What were you doing 10 years?
Are things still the same? Or are you in a different place; mentally, emotionally, physically, literally, or figuratively? Is life what you thought it would be?
Most of us are only shaped by our negative experiences. Why?
I can honestly tell you, that the last nine years of my life have contained some of the most positive experiences that I have ever been a part of in my entire life, and those are what shape me.
As I’ve had a chance to wind down from all of the good craziness, decompress, and compartmentalize finishing up my first year of grad school, completion of the seventh annual event, and then the actualization that it is really summertime now, I have had a chance to reflect upon the events that took place a couple of weeks ago up at the Hafif Estate.
There are not many words that come to mind to express my thoughts, as I have been very overwhelmed and gratefully emotional over the past couple of weeks. I’ve caught myself crying at moments in time, out of pure joy and appreciation. I suppose the word that comes to mind is some sort of synonym to the word “euphoric.” Each and every one of you not only made my dreams come true, but in many ways exceeded expectations. My dreams became reality, and my reality in a lot of ways was some sort of fairy tale or an ending, climax, or culmination of events that could not even be put into a movie script.
$400,000 raised simply speaks to itself. As a committee, it is very tough for us to say that we missed, messed up, or did things wrong, as we look at the monetary value of the money that we raised (Which will go directly back to those living with paralysis), however our committee is our biggest critics of all. We have heard the feedback, both positive, and very few negative, we have taken it all into account, and let’s just say that there is nobody more excited about preparing and getting ready for the Eighth Annual event sometime next year. However, if you were to ask people on the committee they might tell you give us a few months until we actually get into that mode, as these are people that put in tireless amounts of energy, time and effort into making one spectacular night every 16 to 18 months. Exhaustion might be the proper word, but fulfillment and the saying “This is why we do it” or “It was all worth it” are the only things that come to mind by any people on the committee.
I caught myself the morning after the event, up at the estate, watching a herd of people rallied together to help with cleanup of the venue only to think to myself “wow, I am more blessed than I will ever know or give credit towards.” The amount of people that came out, helped out, volunteered, supported, advocated, attended, and most importantly donated, is something that I quite literally cannot wrap my head around. Overwhelmed, with a variety of different positive emotions is the only thing that comes to mind. But, those thoughts, that I had at the venue the day after, all circled back to one overwhelming phrase in my mind, “This is why we do it every year.” For many of us, we can wake up each and every morning and have a variety of different excuses of why we do not do certain things and always revert back to the excuse that “Well, I just do not have the time.” But, as I tell some of the most important and closest people to me, when they are seeking out advice on how to manage their time and how to make time for the important things that they are missing out on in their lives, I simply tell them one thing, “People always make time and put in the effort for the things that they truly care about and the things that are important to them.” For many of us, that time and effort that we put into things is only directed towards things that directly affect us and that we get immediate satisfaction out of, in a tangible form. I’m here to tell you, when we redirect that effort and that focus towards things that affect us indirectly, maybe the things that we GIVE in life that affect us, in the terms of making us feel good as people, are far more important than directing our focus and attention towards things that only affect ourselves. I’ve gone out to say recently, “What would life and all that it encompasses, for each of us, be for if we did not share it with other people?”
Our thoughts create our beliefs, which then create and influence our behavior and how we act. So, essentially life is about reaching people’s thoughts, so we can change their beliefs and ultimately change the way they act. Unfortunately, these people that we are trying to reach to get them to change their behaviors, are so stuck in their own default settings, of both negativity, naiveness and ignorance that they are not tuned in to what is going on around them. As people, we must change this perception among those that we are trying to reach. We need to get out of our own default settings that tell us "What little we have to give won’t make a difference, or that what we could give is not worth our time or our effort." I spoke much about default settings the night of the event, and it is something that I will share with each and every one of you again, who are reading this.
What are they? What do they say? What does that mean?
Our Default Settings say: Certain people drive us nuts, however often times the people that drive us nuts, or that we don’t like, are the people who are most like us.
Or they say: We are all so different. But in actuality, while we are all very unique and different, we must remind ourselves we are much more closely related than divided.
Or they say: We are the victim. But, how do you tell the story that you’re telling? Do you tell it as the hero, the victim or the knowledgeable bystander? If you tell it as a hero, you’ll miss out on what you need to work on and get better at. As a victim you will miss out on your strengths. But, as a knowledgeable bystander you can be your own friend or mentor who won’t pull any punches, but who is definitely on your side.
Or they say: We are not capable of monetarily giving more. However, studies show that donors are capable of giving five times more the amount than they actually give throughout the year, without substantially changing their lifestyle.
Or they say: Sometimes when things are not going well we tell ourselves we need to try harder. However, a lot of times these failures are not because of a lack of effort but a lack of knowledge and limited insight.
You see, as it turns out the most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about. Because of our default settings we never want to admit the prized analysis that somebody else is right and that we are wrong, which we call “Blind Certainty.”
Blind certainty- Is a close-mindedness that amounts to imprisonment, so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up. The things that we wholeheartedly believe are to be true and that we are certain of, turn out to be some of the things that are the most uncertain things within our lives.
Many of us learned this the hard way. Because we all actually believe that we truly are the center of the universe. We all believe this, because it is our default setting that is ingrained in us at birth, because every experience that we have had, we have been at the absolute center of. Our default setting is to be deeply and literally self-centered. If you think about it, other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to us within those moments, but our own thoughts and feelings are immediately given to us. So you might wonder, how do I adjust to this default setting? Is it a matter of knowledge or intellect, or wisdom? Do you know what wisdom is? Wisdom is knowing that we know nothing.
Because of all of our distractions in this world, it is easy to not be attentive to what is going on around us and especially what is going on inside of us, with what we are feeling and quite possibly what others are feeling.
So, we come to find out that overcoming this default setting is merely about learning how to think, and learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what we think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what we pay attention to and to choose how we construct meaning from those experiences.
For many of us, we need to stop from going through our comfortable, prosperous, respectable, adult lives dead and unconscious. A lot of this stems from the boredom and the routine of our days. For many of us we get up in the morning, go to our challenging white or blue-collar jobs, work hard for eight or 10 hours, and at the end of our day we are tired and somewhat stressed and all we want to do is go home and have a good meal for dinner and unwind and compartmentalize work life from home life for an hour, and then get in bed early, because of course we have to get up for the next day and do it all over again.
But then you remember there is no food at home and you have not had time to shop this week because of your inundating job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket, or we might as well say the DMV. People everywhere. It’s the end of the workday and the traffic is bad as always, because you know we live in L.A. So, getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when we finally get there, of course the store's crowded and because of the time of day everybody else is in there doing the same thing we are after their busy work day.
But, of course in our own eyes we see the store as being hideously florescently lit and infused with soul killing muzak or corporate pop, and it’s pretty much the last place we want to be, but we can’t just get in and out of there quickly, because we have to wander all over the huge over lit store with confusing aisles just to find the stuff we want, and we have to maneuver our carts in and out of all the other tired, hurried people with carts. But, eventually you get all of your supplies to make your home-cooked meal, but now there turns out to not be enough checkout lanes open even though it’s the end of the day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which we find irritating, and we still can’t take our frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at her job as well. But, still in our eyes we see things so negatively like: We finally get to the checkout lines front and we pay for food and we get told to “Have a nice day!” In a voice that is the absolute voice of death to us at that juncture of our day. Then we have to take our flimsy plastic bags of groceries to our car with one crazy wheel that pulls to the left, all the way out to the crowded, bumpy, literary parking lot, and then we have the drive all the way home still in heavy, SUV intensive, rush hour traffic.
Everybody who works the “9-5” has dealt with this in some way and it has become a part of their routine, as well as many more boring, meaningless routines aside. So, the point here is that these are the exact moments where as choosing what to pay attention to, want to think and what to believe comes into play. Because the traffic jams, the crowded aisles and the checkout lines all give us time to think. If we all do not make a conscious effort of what we should be thinking about the perspective we should be seeing things from, then every time we go to shop we are going to be miserable because of our natural default setting, that we are the center of the universe and that everything is always about us: our hungriness, our desire to get home, and our overworked body. We have this nature in us to think that everybody is always in our way, unworthy people, and people that don’t work as hard as us. See these are examples of how not to think, and may not actually be actuality in the world to other people, it might just only be actuality to our ignorant selves. It seems that we forgot, that it was our choice to live and work the ways that we do. If we choose to think this way in a store or on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice, it is our natural default setting.
Maybe if we tailor our thinking to see the other perspective we can get out of this default setting. By maybe thinking that the SUV filled parking lot that is on the freeway actually has people in the SUVs because they were horrible auto accidents before and their therapist ordered them to be in a larger vehicle to make them feel safer. This may not actually be impossible. Or maybe the car that just cut us off on the freeway actually has more important needs than we do to get where they are going, like maybe rushing to their child in the hospital, so, maybe we are in his way. Or maybe we should acknowledge that all of the people inside the supermarket are just as bored and frustrated as we are, and that maybe they have more tedious routine-like painful lives than we do. But, of course we don’t think of it that way, because we are the center of the universe. If we really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then we will know there are other options. It will actually be within our power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer crazy type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred.
Because here’s the thing, while we can all debate over politics, religion, sports, or anything else in the world, one thing that we can all agree on that is Capital T true is that “we all have the choice of how we get to perceive everything, and what it is that we are going to worship.” But, let me just tell you that with that choice of what we want to worship, if money is what you worship you will never be content with what you have. If you worship your own bodies and sexual allure then as age starts to set in you will die a million deaths. If you worship the fact that you want to be seen as intellectual then at certain points you will feel as if you are incompetent. You see, the things that we worship are strictly a matter of default settings. They are the kind of worships that we gradually slip into day after day, getting more more selective about what we see and how we measure value without ever being fully aware of what we are doing. Society does not help us within this endeavor, with the rising cost of inflation, the need for power and control, puts us right back into our default settings.
But something we can control is getting out of our default setting by asking ourselves one question: If money were no object what would we be doing with our life’s? Or getting out of the default setting that "The few dollars that we have to give would not be enough to help somebody, so why give it all?"
The fact of the matter is, each and every one of us has the free will and the power to get out of these default settings of "Thinking we are the center of the world, so we can actually make a difference in it." We can achieve this by doing what we love and trying to making a difference in other people’s lives that we know we can make, whether that’s through monetary means or through granting mental and emotional help to others.
