|Collecting my composure
|My name mentioned in USA Today
- I have always lived by the principle that if you speak and act from the heart, good things will happen. This is certainly true 100% of the time and putting yourself out there certainly has some risk but the rewards can be remarkable. Proof of this concept lies in the 2014 LLS Woman of the Year for Greater Los Angeles, Samara Wolpe. If you think my $126,000 is a great achievement, you will fall over when I tell you she raised over $350,000. This is not only significant to Greater LA. This is not only significant to 2014. This is the greatest sum of money ever raised by anyone…..anywhere….in a Man/Woman of the Year campaign. To my credit, I had guessed Samara would raise $400,000 because I know her Mom and Dad and they are great cancer fighters with a strong personal connection to the cause and the willingness to use their amazing connections to better the world.
- How does Samara prove out my theory on speaking from the heart? The answer lies in Ellie Wolpe. Ellie Wolpe is Samara’s Mom. Years ago, I was speaking at a library in West Hollywood and Ellie happened to be in the audience as I shared my story of loss and why Team in Training was so important to me….and why I felt it could change the life of everyone listening to me if they had the courage to join. Ellie was touched by my speech and took the leap of faith to register for Team in Training as part of the marathon program I would be leading that summer. Not only did Ellie join but she raised over $100,000 for that single season…..still a record for any team I have coached. From there, Ellie went on to do even more amazing things for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society which ultimately led to Samara being a part of the 2014 MWOY campaign. Be it right or wrong, I like to consider myself a part of Samara’s success story for, if not for that speech in West Hollywood years ago, she might never have found herself on the doorstep of LLS. Samara, Ellie and David Wolpe are a part of my legacy and are 3 amazing blessings that came out of the darkness that is my story
- So far I have talked about the Man of the Year and the Woman of the Year but it is extremely important to mention that all candidates as part of this campaign raised an aggregate total of over $1.1 million. I always said that this campaign was not about winning……it was different things on a personal level to every participant but the spirit behind it all was about finding a cure for cancer. If I had come in second or third or last and someone else raised $1m, how could I be unhappy with that result. The cure is what matters and as a group, all of the 2014 candidates did an amazing job getting us closer to the day when the end of cancer hits the news. I am proud to have been a small part of the big picture and I am proud of everyone that had the courage to join the Man and Woman of the Year campaign and make a difference.
- It will be impossible to thank everyone that had a hand in this venture but I damn sure am going to try. This being said, I am certain to make a mistake and miss someone so I apologize in advance to anyone I fail to mention. I also vow to amend this post to right my wrong :)
- My wife Crea Wilno gets the first thank you. This campaign did not come at a time ideal for my family. I was dealing with crazy work stress and work hours coupled with buying a new house, trying to sell an old house and all the stress that accompanies 2 mortgage payments. This campaign was a lot to take on and Crea allowed me the freedom to follow my heart. She has always done this for me. Without her standing by my side and allowing me the time to coach and train I would have accomplished literally nothing in the world of cancer fighting. I am truly grateful to have Crea as my wife and friend and motivating force. I am also extremely thankful she had the strength and courage to stare cancer in the face two times……coming out the victor on both occasions…..for without her our family would be lost. Another reason to thank my wife is for all of the work she put into the campaign. She stuffed hundreds of envelopes........like 1,000 which is no joke.......so that all of my fundraising letters made it out on time.....she monitored our square page and mailed out any t-shirts that were purchased and she handled mailing all of the virtual #BeatCancer 5K Bibs and medals.
