought an Oregon Ducks hat to sit in my living room and watch them lose the National title to Auburn. Three h

ats bought…..three big losses. I also flashed to my life as an Atlanta Braves fan where they have made it to the playoffs many times but have only won the World Series once. That one time……..when they clinched the World Series with a victory over Cleveland………..I was at a wedding unable to watch. Bad Karma? I have never thought of myself as bad luck but these facts rang in my head so I came up with the idea to auction off this bad Karma to either Pittsburgh or Green Bay as a fundraiser to help fight cancer. I can deal with my Bad Karma. I cannot deal with watching any more suffering that cancer brings to this world.

I reached out to a friend Lori Jomsky (@lj3000 on Twitter) with the idea. She really didn’t know what to think but the beauty of Lori is that she would make it happen anyway. I didn’t know anything about eBay. I only had the idea. She didn’t know anything either but she reached out to a friend, Ray Montague (@zumadog on Twitter), and my silly idea was born.

It will be big or it will be nothing.

A few days after the launch of the auction, the Green Bay Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune reached out interested in the story. I wish I had a video of the shock that must have appeared on my face when news of this reached me. My silly idea was newsworthy. Next www.boringpittsburgh.com posted a great article on my story in the hopes that a Pittsburgh corporation would step in and make a difference. I loved that this article called out the city’s love of the Steelers and their love of charity. It almost made me want to root for Pittsburgh but then again, that could be a curse. News of my story made it to Chris Schauble (@ChrisNBCLA on Twitter) of NBC LA and, with no push from me, Chris presented my story to the station. Other than a high five at mile 26 of his 2010 Ironman Kona journey, Chris only knows me through Twitter but he jumped in to help. On Sunday, January 30th, Fred Roggin shared my story in his sports report and a few days later another 30 second spot of my story aired on the 6pm NBC LA news.

Unfortunately, the same night as this last NBC story aired eBay, for whatever reason, pulled my auction citing it was inappropriate. Inappropriate? I am just trying to raise money to fight cancer. The money is not even going to me. I am not funding my kid’s education. I am not trying to go on a vacation. I am trying to save lives. What was newsworthy and a human interes

t story was not okay for the auction site. To say I was angry was an understatement. In a few hours, the Pittsburgh Tribune article would run and now the link would not work. The ability for this auction to raise big money was over……or was it. Lori and Ray worked launch a new auction site, http://r.ebay.com/4NL34C , and, as I’m typing this post on a morning flight home, I am certain folks are fighting to get the old link posted again. I went to bed upset but thank God I only had 2 hours to sleep before waking up to fly back to Los Angeles.

I woke up with a different perspective. I stepped back and noticed the results that were right in front of my face. What started as a silly little idea turned into something much more. It started with a friend that took the time to turn my concept into reality. It started with Twitter where folks that have never met me in real life made the effort to share my story. It started with a good man that doubles as a news anchor who cared enough to fight on my behalf. It started with some newspapers that thought a funny story combined with human interest was worth a read. It all lead to 1,000’s of people learning about my journey……..not just the auction but the events that lead to the auction. It led to further promises fulfilled to my Dad and my wife and Isabella. It led

to an amazing call from my two amazing kids screaming “Daddy, you were on tv!!!” which is a moment I will NEVER forget (thank you again Chris!). It led to more awareness of the battle going on to end cancer. I am confident it will lead to others joining the fight. I am confident it will lead to others realizing they can make a difference. I am confident someone on the couch yesterday might get off it today. I am confident a non-runner at the start of this week will take their first steps soon and run 26.2 miles one day in the future.

Thank you to all that made this happen this week. There are way too many of you to call out individually. You know who you are. Please know I am grateful. To NBC, and the Green Bay Gazette and BoringPittsburgh.com and the Pittsburgh Tribune……….thanks for your faith in me and my apologies for this eBay debacle.

It will be big or it will be nothing.

I do not need to monitor the auction. This is already BIG regardless of what transpires on eBay.

Note: in the last 5 minutes my story has made its way to the Yahoo home page, MSNBC a

nd Fox Sports. Amazing!!

As a side note, if my story has inspired you, you can donate above and use my bad karma however you wish!


It is 8:40pm on Saturday and I wanted to type a brief update to the above post. The last day of the auction was a blur. After I posted the above entry, my story started appearing everywhere. I was getting texts, emails and IM's. The first arrived alerting me I was on the Yahoo Home Page. At work, vendors and customers were seeing my story and sending me the link. From there I received calls from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society headquarters asking if they could submit my story to The Today Show.......nah, I will hold out for better........of course, you can submit my story to The Today Show. From there, Fox Sports, MSNBC, MSN, NFL team websites all were running my story. It was pretty amazing. I did make the mistake of reading some of the comments at the posts.....there are certainly some people who think everyone in the world is a con artist that clearly doubted my story was true to which I reply: I certainly wish it were untrue. It would be nice to sit down and watch the Super Bowl with my Dad and Isabella but we move on and make the most out of our losses. I really think the Thursday press craziness stemmed from the Wednesday night airing on NBC coupled with the Thursday morning publication of my story in the Pittsburgh Tribune. That created a wildfire of press that will surely be a proud moment for as long as my mind is capable of remembering. For when my mind fails to remember......here are some links to a few articles: Fox Sports Yahoo MSNBC Business Insider Boring Pittsburgh

The last update is that the high bid closed Thursday night at $1,625. I woke up excited. To be honest, I hoped it would raise more and that a corporation like Heinz or Alcoa from Pittsburgh would see the article and step in to help. I was still however very happy and proceeded to reach out to the high bidder J Shepherd of Arkansas. He was non responsive despite even Ebay reaching out to him. On to bidder 2 and ultimately bidder 3. Nothing. Apparently people thought is was funny to bid with no intent to donate which truthfully is a little hurtful given the personal nature of my story. Ultimately, I have to choose to believe that if all of these bids were fake, ultimately this was a great human interest story but not a great fundraiser. On that note, I just want to apologize and thank all of the press that helped not only promote my story but promote Team in Training, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the entire mission to #beatcancer. I am grateful again to the Green Bay Gazette, Boring Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Tribune, Lori Jomsky, Ray Montague, Michael Sally, Chris Schauble, specifically Karen at the Pitt Tribune for taking the time to get to know me and my story, all the sites that shared the press and all my real and Twitter friends for sharing in all the media excitement. I also want to thank David of @ebay who stepped in Thursday night to protect the auction from shutting down and for trying hard to get a bidder to contribute. It did not all work out at this moment in time financially for the cause but I am sure there are people that will join Team in Training or some fight against cancer because of seeing the article so, in the long term, Cancer is the loser here.

To close, I am going to be rooting for Green Bay and test out this whole Karma thing.......partially because the GB hat arrived first but largely due to the chance this whole Bad Karma thing is real. The Pittsburgh community embraced my story and I would hate for them to lose having me feel responsible. So.....we will see. Whoever wins......IT'S NOT MY FAULT....OR IS IT?