The real value of our lessons learned, in life, actually has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness. Awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves to take a look around and get out of those easy to fall in to default settings.
Each of us has a less literal and more figurative suitcase that we carry with us at all times. Our suitcases are what we carry and what we hold near and dear to our hearts. Occasionally, we need to open up our suitcase, so the world can see what is in it, regardless of being introvert or extrovert, or ambivert. We need to get out of those default settings that say, “What we have in our suitcase is not of value to the world.” Because every little thing that we have in our suitcase, that we hold near and dear to our hearts, and those special talents that we have, and those resources that we can provide to others, could be what makes all the difference in the world.
But I ask you a simple question: What is your inner wealth? What are the things that you have to give that can change other people’s lives?
As I try to empty out my suitcase from time to time, I do it with an understanding that I am being vulnerable, I am exposed and that people might see a side of me that they do not know. All of us have a fear of showing that one unique side of us, that hidden talent or passion, that we fear will not be accepted by people or we fear it will not be of true value to others, so why show that side of us at all?
One important aspect of my suitcase that not many people know about me, is my ability to put my thoughts into words. I’m not here to tell you that I am some world-class writer, or an incredible author of a Barnes & Noble top seller book, but I’m telling you that what I love to do, is write. I’m not necessarily one to be creative, and I do not have one ounce of musical or artistic ability in my life. The accountable side of me, as I try to be more and more accountable each day, says: not blame my parents for making me an un-creative, not musically talented and a not artistically talented person. But, that’s neither here nor there. What I’m about to share with you, is something that I have kept in my suitcase for a while, that I feel all of you should see. A poem i wrote about my life....
Making All the Right Wrong Turns
Some say I’m excessive, but I say I’m thorough,
so for that I write you this:
I once learned a valuable life lesson,
People always put so much emphasis on the beginning and the end.
Those two dates,
Your inception and departure from this beloved place
But, I’ve learned that the true emphasis should be on the time between
They call it the dash
To indicate how you lived during the time between
My newfound perception led me down a unique path.
Unique meaning one of a kind, not to be confused with
My story from beginning to end will always be unique;
It’s my story.
From inception, till this moment
I’ve led a blessed life there is no denying that,
And you’ll never see me question thy path.
In my younger years I was emotional, naïve and stubborn to say the least,
And to this day the stubborn quality has not left me.
I remain stubborn because I’m a fighter and won’t give in,
but my stubbornness has made me, contrary to popular belief, a person who will listen.
I’ve realized I don’t know it all,
regardless of what my pride says.
I’ve learned most in life when I have been wrong rather than right,
Those are new learning experiences.
That’s enough for me to keep hearing out what the wise have to say.
It’s been said life works in mysterious ways,
I can attest to that.
All the trials and tribulations since my youth
Have shown me the utmost proof
that these mysterious happenings are oftentimes the greatest blessings.
I realize life is short and even more unpredictable
one will never know when that dash can no longer be lived.
Which is why life has prompted me to give
Give most all that I have,
from time to money, from effort to acknowledgement.
What is life for if you can’t share it with all,
While doing what you love?
I’ve noted my greatest gifts that I have received in life are also the ones I’ve been able to give
Yet, many still believe receiving gifts is the only way to live.
Can you believe that I’ve been told I don’t have much to say?
I have mile long scrolls of notes in my mind,
which indicate that I think about many things each and every day.
Just when someone thinks I’m not listening,
is when I’m listening most intently.
It’s just that my speaking and acting philosophy relates to relevancy.
Some speak regardless of what they think that others may feel,
others say if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.
I say, only speak when it’s relevant. Time is too precious.
Some might say to that philosophy, Then how am I supposed to know where you stand?
I say, “just ask”…
Like everyone in life, death and tragedy has surrounded me.
I haven’t let it to define me
only motivate me to be better to honor those before me.
In life effort is key,
And in nearly ever relationship it’s the binding arm to coherency.
I’ve leaned and noted much over my 26 years.
Who I am today can in many ways be denoted to my supporters and peers.
Life tried to break me,
yet it only conquered my neck.
The rest stayed in tack and left my mind ready for whatever to come next.
The tragedy left me paralyzed and put me on wheels,
I laugh when I hear I’m paralyzed because I’m living life more fully than ever before.
What is a DISability anyways?
I am only “Able”
and I have been given the “Ability” now to be more than I ever could’ve before.
I grow scared of not being the dad that I want to be,
But still being a great dad is something that “I Can and Will Be”.
It won’t be the first time that I did something that I was once told I couldn’t.
People say its an impossibility to Be Perfect.
That’s okay it takes a crazy person to be unique.
Life is based off perception and is about the eyes of the beholder.
So, when may think you aren’t perfect,
there is one person that thinks you are imperfectly perfect,
because you are unique and you are yourself.
Just like, to the world you are one person, but to one person you may be the world.
So, when I wake up each day and think about what I strive to be
it truly just comes down to just me being me.
I don’t know how much time is left on my dash
and that’s okay
that’s more reason for me to take it one breath at a time and live day by day.
This path was cut out for me and that I will not deny,
in the words of O.D. (*see link below)
I truly believe that I’m “Making all the Right Wrong Turns” each time.
When my life comes to an end people will look at my photo album
and see those moments that I captured in time,
with all of my greatest supporters right there by my side.
The best part of all,
you don’t need legs to accomplish all of life’s test,
and I promise you one thing,
my stories not done yet
I am here to tell each and every one of you, that whatever it is that you have inside your suitcase, are not things that are meant to be hidden from the world and not to stay in the storage compartment of our lives. Sometimes, these are the most valuable assets and greatest gifts that we can show and give to the world that can make all the difference. So, I encourage each and every one of you to empty out that suitcase from time to time and truly think about what it is that you love in life. Because, when it comes down to it, in life, we must do what we love… You make the choice. Do what you love…
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Steve Jobs once said. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle."
DONOR THANK YOU
O.D.- OLD DOMINION (COUNTRY MUSIC BAND) “WRONG TURNS” SONG LYRICS azlyrics.com/…rics/olddominion/wrongturns
Change in one’s life can be scary, and a quick transition from one chapter in life to the next can be terrifying. While change is inevitable to me and everybody else I can’t say that quick transitions have hindered me or have even happened through the midst of this chapter of my life. I try to slow down life in every way possible, to reduce quick transitions, by paying attention to the little details, living in every moment and recognizing my environment and people around me. Even while doing so life still moves quickly, sometimes too quickly, for us to realize what we have. With the end of a chapter, a new chapter is soon to follow where change is inevitable. During that transition period between the chapters is where one can be lost, misled or confused. Part of this current but ending chapter in my life started eight years ago where my life changed in an instant on July 26, 2007. Needless to say, it was an immediate transition and a drastic change of lifestyle and physical ability, but I found a way to manage much due to the credit of all of you who are reading this very post. What came with that change through that transition, was a loss of identity, confusion and loss of physical ability. The “why me?” and the “what if’s?” were limited to say the least and the “what can?” and “what will?” soon followed as I rebounded from my injury and look towards the next step of a great life. In any case, a new chapter was born.
The ability to be what I thought was a college kid and a young adult was nonexistent, to my knowledge, in my life at that point, while the loss of independence and the inability of driving hindered me in many ways. The thought of getting back behind the wheel after being in a life-threatening crash because of my own decisions (Of trying and avoid debris on the road) was something that I put off and refuse to acknowledge for many years because of the fear of not just hurting myself again and the possibility of hurting others. But, what I failed to realize was that in the process I began to selfishly rely on others to get me places, to be my support and to always be there for me through the snap of a finger. This wasn’t to say that I disregarded being respectful to these people in my life, but I most certainly felt that a change was necessary in my life to take the next step of regaining the independence of being a young adult and a kid again.
The answers to all of those questions have come recently as I have gotten back behind the wheel for the first time in eight years, which in itself is a scary thought, but at the same time brings a sigh of relief to many around me.
Often times I explain life as an analogy of driving down a city street where often times we are faced with stoplights; the green, the yellow and the red lights. What exactly do those signals mean to you? Whether it’s through driving or through situational things in life. Does green always mean go? Or when you see green do you start with the why question? Often times I think we live such a fast-paced life’s that we fail to regard the green lights as a moment to start with the question of why? Why are we doing something? Why are we at this juncture in our life? This isn’t to say to ask the question of why to be a skeptic, but merely to be fully invested in what it is that you are doing and the decision that you are making so you are able to make the best and proper decision at that moment in time. Does the yellow light always mean to proceed with caution? Sometimes those in between signals in our life are the things in life that are telling us to take a chance and go after something.
Then there are other times, which I believe this is more relatable while driving or to other situational things in life, where an in between signal might mean to slow down and stop and assess what’s around you before you proceed. Then there are the red lights where we automatically assume to stop dead in our tracks because if we move forward any farther we could be put in harm’s way. This is a spot in people’s lives where a lot of times they find themselves confused, in trouble or indecisive. These are the moments were people second-guess themselves, have regrets and can’t live life with a clear mind because of their past. I challenge you with this, whether it is with people or situational things in life, do not let the past effect the future to the point where you won’t give a current situation or change in your life a chance to transpire into something great.
Life for me, oddly, has slowed down since I’ve started driving just when you think it would have sped up and been on the fast track to freedom in my life. While driving I am so zoned in on the road and so attentive towards my surroundings that I slow life down in every way possible rather than having driving and life become second nature to me and putting the road and my life on cruise control and letting everything happen before me and pass me by.
While there is a time and a place to put your life and driving on cruise control, there is also a time and a place to take the bull by the horns, go after what you want, be assertive and have no regrets. Equally there is a time in your life to slow down, come to a complete stop and be a spectator while others take control. However, it is hard for many of us to compartmentalize what we are supposed to do in certain situations, whether it is to be a Type A personality and take control or Type B personality and to just sit back, relax and let fate take its course. But, do we control our own fate and destiny or in other situations is it divine intervention? So, as each of us individually write our own books and create our own chapters of the story that we call “Our Lives”, all of us in our own ways can control when these chapters say and new chapters will arise with change on the brink. It isn’t to say that as writers of our story that it is easy to find a transition from one thing to the next, but a lot of times it’s like jumping off a cliff and hoping that water is below you to create a soft landing. I’ve always wondered since my accident what life would be like after I graduated college? Then what? Not that I’m an indecisive person or not assertive, but then the question marks of acceptance came back into my life again and those demons surrounded my head of wondering did I have what it takes.