|Crea and I....she needs that giant margarita to tolerate me :)
- Upon accepting the nomination to join the Man of the Year campaign, I immediately reached out to friends and family to see who would be willing to jump into this madness and stand by my side for 10 weeks. I had no plan of attack so I reached out expressing how important this journey was to me and the response was overwhelming. I built a team of folks that were willing to go well beyond the call of duty and help me plan this attack. Lori Jomsky was my very first call. She has always had my back when I embark upon these crazy journeys and never challenges the high expectations I place upon myself…..she just asks how she can help make it happen. Other folks that stepped up either initially or over the course of the journey were Javier Rivera, Sarah Clark, Niesja Sharp, Charlene Levy, Lillah McCarthy, Leah Beck, Candice Yee, Allison Ewart, Heather Bilhorn, Jennifer Raymond, Jennifer Giannini, Paul Wintner, Alison Chavez, Carrie Smith, Sarah Harris, Leda Gonzalez, Aubrey Walton, Laura Bittner, Kelley Puckett, Eric Orivieto, Molly Chance, my Mom....Marjorie Wilno and the LLS Club at Newbury Park High School led by Sydney Clark and Jordan Jomsky. Truthfully, not everyone could step up and help as they initially intended to do but I mention everyone here because the desire to help meant so much out of the gate. Knowing people were supportive of my decision provided some level of comfort that we were going to be successful.
- Besides the group of folks mentioned above, there was another group of individuals that stepped up to help We Will Find a Cure in a different way. The core group of individuals planning We Will Find a Cure determined one of the ways we would raise money as part of this campaign was to build an army of folks sending out their own personal letters and emails. It really ties back to the name we decided to call our campaign……WE WILL FIND A CURE. My story is what led me to the doorstep of this campaign but everybody has their own personal reason for wanting to end cancer. This campaign was not about me……it was about all of our sad stories and the need to end them. On this note, we sent out emails asking if folks would be willing to individually fundraise in support of We Will Find a Cure. We originally put a budget of $27,000 on this aspect of the campaign but little did we know the army that would enlist. More than 25 people stepped up to participate and raised a total of over $45,000. Some of these folks were performing double duty as they were also on the team of people mentioned above helping plan out the 10 week road to success. Even more remarkable….some folks that joined me in battle didn’t even know who I was……well maybe they had heard of me because of the money I had raised as part of Team in Training but we had never met face to face. That is a very powerful statement about the good people that exist in this world coupled with the hatred of cancer that exists in this world. I am so grateful to this list #BeatCancer heroes….whether you raised $10 or $10,000: Charlene Levy, Jacqueline Haberfeld, Marjorie Wilno, Lori Jomsky, Aubrey Walton, Crea Wilno, Jennifer Raymond, Jennifer Giannini, Paul Wintner, DeeDee Urquhart, Jeanne Sarmiento, Marian Manzer, Beckie Burns, Krystle Zhang, Gilda DeLaCruz, Jenny Lewis, Niesja Sharp, Carlos Pineda, Mike Cimmarrusti, Peter Woelflein, Rachael Burnson, Eric Orvieto, Tracy Sheridan, Laura Bittner, Ronel Wright, Allison Ewart, Catherine Knight, Anna Belentsova, Sabine Hermann and Aracy Sherrill.
- A quick thought on the list above. Asking people to raise money on behalf of this campaign was the most challenging ask of all for me. I am not sure why but this request seemed beyond reasonable. Asking time and effort from people was one thing but asking people to tap into their friends and family on behalf of a venture I got myself into did not feel right. I mention at the top of this post that there are many things I garnered from the Man of the Year experience. One of those things I garnered was to trust, delegate and let go. In my career, delegation has never been my strong suit. As it pertains to this aspect of our campaign, delegation and trust were the only way this was going to see success because I did not have it within me to make this request of people. As such, my friends reached out to their friends and shared my story. That led to the list above of incredible people that responded to make a difference. Then Sarah Clark…..the same Sarah Clark that nominated me for this campaign……stepped up to lead the team week by week. She would send weekly updates and fundraising ideas. She worked to make sure anyone that wanted to help had the tools to help. She made sure they were able to set up their fundraising page and she answered all of their questions. I chimed in occasionally to Sarah’s emails to the team and I would sometimes send my own emails……especially when the finish line looked incredibly far away…..but Sarah and this group of #beatcancer heroes did this on their own.
- Adaptation. Another key lesson derived from We Will Find a Cure was the ability to adapt. A few weeks prior to the start of the campaign, we mapped out our path to goal. At a high level it looked like this:
- A quick pause to explain the significance of $100,000 (I told you this was going to be a group of random thoughts). For each $50,000 you get to attach a name to a research grant. At $50,000 my father would be the first name attached to the grant. This was significant in that he would literally be a part of fighting back against the disease that took his life. At the second $50,000 raised ($100,000 total) my daughter Isabella’s name would be attached to the research grant. While it is not cancer that took our daughter, she has been a big part of the fight over these years. We lost her while my Dad was fighting cancer and it is her passing that led to the cancer diagnosis in my wife. She has been my motivation on a daily basis and, honestly, she has served as motivation to so many others over the years. It just felt appropriate to have my precious angel attached to something tangible……proof that anybody can make a difference. I will get repetitive below regarding this but I cannot emphasize enough how much this $100K total drove me down the stretch. It kept me up at night. I was an emotional train wreck when $100,000 looked so far out of reach. I shared this fear with folks on the campaign and at LLS and tears very often invaded the conversation. The amazing part is that everyone around me accepted this goal as their own too. Isabella was my responsibility.....my loss......my promise to keep but literally everyone took it upon themselves to make sure we did everything in our power to get Isabella's name on the grant. My goal became everyone's goal and it is what we drove to relentlessly. I remember clearly the reaction when I was announced the winner on May 31st....tears streaming down the faces of my teammates. This meant as much to them as me and I cannot describe to you how much that means to me....that people would give so much of themselves to help me accomplish this task.
- Another quick pause. At $150,000 Crea, my wife, would have her name attached to a grant. In the end we were only $24,000 away from making that happen so, if I have, any regrets it is not knowing how close we could come. We were a long way from $100,000 with a short period of time to go but I wish I had the vision and faith to see this would all come through so that I might have thought of a way to get that last $50,000. My wife does not mind. She is not upset at all. She is just my hero and I wish I had got it done for her.
- When I accepted my nomination to participate in this campaign, I was told that all successful campaigns need a good website and a good video speaking to the personal connection. This was fantastic except I did not know how to build a website nor do I possess the skill set to make a great video……I did make a video for Isabella’s Day 2013 which was meaningful to me but certainly no masterpiece. As such, I was yet again dependent on others and asking for help. Help for the website came from Leah Beck who was also on the team helping to map out this campaign. She jumped in and was the master behind www.wewillfindacure.com. Leah has a job and a life but she managed to set aside the time so that this campaign had a chance for success. The solution for the video did not come as easy. I reached out for help but the folks I knew could help were all too busy. Just when all seemed lost a few people stepped up to save the day. Pai Wei was one of the first. He is a big proponent of Team in Training and the master behind some incredible footage from Team in Training Triathlon seasons. He agreed to meet me on the streets where both of us have trained countless hours to get some footage that might help in the overall production of the video. He filmed me running and biking and took some creative shots which were quite remarkable. None of this footage made it into the final cut but I am so grateful to Pai and I have some footage that I am sure will get used in my lifetime. The other person to step up was Nazie Tashakorian, a former participant on one of the teams I coached and I have to say this was unexpected…which is why it is so amazing. Nazie was part of the Disney Half Marathon crew in Fall 2013 and some family health issues led to her not being able to complete the race. Despite that disappointment, Nazie reached out to her husband Eddie and her brother in law, Dani of Dani Evocophotography and they agreed to shoot the footage and produce the video. The weight lifted off of my shoulders when these guys stepped up to help was enormous. I met Eddie and Dani in Hollywood to share my story. I also sent them articles written about me as well as letters I had written and links to other posts at this website. They turned all of that information into interview type questions which they asked me on camera. The end result is the video you see at the We Will Find a Cure website. The end result is that video helped secure critical donations so these guys are a big part of our success.
- My letter writing and email campaign proved more successful than I anticipated. I had budgeted $5,000 for my efforts but went well beyond raising more than $17,000. I guess I underestimated my friends but that was only because so many of them were either fundraising for themselves and/or were helping on my team in other ways.