Let me just reassure you that those questions only arose in my mind for about 2.5 seconds until I laughed at myself with knowing that anything is possible with the support that I have behind me. What do you want to do with your life? Who do you want to be? These are questions that we were asked probably in grade school for some of us and thought we had answers to, but now more than ever we waver on those decisions. There’s something to be said that on average students change their majors four times while in college. I’m apart of that statistic myself. There’s something to be said in life that people on average change career jobs seven times in their life. I can only hope, and not because I’m judgmental of those people that can’t settle into the right job, that I find a job that I love and I stick with it, because that would reiterate to me that all those questions of “What will I do after college is over?”, will be answered. Much of that has been answered over the past year as I broadcasted for the Los Angeles Kings AA hockey team, the Ontario Reign. Yet again, as life always does in every way shape or form, change was put upon the Reign organization this off-season. The team heading into the 2015 – 2016 season will now become the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings. While that is great news for everybody inside the organization, especially the front office, that has left me with the decision, an easy one at that, of wanting to return to the team as a broadcaster for the upcoming season in my pursuit to someday make it to the major league level for one of the four major sports.
While great opportunities have been put in front of me, I would like to think through the help of many great people along the way I have found my niche and excelled in every way that I possibly could to my own standards. But, even though I have excelled during that time how I would’ve expected, I still have an expectation of myself that is far beyond where I’m at currently, which again means more change and more transitions in my life. I am not scared, if I’m being honest with you though, because as much as I have loved this chapter of my life, I have my pen ready to go and writer’s block not even remotely close to hindering me, as I’m in the preparation phase to write this next chapter.
I graduated undergraduate college from the University of La Verne on May 30th of this year. It was a great start to my summer to say the least. I graduated with a degree in Communications, with an emphasis on Sports Broadcasting and Business. While the degree has opened up many new doors for me and many new opportunities, the education was invaluable and has contributed to my expertise I so many different ways. Last year alone for the University I was able to commentate over 55 games for all of the schools collegiate sports and I’m honored to say that I received a co-broadcaster of the year award, alongside my best friend Andrew Zetterberg. The award for us was very humbling and a testament to the hard work he put in for preparing for games as well is putting up with me. I also am very humbled to say that I received the first ever award that was presented in the school’s history called “Voice of the Leopards”. It was an honorary award that the sports and athletic department issued me, which was completely unnecessary but I am very appreciative for their acknowledgements, and it was their way of telling me that I would be a Leopard for life and can always come back to broadcast games for the school.
While nothing that I do in life is to receive high regard for doing, I was beyond appreciative for their acts of kindness, as well of the schools support of me and to Be Perfect. The Integrated Business Program at the University of La Verne raised $6700 this past semester for the foundation by going out and promoting the foundation’s mission statement and selling waterproof portable speakers, which proceeds were to go back to the foundation. The group, of about seven students, worked very hard over the semester and by far exceeded their quota, and were the highest grossing group in the entire integrated business program with their particular campaign throughout the semester.
This type of support has made me want to be a Leo for life in every shape and form, beyond just being a Leo for my zodiac sign. I have just received word and have fully committed to going back to grad school at the University of La Verne starting this fall to receive my Masters degree in Leadership and Management. Much of this program centralizes around nonprofit management, public speaking and what it means to be a leader. These are all aspects of my life within my education that could greatly benefit me take my career path to the next level and I am beyond excited for this change and this transition in my life. So, while the next chapter of my life will include more change, more schooling, harnessing my driving skills and still pursuing my career of sports broadcasting, there will also be constants in my life, many of which have been consistent throughout the past eight years; friends, family, Claremont, foundation endeavors and event planning. So while I’m closing up with my remarks writing this chapter I can’t help but wonder what my hand will write on the paper for this next chapter.
Much of that will begin on May 21, 2016 when the Be Perfect Foundation will host its Seventh Annual event, “The Seventh Inning Stretch” (Sports themed). Unfortunately, for many of us our biggest fear in life is what will happen next and how we will react to those moments in situations. But, many of us need to understand and reflect back upon our life and ask ourselves the questions of did we regret the things in life that we did do or did we regret the things in life that we didn’t do? I think it’s fair to say, that many of us are where we are today because of our past decisions and many of us have no complaints about where we are, unless it’s in regards to materialistic things.
If we are at a stage in life where turmoil is happening and things aren’t going our way, we all need to understand that tough times end, light is at the end of the tunnel and much of the time those are just phases in our life; simple paragraphs throughout our long chapters. What will happen next for you in the chapter that you are writing? Don’t stress yourself out about it, just react and live in the moment.
Last Sunday marked my eight year anniversary since my accident and I will tell you that every bit of those last eight years are moments that I will never regret and that have made me who I am today and I have each and every one of you that’s reading this to thank you for the great value, wisdom and inspiration that you brought to my life. It’s fair to say I would not be who I am today without all of you. And while I could only hope that each and every one of you has a few sentences if not many paragraphs written about you in my next chapter, then I hope that you make a cameo in my chapter at some point because sometimes those are the most meaningful and all. I love you guys and here’s to a big cheers to what the next chapter might bring to my life and to yours…. BE PERFECT
“LET GO OF THINGS YOU CAN’T CHANGE AND ONLY FOCUS ON THE THINGS YOU CAN CHANGE”
“THE SECRET OF CHANGE IS TO FOCUS ALL OF YOUR ENERGY, NOT ON FIGHTING THE OLD, BUT BUILDING THE NEW”
“CHANGE THE CHANGEABLE, ACCEPT THE UNCHANGEABLE, AND REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE UNACCEPTABLE”
The foundation has some incredible community partners from all businesses, corporations, organizations, supporters, and individual people. The pinnacle of those partnerships is with that of the Claremont Club and Mike Alpert. A lot of the incredible things that Mike does for the local community goes unseen, unnoticed, and under the radar. But let me just reassure you of the great things that he does for Be Perfect and this is just one example. Every year, Mike puts of a huge level sponsorship with that of the Ontario Reign hockey team. This sponsorship does get him some notoriety and recognition with commercials, logos and banners inside the Citizens Business Bank Arena and during Ontario Reign hockey games however, the sponsorship is intended to have one night during the season be dedicated towards raising funds towards the organization that sponsors the Ontario Reign hockey team.
Typically these nights are consisted of Jersey auction nights where the proceeds from the jersey auction go directly back to the company or business who sponsored the team. The past three years Mike has done this high level sponsorship for the Reign, but with the proceeds from the jersey auction night that should be allocated towards the Claremont Club, he donates it directly back to Be Perfect. The end of the season Gala for the Ontario Reign has been home of the jersey auction night that benefits the Claremont Club. The gala fundraiser is held at the Doubletree Hotel, in Claremont, every year and brings in all of the most wild and crazed Ontario Reign fans and season ticket holders who are wanting to bid high prices on the practice uniforms, that the Ontario Reign team wears throughout the year that have both the Claremont Club logo and the Be Perfect logo on the Jersey.
Just last weekend, the Gala fundraiser raised nearly $31,000 during the jersey auction because of Mike's incredible contributions. Mike got up and spoke eloquently in front of the crowd and educated them on what the Claremont Club does to help the local community and some of their great partnerships, namely with the Ontario Reign hockey team. Needless to say, it tugged at the crowd's heartstrings and they were willing to open their pocketbooks and wallets. To date over the past three years at the Jersey auction and end of the season Gala fundraiser, the Claremont Club and the Ontario Reign have teamed up to raise over some $96,000 for Be Perfect, to go directly back to help those suffering from paralysis.
The event simply would not have been possible without the help of the PR department of Laura Tolbirt, assisted that night by Nicole Disney and Jesse Liebman emceeing the event, and the beautiful venue provided by community partner and season ticket holder for the Reign, Andrew Behnke. It has been an absolutely incredible partnership with the two organizations and I have been so blessed this season to now be a part of the Ontario Reign family as one of their broadcasters, alongside Jesse Liebman throughout the season. The past two years going to the Gala fundraiser I did not have any ties to the Ontario Reign, but it was definitely a unique night this year with being able to say that I was one of their own.
It has been an incredible learning experience this season with the team and alongside Jesse. The front office staff has been amazing from everyone from; Jesse Liebman, Laura Tolbirt, Nicole Disney, Aaron Arak, Jasmyn Wilson, Vinnie Aven, Chris Orechia, Jeff Kang, John Livas, Steven Minucci, Jonah Myers, Ulises Ramirez, Alexis Alonso, Daniel Hernandes, Jonathan Hawk and Katie Larson. A special thanks to previous Ontario Reign team president Justin Kemp for all that you have done for the team in the past, and also the new team president Darren Abbott for the great direction that we are heading in. As these community partnerships continue to grow, as do our services and our ability to continue to help more people in the surrounding area.
I can only hope and imagine what that partnership will become in years to come with the Ontario Reign making the move to be a AAA level affiliate next season of the Los Angeles Kings. This year they are the double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, which is a step below AAA. So next year it will only mean more fans to come out and truly appreciate great hockey, like this year already. Unfortunately, some of the great players that I have got to meet and share great bonds with will be moving on next year possibly along with the AA affiliate back to Manchester, or hopefully moving up to the AAA team and being back in Ontario again next season. But, hopefully it will still mean another group of great guys that are willing to come in and help raise some great money for Be Perfect. I have always been amazed at how giving and willing all of the players are in the organization to be a part of the various events that go on in the community and what they do for their fans and local partnerships. You simply do not see that dedication anywhere and it's amazing to think that it's right here in our backyard in Ontario.
Thanks to all who were involved. If you want to check a bit more on all the things that are going on with the Reign and the broadcasting that Jesse and I have been doing all season long, make sure you follow our twitter, @Ontarioreign, and it is the same for instagram. Also follow the Ontario Reign on YouTube and check out all of our game highlights. And you can also see more at halhargrave.com . BP Thanks a ton to Blaze the Dragon and the Dark Knight, team mascots, for always being huge supporters of me and Be Perfect. And even a bigger thanks to Lee Calkins as the team photographer this season for shooting some great shots at the end of the year Gala jersey auction.
Recently I've had some of the great opportunities and perks of being a part of the exceptional communications department at the University of La Verne, which has allowed me to get more involved on campus with our sports programs and student body. Aside from being a radio DJ on campus ( DJ H double), every Tuesday from 2 to 4, on our campus radio station 107.9 Leo FM, which can be accessed from our school's website, Laverne.edu I have also been able to pursue and get more experience in the field that I am aspiring to be a part of for the rest of my life of sports broadcasting. Much like I have been throughout the entire school year of broadcasting, both in play-by-play and color commentary, for football, volleyball, basketball, and now softball and baseball I have been able to gain much knowledge and unique experiences with being on live broadcasts that have made me more comfortable, more polished, and more professional at my craft as time goes on. But what I have learned more than anything else, is that I am far from being good and efficient, I don't know it all, and I have much room to continue to get better. Needless to say, it's a work in progress, but I have an absolute blast of doing it. Being able to pursue my dreams, at a young age, and in my college environment truly has been a dream come true. As I continue to broadcast more games, gain more experience, and truly harness my skills, I can only hope that the profession and facet of my life that I truly love, continues to grow on me and doors hopefully will begin to open for me with hard work, dedication, and putting my time in wherever it is needed to get my shot. You are all able to tune in any time throughout the week whether it's during my DJ shift on Leo FM, or even on our live broadcasts for almost every softball and baseball games, football, and basketball games at the University of La Verne. Just this past Sunday, I was able to attend an amazing event that benefited be perfect, with so many incredible people involved. For the second year in a row now, the Claremont club has partnered and had an affiliation with the Ontario reign, the minor-league team for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team. Many of these future NHL players, and exceptional young men to say the least, have been and were be on supportive on Sunday night at the Ontario reign's end of the year Gala where all proceeds went to the be perfect foundation. The owner of the Doubletree in Claremont, Andrew, for the past two years has been gracious enough to house and host the event at his facility as this year it was another beautiful setting in an outdoor courtyard, just outside the candlelight Pavilion, which was beautifully lit and decorated, and well served by the staff of the Doubletree employees. The night consisted of a cocktail hour, a short program, with some guest speakers, and a live auction of all of the players on the teams, practice uniforms, where all proceeds benefited the foundation. Through the generosity of so many loyal season-ticket holders who were in attendance that night, and many supporters of the Reign in general, the Ontario Reign, with the help of Mike Alpert's great presentation, were able to raise $25,000 for the foundation. This was at a peer generosity and grace on behalf of the Ontario Reign who simply said all we needed to do was to show up and show our support that night and they would handle the rest. They truly are a model organization who does more philanthropic things throughout the year that I could even began to count or tell you about, and they are an organization that the foundation is be on humble and of the utmost respect to say we are affiliated and partnered with. It truly was an incredible night, and was even more amazing to see how gracious every single one of the players, who were in attendance that night, with how humorous, how giving, and how supportive they were to try and raise the most money as possible for the foundation. Needless to say, these were all acts of both the players, the organization, management, and coaches, that they never needed to do for us, but because they are such great people, they did this selfless act with so much grace and respect for others that I was beyond words to express my thanks. I am so grateful, as well is my family and the foundation to have partners like the Ontario Reign, and so many of the great people who were involved over there that we can now say that we are both a part of their team as well as they are part of ours. It truly is a dream come true and something that I will never forget.
I've never really understood society in some respects. Much of it starting and ending with respect for each other. We have been built around the notion that failure is unacceptable, faults are shunned upon, and an awareness of doing what is right from rather what is wrong is what ultimately shapes society in a positive way. The last remark I will agree with. However, the notion that failure is unacceptable is something I disagree with. Over my past seven and a half years since my accident, contrary to popular belief I have grown up a lot and matured in several different ways. Much of it starting and ending with accountability. People who know me closely, aside from maybe my mother and father, will tell you that I am very passive with certain issues and dilemmas in life, and I'm a people pleaser in a lot of respects. But, something I have recognized among other things in regards to life lessons, is the understanding that I do not always have to be right to win an argument or come out on top. Again, my parents would disagree with you on this but others were not. The reason being, is that I've found that those moments in life that I have sucked up my pride, let down my guard, and opened my eyes with an understanding that I don't know it all and that with certain knowledge I think I have in life that is in fact wrong and incorrect, have been the times that I have learned and gain the most. The moments in life where I have been correct and right on certain accusations and statements that I made, were things that I already knew and just by going through certain situations and circumstances with that knowledge did not gain me or better me in any way. But merely, those moments of being wrong or having faults have been the moments that I have grown the most. I DO NOT KNOW IT ALL. Is a statement that I constantly remind myself of every day. There are several people out there that have gone through the same circumstances and even life lessons that I have but have taken something completely different away from them that could quite possibly be a better way of knowing about handling a situation or approaching and the next one. So the notion that failure is unacceptable, I feel is not indicative of how people should approach situations in life. Because, the entitlement generation that I have grown up in has been taught, or rather self-taught/believe, to take take take and not to give give give. The entitlement generation, believes that everything should be handed to them and nothing should be worked for. The entitlement generation, believes that they are always right. In more ways than not, I am ultimately trying not to fit into that title of an “entitlement generation individual". Old disney movies and childhood movies always had the take away that the underdog always wins and prevails. But in today's society a different message is being portrayed and taken away from some of those same types of movies. Today you are seeing some of the favorites and even the underdogs “losing” within the plot of the movie, indicating that winning is not everything, but learning a greater lesson through losing, which is more important. I would absolutely agree with that notion, because you are not always going to win or be right in life. Because, just when I thought I have lost in life or have experienced failure, have been the moments when I have won the most because of how much I have gained and grown as a person. Society today, thrives off people pointing out others faults and when they have done wrong. We are such creatures of habits of this, with our loved ones around us and the people that we feel as if it is necessary that we call them out on their stuff. Quite frankly, accountability starts and ends with yourself. In a lot of ways and respects, people have become accustomed to the idea of having accountability partners in their life. People around them who hold them accountable and keep them on track. For me, as a person who I think has a good sense of common sense and the difference between right and wrong, and the common knowledge of my own ability to do something, I am my own biggest advocate of holding myself accountable. In life, it is not my job to point somebody else out on their faults and where they have gone wrong, or fallen short. Just like it is not my job to call or tell a girl how ugly she is, but it is merely my job to let her know how great and how beautiful she is in every aspect of her life and who she is beneath the surface. We have become so superficial and so much about being this perfect person in others eyes. At the bare bones of it all, we need to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and feel as if we are perfect within our own skin and be prideful of that. In all reality, the perception of what perfect is, relies in the eyes of the beholder, which is why I will always disagree when people say there is no such thing as perfect. There is always somebody out there that will treat somebody with respect and unconditionally accept somebody for exactly who they are. In my eyes, that is somebody acclaiming that they think somebody else is perfect within their own skin.
Society has lost sight of what true random acts of kindness are in the fact that when people are simply being polite these days it is actually considered people being weird in society. Random acts of kindness throughout the country have become a lost art because of the simple label of being weird or outlandish for committing such extreme acts. We expect to be put down, disregarded, torn apart, and demeaned by others around us, so when somebody actually respects, or goes out of their way to be kind it is weird. Why is this?
While speaking at Upland, Pioneer Junior High, just last Friday, I spoke about this very topic and how we need to take a different approach both as men and women with others around us in society. For guys, it's not always putting down women but merely building them up. For women, it's learning to have patience with guys and understand that they will make mistakes at time to time, because no guy can never fully understand the female species as it is. How did the kids respond to the message that I gave? After the first class heard the speech, a girl came up to me in tears and simply asked me if it would be “weird” if she hugged me. I looked her in the eye and said, ‘absolutely not, I wish more people in society would like you and did that’. What I have grown to find out and something that I will pride myself on and continue to do is to reach out to people and others around me. If you can get beyond having general conversations about the weather outside and really dig deep beneath the surface to find out about somebody, is when you are doing yourself a good service and not a disservice. So, now I will go out of my way down to ask somebody how their day is, if they need help, ask them how they are doing. And every single chance that I get I will pay them a compliment, let them know what they mean to me, and let them know what they mean to the world. Because the truth of the matter is, what if I didn't have that opportunity ever again to do those things or say those things? Would I regret it? Would I have anything left unsaid? Would I have left it all out on the table?
What type of person are you? When somebody ask you how you are doing do you give a generalized response or do you actually go into depth. Generalized would be: I'm doing all right how are you? Telling somebody how you really feel would be: I'm actually not doing too well these days and here's why. Because the truth of the matter is, the more that we tell and the more that we share, allows for more people to be a part of our lives in more ways than not and be able to help and support us. Life is about taking risk, opening up, being vulnerable when we are most scared. You miss 100% of the shots that you do not take in life. And when things in life get tough, the tough get going. So how will you react to what happens next?
For me it's been almost 8 years of battling the demon of getting back behind the wheel and feeling the freedom and control of driving someday again. For those of you that know me, would probably agree with the notion that I like control. Not necessarily control of others, but control of my own life and my own decisions, which might surprise you to the fact that I have not got back behind the wheel yet to try and fulfill such void in my life. Well, I'm here to tell you that that has all changed. Just recently, I got my truck that is handicap accessible and that I can drive. To bring clarification to how I got the truck: FOUNDATION DOLLARS AND DONORS DOLLARS WERE NOT USED TO PURSHASE MY VEHICLE. And for the first time since my accident in 2007 I have got back behind the wheel and in all reality probably a bit too comfortable with the fact that I have that type of freedom. So hide your kids, hide your wife, because your boy is back out on the open road and ready to take on life full speed. It's good to feel that sense of normalcy again, especially coming from a background that has grown up to love speed. The speed of cars, the speed of boats, the intensity of life, a fun filled schedule, but also the ability to slow down life and appreciate the little moments and live in them. The reason that life continues to pass us by quicker and quicker with age is because we fail to pay attention to those little moments as we grow older. Simply because, we are not experiencing our “first times” doing things anymore, so things start to hold less weight and less value with us after the first time we do those things. For me the way I put that into perspective is I tell myself that it is my first time on that particular day living on that date. Today is my first time experiencing March 22, 2015. So that is a great reason for me to pay attention to the little details regardless if it is something that I have done in the past. And when tomorrow comes around when it is March 23, 2015 I will remind myself of the same thing and have yet again another reason to get up out of bed, treat people with respect, encourage others, pay others complements, be regarded as weird for doing random acts of kindness, and now most recently get back out on the open road with the sense of a cautious conscious mind but a renewed sense of freedom…………
Dear friends, family members, supporters, and donors of the Be Perfect Foundation,
As we approach such a giving and thankful time of year, I felt it would be appropriate to personally thank all of you for your 2014 contributions to the Be Perfect Foundation. It has been an incredible year for the foundation to say the least--due mostly to your continued support and generosity.