- As discussed above, the team of individuals fundraising on my behalf did a remarkable job exceeding expectations. I am not going to individually name persons and amounts because I am grateful to everyone regardless of how much they raised. For the record, though, we have multiple people raise more than $5,000 and one person that raised greater than $11,000.
- On the opening night of the 10 week campaign we invited some friends to Karaoke to kick off the fun. It was an intimate group but raised over $1,000 because folks on my team really worked the bar crowd to sell 50-50 raffle tickets. One thousand dollars at the start of the campaign may not seem like a lot but it set a remarkable tone that we could be successful and that people were in the fight with me. Much thanks to Leah Beck for helping get us started on the right track and the mad crew that sold all of the raffle tickets.....I remember Allison Ewart, Joseph Clark and Charlene Levy but I am sure there were more!
|You know you want one
- T-shirt sales produced a few thousand dollars. Thanks to American Apparel for giving us a great deal on the shirts and to Lorraine Shea for helping secure the screen printing for free. This being said, we were over zealous with the buy so there are still plenty of shirts if you would like one J. Our logo is on the front and #BeatCancer is on the back. Click HERE for our store.
not really tied to reaching $126,000, early in the campaign I joined other
participants to be recognized on the field at Dodger’s Stadium. It was
definitely a cool moment because my family was there to witness it. My children are young at 6 and 9 years
old but I hope some of what they witnessed during this 10 week campaign sticks
with them. I hope they know their
Dad once did something cool and accomplished some great things and more
importantly I hope they carry this forward into their own lives.
I made the big screen
|My Mom is the one on the left :)
- My Mom is worthy of a separate post but I will mention her here because she was a big contributor to the success of this campaign. Why I want to mention her is, of course, partly due to this but more importantly I want to mention my Mom because of the courage she demonstrated to join the effort and the amazing progress she made over the course of the 10 week journey. I have always been amazingly close to my Mom. She is the most giving person I know……the kind of Mom even your friends love to hang around when growing up. She has literally never placed herself first on any occasion as she is always thinking of the other person. My story involves the loss of my Dad. Her story involves the loss of her husband…..the love of her life……her soul mate. My Dad passed away mere days before my parents would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. I actually think the only reason my Dad held on as long as he did was because of my Mom……….he needed to know she would be okay after he passed. The day before my Dad passed away, he never woke up from a deep and comfortable sleep. When I said goodnight that night, I felt like I was saying goodbye. I whispered to my Dad that it was okay to let go……that I would take care of Mom and that we would miss him but be okay and see him on the other side. A few hours later he let go. I do not think my Mom has ever been the same since my father passed away. Time has healed her wounds but she will never be at 100% because a part of her left when he left. Joining We Will Find a Cure required my Mom to stare some bad memories in the face. She had to relive some tough times…..times she tried to remove from her memory. I knew all of this and, truth be told, it is probably one of the reasons I accepted my nomination. I really believe my Mom needed to face all of this. She needed to know what kicking cancer in the face felt like. Beyond having to stare some dark times in the face, my Mom has never really had to ask anybody for help. Fundraising scared my Mom beyond belief, which is another reason I felt this was important for her. You are never too old to learn to overcome obstacles so my Mom accepted the challenge. Through tears, she wrote her fundraising letters and she humbled herself to ask for money. Over the course of the 10 weeks I saw a confidence level grow in my Mom. She started walking business to business and sharing her story and asking for donations from complete strangers. She, along with the help of my Aunt Judy, planned a local event where they cooked food and sold beer and raised some more money. In the end, my Mom raised nearly $7,000 for this campaign on a goal she gave herself of $500-1,000. Ultimately she was there in the room when I was crowned the Man of the Year and I know, like me, my Dad was damn proud of all she accomplished.