With a multitude of events throughout the year, we have been able to touch more lives, educate more people, and establish a stronger sense of camaraderie, reminding our Be Perfect family how good it feels to give back and help others. It started at the beginning of the year when Kessler Alair held their beginning of the year luncheon to not only recap the previous year, but also to state and show their plans for the 2014 year ahead. They presented the foundation with a check from their 2013 fundraising efforts and detailed their plans to become a more integral part of the foundation's fundraising and awareness efforts in 2014. They followed through on their 2014 commitment! Many of you went to Farmer Boys just last week and bought lunch where 30% of your receipts went back to helping the foundation. Kessler Alair, the Kessler family, and Kathryn Dalton orchestrated this wonderful event!
Not long after Kessler Alair kicked off 2014, Jenna Hardy, alongside her mom and other close Claremont families and parents, held a fundraiser at the Dale Brothers Brewing Festival at Cable Airport. Through tips and donations for the beer pourers, we were able to raise over $1,000! While this event raised funds and certainly raised awareness about the foundation and its mission, it also served as an introduction between the foundation's community and Dale Brothers. Dale Brothers has been a longtime supporter of grassroots foundations in the area, including ours, and it was great to bring Be Perfect's community to their event.
In February, we were able to start our first round of the mentor program at Project Walk Claremont. Eight high school students learned about spinal cord injuries and the rehabilitation process via a 12 week course. The course taught the students the ins and outs of a spinal cord injury through lectures, seminars and through working with the clients that attend Project Walk Claremont. This program is led by Dr. Steve Bast and is the pinnacle of what we are trying to accomplish at Project Walk Claremont--educating young people so they can educate the rest of the world. The second round of our mentor program is supposed to begin at the first part of 2015.
In March, the Kappa Delta Fraternity at Pomona College put on their second annual 5K run to raise money for the foundation. The event was a huge success and further solidified the foundation's relationship with the Claremont College community. Later that month, one of our biggest community partners, the Ontario Reign, held their end of the season Gala/Jersey Auction, with all of the proceeds going directly to the foundation. The event raised an astounding $40,000 for the second straight year! We could not be happier to have such great community partner. The partnership was created due to Mike Alpert, CEO of The Claremont Club, and his efforts to reach out to others in the community in the spirit of giving back. In addition to all that Mike does, we thank him for helping to establish this fantastic partnership with the Ontario Reign.
In May, Brandon Rayburn, a client and employee at Project Walk Claremont, used his local connections to introduce us to Ray Podesta, a local franchise owner of several IHOP restaurants. Mr. Podesta generously arranged for a portion of all funds raised on May 21st at a local IHOP to go back to the foundation. That fundraiser raised well over $3,000! We are so grateful for that new and unique partnership with Mr. Podesta and IHOP.
Then came September, and the sixth annual fundraising event, "Endless Summer". Yet again, all of you exceeded our expectations with your level of support. For the fourth straight year, we had over 1,000 people in attendance and were able to raise over $300,000 for the foundation! Certainly our committee members are to be thanked as well, but it is you, the donors and supporters, who truly bring that night to life with your acts of kindness and generosity towards the foundation in our pursuit to help others in need.
Just recently, Project Walk Claremont at The Claremont Club had its grand re-opening to celebrate a privately-funded project for facility expansion and accompanying new equipment. The 2,000 square foot expansion and new equipment will allow Project Walk to better serve its existing clients and, in addition, will allow the facility to open its doors to more new clients that could so desperately benefit from Project Walk's program. The foundation's growth at Project Walk Claremont has been rapid since its inception just a year and a half ago, now with over 53 clients in our program and seven trainers. At this rate, there is no telling where the foundation and Project Walk could be another year from now.
In closing, we ask that you please, during these holidays, as many of you do year in and year out, take the time to consider and think about how grateful and thankful you are for everything that you have around you, whether it be monetarily, spiritually, health-wise, or family. Many of the individuals that we help within Be Perfect do not have many of those entities in their life fulfilled and it is through the help of all of you donors that we are able to help fulfill just some of those qualities back into their lives and to give them hope for more. Paying it forward in life is the true definition of what random acts of kindness are. Random acts of kindness do not even necessarily have to be monetary, but merely giving your time and effort. If you happen to consider giving through these holiday months, I encourage you to please consider the Be Perfect Foundation for those endeavors. You can be a part of the team by supporting in so many different ways. For those of us who area Amazon shoppers, make sure to do your shopping through Amazon Smile, a portion of your normal purchase price will go directly to the foundation for all of your purchases once you sign up--no additional cost to you. If you would like to donate now, simply donate any amount you wish to the foundation and you can even allocate those dollars towards a specific person or client at Donate Now. Lastly, buy our merchandise and continue to spread awareness by visiting the Be Perfect Store. But most importantly, make the conscious effort yourself through the holidays to know what it means to be perfect and to wear the bracelet proudly every morning when you wake up and have the peace of mind to understand how good it feels to pay it forward every day.
Make sure you tune in this week on Wednesday night, November 26th, to ABC 7 at 11 PM to check out the new piece that Elex Michaelson is doing on the Project Walk expansion and all of the great things that are going on at Project Walk Claremont. Thank you for being vital part of our growth this year, and I am so excited to see where the 2015 year will take us and all the people that we can reach and help then as well.
Happy holidays... and Be Perfect,
Hal Hargrave Jr.
I feel like every year I truly do start my post event blog off this way by saying “wowwwwwwwww”. But it truly never has been more fitting and more true than after this year's event. I am left speechless in so many different ways after seeing, experience, executing, and being a part of one of the most special night of my life. The sixth annual fundraiser in my eyes was by far, and leaps and bounds the best event collectively that we have all ever assembled and created. As always, the local community, close family, friends, spinal cord injured friends and their families, all came together to support a cause that we all truly believe in. What all of you brought to the table was simply what I can Dean, a dream come true, a miracle, but at the same time what I have grown to expect of some of the most amazing people I have met on this journey. Every year, even though you guys have continued to set the bar high, and this isn't to say that I taken for granted, or even don't appreciate it, but you guys do exactly what I think you're going to do every year, and that is to simply leave me speechless, blown away, but also make all of you reliable to me that I know you will continue to come back, continue to support, and continue to change the lives of others like you all have continued to do. This year, was beyond special; from yet again another thousand people showing up, beautiful weather even though it scared us just hours before with possible rain even in the midst of this endless summer heat wave, over 100 volunteers from the La Verne baseball team, the La Verne football team, the Diamond Ranch baseball team, the Bloomington baseball team, Claremont club employees, and just close friends who all offered up their time and effort to make a beautiful night come to life. This type of help from all the volunteers and so many community members, created a night that was smooth flowing, effortless, and immaculate. Joe Johnson was able to orchestrate and guide our volunteers who using the tablets for both the silent auction and the bar throughout the night to create for a fun filled environment. Toni Fraizer assembled and created as she always does the best silent auction we've had in the first six years. Tom Cerafice and Doug Brooks got the night rolling up during cocktail hour with their hilarious and role-playing outfits of endless summer and truly bringing the beach theme to life by MC’ing and putting all the guest at ease as they walked in and bringing the life to the party. Laura and Mark Grochowski helped create a beautiful venue with some gorgeous decorations, and a beautiful backdrop on stage that was built from the ground up. Lydia Montano along with the help of her husband, daughter and son, truly put everybody at ease by doing his best job as they could with orchestrating all of the seating within the venue the night of the event, which took several man-hours in the months leading up to the event, and then beautiful photos taken by Justin Montano will help us remember the night. Another professional photographer, Mary Ellen helped capture the night in summary beautiful ways as many of you have probably already seen on Facebook. Teri Goodwin directed the best program that we have ever ran the night of any event, by keeping us all on task, on cue, and simply kept us in the places where we needed to be. Her husband Louis Goodwin did an incredible job with blessing the evening. The beautiful paintings that were created by Tom Clark throughout the night, as so many of us there had been treated to seeing in action for three events now, brought the night home after the program ended with an incredible live auction that brought nearly $40,000 to the foundation. Then there was the pit crew and summary of the unsung heroes off stage and behind the camera. Tony B, helped capture the night via video by filming and recording the entire night back in the pit and doing a great job with bringing a live feed up to the video monitors. Robert Melogoza who is an employee at my dad's office, offered up so much of his time to be such an integral part of running the program and using the video switcher throughout the program to keep our queues flowing properly. But what truly brought the program to life this year was the audiovisual and the huge help of both Jeremiah and Hunter Davis who created an orchestrated some of the best videos that attendees of the be perfect foundations annual event has ever seen. The stories video about trainer and client relationships, made it easy for attendees to relate to the special bonds that are formed in the therapy setting. The frames video that followed my speech, that was put together by Hunter and his team truly captured the essence of what my speech was about and how we can relate to our life as a photo album or pictures on the wall with various moments captured in time, and how these moments that we've captured in time are necessarily indicative of who we are as people, but they resemble a time in our life where we learn the lessons and it helped us become who we are today. We can either let these moments in time to find who we are, or we can use them as lessons learned. Then there was the “hey brother” video that Jeremiah created which showed my friends Missy, Blake, and Brian, and how their lives continued to go on beyond just the therapy setting, but merely in the midst of life they are continuing to do things that even able-bodied people would do. But the whole night culminated with Hunters video, which highlighted the night in its entirety in just 90 seconds. It was pretty unbelievable to think that Hunter was in the back editing this video as the night was going on and was able to show a finished product as the program ended. The aerial shots that were used from the drone that was flown overhead by my friend Jake Scott, truly captured some unique perspectives of the night that when the been captured without the drone. Jake Scott is a part of the Scott family who was always such a huge part and reason that the event is able to be such a success and we are so grateful for them, Richard, Tracy, Brittnee, and Jake. My aunt Deb, and David Bosson headed up the bars at the event, and truly put people at ease with a nice glass of wine or even a cocktail to help them relax and take in all the beautiful moments of the night. The whole entire Apex family, and all of my dad's employees, including my uncle Randy, cousin Ian, friend Jeremy Lay and everybody else who works so hard to pull time away from work to help out with the event, are some of the huge reasons that the night was so amazing. With the added addition of my friend RJ Maki, who is on board as an employee of my dad's business, but now most importantly the executive director of the foundation, was influential in many ways, with his new and fresh ideas, and new approach at social media and marketing, to truly take the foundation to the next level postevent, but also helps with bringing some new and fun aspects to the night like the exit box that you guys all received on your way out of the venue.
In my own eyes the comment the night and the program simply would not have been what it had been without some of our clients stepping up, like Chris Siebel and Stephanie Aiello, who are some new faces up on stage to help introduce videos, or even the likes of Jenna Hardy who is a trainer at Project Walk Claremont that give us all an update on a couple of her clients who are suffering from cancer. Our guest speaker for the night, Chris Simning is simply one of the most remarkable people that I've ever got to experience any sort of friendship with in my entire life. He was hilarious, witty, real, and heart wrenching with all of the great things that he had to say and share with all of us the night of the event and it simply was icing on the cake. The food of gourmet gourmet, was as always great. The visual effect from an incredible A/V team with all the people that are involved at Citrus College, brought great perspective to the night. And the dancing at the end of the night to “NIGHT SHIFT”, who were all college students at Citrus College, was honestly one of the best bands I've ever seen in person and was an absolute blast for everybody who stayed and danced. With so many people to be thanked for helping make the night happen, I couldn't go any farther without thinking my family, my mom and dad, my grandpa, and my grandmother who put in countless hours for months leading up to the event, whether it be registration, general event planning for both the program, silent auction, and all other entities of the event, they simply are some of the biggest doers and proactive people that I could ever surround myself with, and are the sole reason that my vision is able to come to life. I think it goes without saying that I could never fathom or even attempt to do this without them because it simply want to be possible and they are the ones you deserve the true credit. But when I look back on the night as a whole something continues to stand out to me. All of you, the donors, and the people who continue to support are the people who I hold most near and dear to my heart and people who literally bring me to tears whether you see it or not. To have another thousand people there this year, and to raise over $300,000 yet again, simply is a dream come true to put it most simply and clearly. Yet again you guys stepped up to the challenge and exceeded my expectations. With so many more people that I could possibly think individually, it could take the hours to explain my thanks to each and every one of you who helped out as a volunteer, as a supporter, and as a donor. I am forever grateful and appreciative and always remember that I love you all and I cannot wait to do it again next time in 2016. Make sure you all are ready because it will be the seventh inning stretch……….. Never forget to be perfect……..
P.S. Make sure to come and check out Project Walk Claremont's grand re-opening on Saturday, November 8 from nine to 12 o'clock in the morning.
Below are the links to all the videos that we shared with you guys the night of the event. So make sure to check them out and share them with your friends…..
I have been lagging the past couple of months to say the least, to put an updated blog up on the site to tell all of you some of the great things that have gone on the summer as we approach the new school year which for me starts tomorrow, and for many of you has already started, as well as us approaching the upcoming Sixth Annual Be Perfect Foundation fundraiser " Endless Summer" on September 27 next month. I am beyond excited for all of the fun endeavors that will take place next month, with the new school year starting, and everything that leads up planning the event. Needless to say, myself, my family, and all of our committee members are beyond excited for the incredible evening that we have planned for all of you and we can't wait for all who will attend. Remember to get your tickets in early, before the prices go up, we sold out Last year at 1250 people and we don't want to be having to turn away anybody, so make sure to get your tickets in and purchased quickly. It is in fact a themed night again this year much like you might remember last year being a country western theme. This year is an "Endless Summer" theme, so I expect everybody to dress in beach attire, no this does not mean bathing suits haha. And girls, get your sundresses ready! Since the last time that I posted a blog on June 5, a lot has happened. I've spent some incredible times out of the lake, I watched my dad race NASCAR and beat Joe Johnson in a race. I attended and saw many of my sisters close friends and people that I call my friends graduate from the class of 2014 from Claremont high school, and from the University of La Verne. I've attended some fun Dodgers and Angels games with some of my dear friends, made some incredible memories on a cruise to Mexico with 13 of my guy friends that will never be forgotten and at the same time never be spoken of again haha. I attended and made more relationships at the Matt Leinart foundation, celebrity bowling night fundraiser in which he raises money for his foundation and the Make-A-Wish foundation based out of Orange County. I made an incredible river trip with all of the guys from project walk. I celebrated yet another year of battling through this injury and experiencing what I deem as my new birthday of 7/26/07, the day that I was reborn. On this day I was able to share an incredible act of love by attending one of my dear friends, Sarah Webner's wedding, as she is now married to Mr. John Wells who is an incredible guy in his own right. The day after that was a day of much remembrance, and reflection as it was the one year anniversary of my grandfather Hargrave passing away. Needless to say, it was a huge day of reflection for my family and a day that we will all remember a lot of the values that we continue to use today that were instilled in us by my incredible grandfather. 7/27/13. It's been an exciting time at Project Walk in Claremont, as we have just newly finished our expansion of the facility. We are so excited to share and show all of you at our upcoming re-grand opening of the second half of the facility on November 8 of this year, from nine to 12 o'clock in the morning. The facility is now home to new and useful equipment that we will be able to utilize with all of our 50 clients that we now have enrolled in our program, and has expanded our facility by 2200 ft.². I like many of you, was a part of one of the people who undertook the challenge, of getting a cold bucket of ice dumped on my head, for the ALS awareness ice bucket challenge. I then nominated my close friends Brandon Rayburn, Chris Seibel, and Brian Goodwin. It was a fun time doing it and brought some great awareness to the ALS community, and to somebody who's fighting the fight every day, Augie Nieto. My very busy, productive, efficient, and relaxing summer has concluded this weekend, with attending one of Project Walk's very own clients, and my friend Eric Kerber's pool party, yesterday. Where many of us project what clients and trainers had a blast hanging out at the Kerber family's house, going down there slides of their pool, and having an incredible barbecue that was catered by the incredible Kerber family. Today I was back in in my very own element, ironically enough on the campus of University of La Verne, where school will start for me there tomorrow for the fall semester, by speaking to the University of La Verne football team. These are some of the guys that I call some of my dearest friends on campus, and will be friends of mine for life. I had an opportunity to go and provide some perspective for them today prior to the season starting, on the first day of the hell week, and to try and get things on track for everybody prior to school starting tomorrow. As always the guys made me feel more than welcome and a part of an incredible band of Brothers that couldn't be happier to be a part of. I reiterated to them that if you were to cut me open, you would find green and orange spilling out of the blood coming out of my body. They made sure that I knew I was a part of the team and the biggest Leo fan myself, by presenting me with the University of La Verne leopards football jersey. They really are an incredible group of guys, led by incredible head coach in Coach Krich, and backed by an incredible coaching staff along with Coach Brent Baier who taught my theory of football class last semester. I must say though, as school get started tomorrow, I'm a little bummed to think that I won't be a radio DJ on campus this semester, my alter ego, DJ H double However, I will remain in my element as I am already scheduled to broadcast, and announce, via play-by-play and color commentary 15 games from now until the end of October. Whether it be, women's volleyball, men's and women's soccer, and of course one of my passions football. Needless to say, it's shaping up to be another fun school year and an incredible that I'm super excited to get started and get going. But for now, we will continue on with the crazy event planning, and filming a lot of the video work that we are really excited to show all of you next month, that has been produced, filmed, and edited by two Claremont's finest in Hunter and Jeremiah Davis For those of you that know these two guys, know what they bring to the table and how creative they can be so just sit back, relax, and prepare for your minds to be blown at next month's event. I can't wait to see all of you there. be perfect ....
Just a few quick updates… a couple of weeks ago we had an extremely generous offer from the owner, Ray Podesta, of the IHOP, off of Euclid in Upland, to have a day of fundraising for all who eat at IHOP that day, where 50% of the proceeds would go to the foundation. It really was incredible and generous offer, and incredible day of fundraising and support for all who came out. This day was completely made possible from two of our very own clients, Brandon Rayburn and Chris Seibel who headed up organizing and correlating the entire day and making the connection from Mr. Ray Podesta with the foundation. The proceeds generated an incredible $3500, that will go directly back to helping others and keeping many in recovery. It truly was an incredible turnout for all who support be perfect, and for so many other people within the community who came out just to show their face and get a bite to eat. It’s little acts of kindness like this, and the little fundraisers throughout the year that keep the foundation afloat and keep us all going. For somebody like Ray, who owns and runs many IHOP’s, the fact that he even considered and acknowledged the foundation and was willing to put on a fundraiser like this, truly tells a lot about him as a person and his character, and there truly needs to be more people like Ray in the community who are wanting to give back. This past weekend, on April 31, I had the honor and the privilege to go to one of our clients, Mark Hall’s, annual poker fundraiser. This is a fundraiser unfortunately for the past several years I have been unable to attend, but was so blessed to be able to be in town and be able to go this year, as it was at the beautiful home of another one of our clients, Eric Kerber’s families house. Showing up to this event, with several of the Project Walk trainers who all carpooled down there, to Corona, surely had the event hit home for me and it was so exciting to see how all of us within the spinal cord injury community, including our trainers rally behind each other, and all are so supportive of each other’s endeavors, and fundraising efforts simply to keep us all in recovery and keep us moving forward together. It was a pretty incredible turnout, with well over 100 people, for one of the greatest families that I have met along this incredible journey, in the likes of both Mark and Kelleigh, and it is so moving to me to see the type to support that they were given that night, because there is nobody else in the world that deserves that type of support and involvement from all of their friends and family to help make Mark’s dreams come true again of not only walking, but also remain true of being an incredible dad to his three little girls. And of course among other things lately, I had some great involvement and incredible support this year, from the Claremont high school baseball team, and was honored to be able to go to their banquet, this week on June 2. Yet again they showed their incredible support not only towards me, and inviting me in, and making me feel as if I'm still part of the program, but also showing their incredible support towards the foundation with paying great tribute, and even some fund-raising efforts along the way. Being at the end of the year banquet on Monday put such a warm feeling in my heart, and took me back to the glory days where my roots came from and something I’m so prideful about, and Claremont baseball. I’m so proud of all the players and coaches involved in the program this year, and look forward to another great season next year and for many years to come. For some many of the great people that there are to be thanked within that program this year, like the Bernstein family, the Galluchi family, the Witt family, all the great coaches and players, I am so blessed to live and be a part of this great city of Claremont.