already mentioned her but I would be remiss if I did not mention Lori Jomsky
Lori and I
- I mentioned above that our plan for WWFAC was NOT to participate in weekly challenges and incentives. We were way off on that one. I do not know the exact total but we raised between $6-7,000 on incentives. As an example, we were able to get Teresa Paczkowski of Elena Trevino Designs to donate the design work for the Finale Program which earned us money towards our campaign equal to the value of that work. I have to call out Teresa a second and third time as well because she put in a lot of time designing the WWFAC logo used for our campaign as well as the #BeatCancer logo we utilized on our t-shirts. She donated her personal time without ever having met me. She jumped in to help at the request of a friend and hearing our story. There truly are amazing people in this world. I know the news is full of quite the opposite but all around us are remarkable human beings that step up to do heroic things. Teresa is one of those people. Besides the incentive for the program design, we were able to sell some ad space in the Finale program and we won almost every weekly challenge because our team was full of rock stars that stepped up when I needed help.
- Above I discussed that at the 5 week mark we were about half way
to the $100,000 mark with no real path to make up the gap. All that we really had left that could
produce significant dollars was our big event……what started as a dinner or
Pre Run Registration Pre Run Mini Speech Great moment...Me with Alison and her Mom Beth Tobey waiting for the first runners
- Much thanks to Javier Rivera and Audrey Duffy for their relentless search for an available date for Drag Queen Bingo. We had budgeted money for this function but every date during our 10 week campaign had been taken so Javier kept following up looking for cancellations and late in the game one came through. Drag Queen bingo is a fundraising staple for everyone at LLS but
The Bingo Crew
- We were able to raise over $5,000 on Charity Buzz thanks to some hard work by Lillah McCarthy. Part of that hard work was securing items worthy of a silent auction and part of the work was simply dealing with Lori Jomsky and I! In the end, Lillah was able to secure some incredible meet and greet celebrity experiences with Conan and Eric Dane. She also secured tickets to the AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards along with passes to the after party for the show. Besides these items we also were able to secure a back stage meet and greet with Flo Rida thanks to David Elmekies who didn’t even know me when the WWFAC campaign began. He heard my story and simply asked how he could help us reach our goal. Once again, the world is full of remarkable people making a difference.
|Huge thanks to Franco Bicycles!!
- The very last big financial push came on the night of May 31st which was the Grand Finale for the Man and Woman of the Year campaign. We had not planned on participating in the silent auction aspect of this evening or the live auction which were for items having a value greater than $5,000. In the spirit of adapting along the way…….we participated in both and I have to give great thanks to Franco bicycles and to Jules Jomsky for introducing Franco to WWFAC. He set in motion the events that led to Franco donating a remarkable Carbon Fiber time trial bicycle. This thing was decked out and at auction raised over $3,000 towards our campaign. If you are out looking for a bike, please check them out at www.francobicycles.com. They have a remarkable product with remarkable service and they are good people. Beyond Franco, there is an army to thank. Kelley Puckett scored amazing Dodger tickets, Sarah Clark for dressing up every silent auction item we had and making it look presentable, EATZ LA and everyone that hustled Los Angeles to secure gift certificates from restaurants and hotels.
|Gilda showing off a jeans shirt purse
- Yard Sale.....almost forgot that one. This was another very late event that Leah Beck helped lead and and army stepped in. We were able to raise over $1,000 with a week to go because of everyone's hustle. There were also a lot of good times had that morning and I must note that this was the very first yard sale of my entire life.....only took 47 years. Thanks Leah, Michelle, Gilda, Candice, Leda, Lillah, Laura, Ron, Erin, Molly, Allison, Crea, Lori and all of our kids for teaching me how to let go of your possessions, have a good time, accept pennies on the dollar and have those pennies add up to a lot of money.
|WWFAC set up pre concert. Design by Jennifer Raymond
|Group shot at the Finale
|Accepting the award!
|Top two men in the house!
|All Male Candidates
|Struggling to talk through tears
|Top two men and women
|Shay and Thalia selling cookies at the Yard Sale
|Crea fought Gilda for the purse!
|Post race drinks!
|Me and rock star Tobey at the 5K
|Me and him....her...Roxy! Bingo!
|Someone is taking advantage of the bottomless aspect of the run