As I woke up yesterday morning time kind of stood still. I laid there for a second before calling my mom into the room to come get me out of bed, only because I was thinking about how it was that time of morning five years ago yesterday when people started catching word in finding out that one of my dearest friends, one of Claremont High School's finest alums, one of the most spirited people to attend El Roble, one of the silliest girls ever to attend Sumner elementary school, a perfect daughter, an incredible friend, and an amazing person had been taken from all of us to heaven oh to soon. Courtney Frances Stewart became one of my closest girlfriends when she started going to Sumner elementary school in the fifth grade. I can recall doing a group project with her and one of my best friends in elementary school at the time Jon Hall, where we did a report on one of the various types of snakes in the wild. Part of our presentation that we give to the class was to act out how snakes gave birth. Courtney had no problem offering up the duties of showing the class how an egg comes out of certain places, and plops onto the ground. She demonstrated this with much laughter, and I can assure you that the class followed suit as a fake white egg fell out of Courtney's pants and onto the ground mysteriously in the middle of class. It's not always stuff like this that I will remember Courtney by, but for the people around her that currently we will all remember her little giggle, two very loud laugh, her infectious smile, her blonde hair that you can see from a mile away, and that waddling walk that if all you saw was a silhouette of her you would still know it was her. Five years it's been now, and as each day goes on it gets a little easier to cope with, but never easier to forget. It's interesting how life works, how is people were so wired to be in tune, and be so appreciative of things after tragedy has struck our lives and after we have lost something that is so close to us. Whether it's figurative, literal, or even a person we tend to give life, and the people around us the attention and respect they finally deserve. Why that is? Not sure I have the answer to that question for everybody else, and at times I may even be a culprit of it myself, but I can assure you that over the past seven years since my life has drastically changed but certainly hasn't been the way I have approach things in my life. This isn't to say that my life experiences any better, any different, any worse, or any more valuable from myself and onto the next person, but the perspective that I have gained, and what I've taken away from what life has tried to teach me is a clear-cut understanding that life is short, and a true and living proof that people can truly live every moment to its fullest with appreciation and gratitude for others. Often times my overwhelming acknowledgment towards others uniqueness, positives, and beautiful traits within their personality, and incredible physical attributes as people can be misconstrued. My sincerely towards others, is sometimes interpreted as faulty, desperate, and a stretch from the truth. It may sometimes be even interpreted as sarcasm. But let me reassure you through my words and not through my mouth, so this can truly drive the point home of how everything should be interpreted that comes out of my own mouth. As some people who are close to me and that understand me have heard me say before, and have taken it literally, I will tell them it is not my job to point out somebody's false and tell them how ugly they are, or where they are lacking, but it is my job to be there for others to encourage them, motivate them, and show them that they truly are beautiful people whether they know it or not. This isn't to say that I'm out there searching for thousands of different girls, because this applies to the guys I talked to two, but merely I have found a way to find the beauty and everybody because I have a clear-cut understanding now that each and every one of us is a gift in some way, shape, or form, and all have been made a beautiful masterpiece whether we realize it or not. This is something that I have not only identified with and some of my close friends, but even with the people that I hardly even know. With all sincerity I mean this from the bottom of my heart, and when I try to reiterate to people, and tell them, and show them truly that they are a gift to this world and are beautiful in so many ways, I just hope from now on they can interpret it with much sincerely coming from Iran, and learn from it with a sense of pride and confidence that they can carry on out into the world. When I relate my own personal loss, to a loss of Courtney within my life it doesn't even compare, and that's why I have made a conscious effort the past five years, to tell those that I love around me truly what they're worth is to me, and more importantly what it means to the world. Also was a loss of Courtney, came with the loss of two others and the tragedy that would change someone else's life forever. Anaheim Angels pitcher, Nick Adenhart was in the car the night Courtney passed away, when she was hit by a drunk driver heading to Incahoots, in Fullerton to go line dancing. The night of the crash, Nick had just finished playing and pitching in his first ever major league game for the Angels, at home against the Oakland Athletics, where coaches, players, family and friends, and peers who were in attendance, already were deeming him to be a potential star in the major leagues and if anything in life. But it wasn't just Nick who went with Courtney, another dear friend of both Courtney and Nick, was Henry Pearson who unfortunately came out on the losing end of the crash as well. Three incredible individuals were lost, but what we all gain was an incredible perspective, lessons learned, and sense of pride from the roots of where we came from, and how each of them will forever impact our lives until eternity. But with these three individuals forever gone from the trash, didn't mean that more loss didn't occur. The fourth passenger in the car, and the lone survivor from the accident, somebody I deemed to be a dear friend, and a role model to me now, was John Wilhite. John was an incredible athlete himself, as he still is today as he fights his own battles and demons every morning when he wakes up. John will tell you, prior to the crash, some of his most memorable moments in life, were playing in the College World Series where he got a base hit, for one of the premier baseball colleges in the country, our own Orange counties Cal State Fullerton. But it wasn't just on a baseball field where John excelled. He has and had a plethora of friends that have been nothing but support to him since the accident. And much of this might be speaking for myself but from what I have gathered, as much as John has tried to escape the spotlight of being the lone survivor, at the same time he has become a huge icon and advocate not only for the three that we all have lost, but as well as preventing in advocating for non-drunk driving acts Of responsibility within the community. John has become a symbol of hope to most all of us, and somebody we can all look at to put a smile on her face. John absolutely lives up to the acronym of hope with, hold on pain ends. And even though the pain of losing the three will never fully go away, and is imprinted on all of our hearts, John is a constant reminder that we are still left with an Angel here on earth. Whether or not you've had the chance to meet John yet, is something that am deeply sorry for if you haven't. All you can do when you are around him for obvious reasons, is just smile. He's got a clear's personality, a heart of gold, tenacity, a fiery ambition, and a will that is unprecedented. He truly is a role model whether he knows it, believes it, or even thinks he's living it or not. As she is somebody that I look up to every day, I find great joy with sharing many great times with him, as he is become even closer to me with sharing a common interest beyond just baseball, that we both love and care about. John and his family have become some of the biggest and most passionate supporters of my foundation that I have met with in the past seven years. Since the crash, their family has managed to attend each event that the foundation has thrown sense, and have even gone as far to make a promise to me that they will be there every single year, simply because they love everything about it and the fact that it brings all of us together regardless of circumstances. Now what I haven't told you, is the fact that John is a miracle in himself. In the accident, John had received what was deemed as an internal decapitation of the head from the spine at the C1 level. This is something that nearly every single individual dies from, let alone ever walk again. I can assure you no matter how many stories you have ever heard, you will never hear anything like this. John has managed to not only recover from his injury and be alive, but he is also a walking testament that miracles can and do happen. The fact alone that he can walk up to me every time I see him and get me a hug, emulates the same feeling that I used to get when I would hug Courtney. As I texted John yesterday, to remind him that he is always in my thoughts and prayers, beyond just what yesterday signified to him and me and so many others, but our conversation ended with me doing what I do to most anybody that holds a true spot in my heart. I reminded him how great of a person he truly was, not out of pity, but out of pure sincerity. Doing what John always does, he flipped it back and threw it right back at me by saying that I was one of his heroes as well. I guess I have a clear-cut understanding now of why I have chosen to surround myself with somebody like him. He's a perfect angel.. so as each day goes by, nothing will bring back, Carrie's Courtney, my Courtney, our Courtney, our Nick Adenhart, or our Henry Pearson, but will always remain is the imprint that they left on our hearts and the angel that we are left with here on earth. And as much as things are taught in life, that we never really retain and never really learned, we can all gain a huge perspective from this and an even bigger lesson learned was something that true facts can backup. The facts are: every 15 minutes somebody is killed by a drunk driver. Drunk driving is an accident, it's a choice, and it's murder. Every 48 seconds, a drunk driver puts somebody like me, and somebody like John, into one of those handicap spots at the front of Von's that we all vie for. But what really matters from all of this, is the fact that we all still have hope, and we all still have a chance to change the world, but what will you do with that chance? Will you try to teach and provide perspective to others? Or will you sit back and not be an advocate and let a dear friend make that dumb decision that could be life-changing. Speak up, it only takes one voice to change the world, and one moment to change a life. So sincerely I will leave you with this as I hope you all take away a newfound perspective to do the same to others, do yourself a favor today and lay in bed tonight and try a few things. Sit up in bed, stretch your hands over your head, reach over and grab that glass of water beside your bed, then get up and go to the bathroom, then go lay back down and realize how fortunate you are to still be here. What does that mean to you? Because to Courtney, Nick, and Henry, they will never be able to do that again. And then think about how you just did something that John struggles every single day to do and will for the rest of his life. Are you living your life the way you should, and to its fullest? Only you can determine that. Never forget to say I love you only so you can hear, the words of an angel and what she would say back, " I love you more..." never forget 4/9/09........ and never forget the words that I spoke at Courtney's (MY COWGIRL) funeral as I gave part of her eulogy because it emulated to a T who she was as a person: " worry more about your character than your reputation, your character is who you are and your reputation is merely what others think of you.., and to be perfect........."
This past week was a great week of reaching out to others, raising awareness, and bringing perspective to many individuals. I was blessed enough to have the opportunity to have several speaking engagements throughout the week, all of which were reaching out to students at the high school levels. The week started by speaking to sports teams at Claremont high school my alma mater. I was able to reach out to athletes from both the JV and Varsity level baseball team and the varsity basketball team. I tried to bring some perspective to all of them about the different values that should be put upon their time spent in high school and how valuable it is to be a part of a team and experience the camaraderie of being on. These were all aspects during my high school career in which I wish I'd paid more attention to and had more of a sense of appreciation towards my coaches and peers during those great times. I enjoy speaking to those types of kids who in a lot of ways I live vicariously through as I see them very image of myself in those kids shoes at my alma mater. All of the kids were very receptive and I look forward to the ways that they will bring forth both their attitudes and their skills to represent Claremont high school as a whole. The very next day I tried to bring the same sort of perspective to kids that were a part of the San Dimas high school baseball program as I spoke to them on the very same topics that I reiterated to the kids at my alma mater of being a part of the program and the team and the different contributions you can bring to that team to play your role as effective as possible. I feel so blessed to have the sort of connections to be able to go out and talk to all of these types of athletes and students at the various surrounding schools in the area to provide my insight and perspective and what I feel as if is some valuable life lessons to kids that I can relate to. It also brings a lot of perspective to me while doing so, many perspectives in which he keeps me grounded and humbles me in so many different ways, to be able to share my story not in the way that sounds conceited, cocky, or in any case playing the woe is me card, but merely trying to bring perspective to many of these athletes mind to show them what they are truly capable of bringing to the table in life. I also had a unique first experience with doing my first ever webinar online with a group of students that were from high schools in both Utah and Arizona. This extremely interactive experience reiterated to me the power of technology and how getting the word out about be perfect and sharing my testimony with others can go far beyond just the local areas and on a face-to-face basis, but merely through the power of video chat in kids sending through question and answer responses through a unique software through Google hang out. There was no telling really the true amount students that were on the webinar because more than one student was locked in at any given time in classrooms of high schools, but in any case we were able to get the word out and I got much great feedback on both the use of the technology and the message that was being sent to all the students through the my testimonial. The great week ended when I attended a fundraiser at cable airport, in upland which is Claremont's neighboring city. The fundraiser was a beer festival, with live bands, food, vendors, and beer tasting first 40 different breweries all over Southern California, and the event was put on by Dale Brothers brewing Company out of Upland, and all the proceeds benefited CEF, the Claremont educational foundation. The Hardy family, and their close friend Richard, headed up this wonderful event along with the likes of many great Claremont ambassadors like the Harper family and so many other involved families in Claremont in order to make this a huge and successful event. The event initially expected somewhere in the ballpark of 1500 attendees and they were blown away by the great response of over 3000 people in attendance. Needless to say, it was a huge hit and spread the word of all the great things that Claremont educational foundation is doing in the community. What came along with this great event was a chance for my family and several other families in the community to volunteer at the various brewing company's tense where we were able to pour beers for all the attendees as volunteers. While doing so we were able to put out a tip jar and raise awareness for be perfect and we were able to raise over $900 in tips in just under 2 1/2 hours of pouring beverages to the attendees. It was an incredible response and a great day that I will remember, and definitely give my family nice some ideas for how we can make our event better and future events that relate to be perfect. I can't wait for next year's beer Festival and I can only hope that Claremont educational foundation receives an overwhelming response in which so many great monetary proceeds will go in their way after another great event. I just wanted to update you all on another perfect filled week, and will keep you updated on all the great things that are happening in the near future.
What an eventful year it was in reminiscence of 2013 and all that was in store for me, my family, my friends, in the foundation. There is so much to remember 2013 by, so much to take away from it, so much to gain from it, so much loss from it, but if anything else so many lessons learned from it. The year kicked off with the opening of the Project Walk Claremont facility at the Claremont club in February, 2013. The Project Walk model and methodology has been a huge part of my recovery for the past six years and has truly developed and evolved my recovery into something that has become pivotal with my lifestyle that I live on a day-to-day basis. It has taught me and brought me independence and most importantly has given me such a great mental outlook and perspective on life that continues to push and move me forward on a day-to-day basis. Three years ago I had mentioned and brought up to my parents the idea and the notion of bringing the first ever Project Walk franchise up to the Inland Empire and expand upon our small facility that we already had at the Claremont club in making it the first ever franchise that Project Walk has seen. After my parents agreement to match my dollar to dollar donation to the Claremont Club to start this facility, my family presented a check of $300,000 to get the project started. In our older facility that was much smaller, where we were operating out of a converted racquetball court, we certainly may do and had a great team of staff who was willing to put their best foot forward to make the lives of spinal cord injuries better was going along great until we recognize and identified that we were running out of space with nearly 21 clients in our program in just an 800 ft.² converted racquetball court. My family and I went to Mike Alpert who plays a vital part, of the day-to-day operations, along with the wellness director Denise Johnson at the Claremont Club, who certainly have made our dream come true of taking the next step of doing a remodel of an existing part of the Claremont Club to create a 3000 ft.² facility, that became home in February of this past year to the first ever Project Walk franchise, Project Walk Claremont. At the end of 2013 the growth the Project Walk Claremont was astounding. The facility itself was already seeing huge growth with both staff, clientele, recognition and even the need to already expand and do another remodel where here in the first quarter of 2014 we will be doubling our floor space and adding another 2000 ft.² to our existing facility to put us right at 5000 ft.² of being able to help spinal cord injured victims. Currently the facility has grown to two full-time receptionists, Rebecca and Nancy, two full time aides, Kristen, that complement our wonderful six specialists on the floor, Shawn, Skye, Loren, Jenna, Tanya, and Dania who accompany 40 full-time clients in our program already at the end of year number one. This is beyond incredible to me and something I'm very proud to say that we are moving and growing in the right direction at a good and steady pace and I know that it is getting the incredible recognition that it deserves throughout the spinal cord injury sector as people are beginning to consider Project Walk Claremont as the cornerstone and pinnacle of what a model spinal cord injury facility to gain recovery is all about. This would not be made possible without the help of Mike Alpert and Denise Johnson wanted day-to-day basis make this dream come true of having the facility run smoothly and operate at the highest level. Within the project walk model we do not preach that you will walk again, but we do promise with hard work and determination the worst thing that can happen to you is that you are going to become healthier, reduce your chance of secondary complications, become physically fit, and most importantly a high mental capacity that will leave you with the utmost confidence to live a active and conducive lifestyle that is healthy to all individuals. And if all of this great happenings was not enough, the Be Perfect Foundation celebrated its Fifth Annual fundraiser in May, 2013 at yet again the Haffif Estate in north La Verne. The night was perfect to say the least, and record-breaking at anything else, as it was our first ever dressed themed event of, “These boots are made for walking”, cowboy theme. Simply because all of you made the night happened and another dream of mine come true. Over 1250 people attended, ready to line dance, at the Fifth Annual fundraiser which broke our previous record by 250 people, there were over 100 volunteers, close to 50 spinal cord injury friends in attendance, and over $300,000 raised, all of which 100% of the dollars going straight back to the foundation. The program was spectacular with guest appearances by team hot wheels, who provided some great wheel-chaired and able-bodied dancing, along with some great line dancing moves, a guest appearance by, Glee star, Ali Stroker who stole the show with an incredible singing performance in which the mothers who attended the event were honored the night before Mother's Day. And if all of this wasn't inspiring and moving enough as it is we tried to show our donors some tangible evidence that their dollars are being effective by highlighting eight of our clients up on stage and showing our audience an incredible 20 minute video about these clients recovery, and how be perfect has played such a vital role in changing their lives. The video “I'm still me” is still being raved about and watched by so many both on our new website, and on YouTube that it is simply moving every time you watch it. And if all of this wasn't enough as it is there was an incredible silent and live auction to complement it all and the night was capped off with some epic line dancing to the great brand the Silverado's. Needless to say, we are so proud of our upcoming event this year in September, which will be our Sixth Annual event, and we are so proud to have all of you back and show you what the past year has done to all who is involved with the Be Perfect foundation and we would love to invite you all out to the upcoming event. Please look out for our save the date card coming out in the mail here shortly, it's going to be another perfect event and we would love to see you all there. I'm so proud to say this as our incredible group of staff and board members who year in and year out volunteer their time to make this night and fundraiser happen are truly the reason why everything went so smoothly in the night even seized to exist. This whole experience is very humbling and makes me even feel better about it all when I can honestly say that 100% of our donors dollars are going directly back to helping those in need. We are one of the few nonprofits around that has a Board of Directors that doesn't collect a salary and is 100% volunteer-based. That means more of your dollars helping other people. We are so proud to say this and even with the expansion of our facility of Project Walk Claremont, this is 100% privately funded and none of our donors dollars are going towards bricks and mortar but merely 100% of the dollars are going directly back to keeping clients in our program at the facility in making the lives of others better through therapy and not through remodeling cost. The year continued on with so many great people throughout the year continuing to contribute and donate to be perfect that it is beyond my words and comprehension to really understand the value that all of you hold in my life and how all of you have got me through tough times and push me through adversity when I needed it the most. In July of this year, my grandfather passed away and it was something that was very hard on my family to both understand, comprehend, find closure with, and at times ask ourselves why him? But as firm believers in our faith and our trust with the reasons why things happen the way they do in life we found the light in it as a family and rallied together to truly try and make even a bigger difference with the understanding that giving is far better than receiving. This is a value and even a mantra that my family has lived by simply because of our upbringing by my grandfather Hargrave, as well as my grandmother and even my grandparents on my mother side with instilling these values within us as a family that the opportunity to give and help others is far sweeter than anything you could ever do for yourself and really brings perspective to my family and even my life of what's important. Since my grandfather has passed I certainly have stayed the course and My head on straight even beyond just the foundation but selfishly in my grades and with school with bringing forth my best semester yet in school, by applying myself and staying motivated throughout the semester to complete my fifth semester in a row of straight A's. At times people around me start to laugh at me with wondering why I worry so much about my grades, and them trying to explain to me that C’s get degrees, but I just simply tell them this is the type of person that I am and I know what I'm capable of and it's almost an internal competition with myself that I play to see that I can get these types of grades. It's almost indicative of life because grades exemplify what you got out of something, and I'm so keen on getting everything out of life that I can at this point because I and understand how sweet life is and how short it can be and how love ones are taken away from us in a split second, far earlier than they should ever be. So it's hard for me to say that my grandfather passed for no apparent reason, or for no moral significance after the fact because each and every day him and my grandmother who passed away three years ago play such a significant role in my day-to-day approach towards life that their legacies live on far beyond there dash. I refer to much of our lives on this earth based on the – in between the dates that we were both born and eventually pass away, because the – exemplifies the time that we spent on earth and simply how we spent that time changing the lives of other people. So with so much learned in 2013, and so much more to experience in 2014 I can only understand and only comprehend that life can get better from here, I can only make better decisions, I can only become more wise, and I can only be more appreciative for the things that I have in life because life is honestly perfect at this point. I couldn't ask for anything more, I couldn't ask for any more support, I couldn't ask for better people in my life, I can only offer up more of my life, more of my services, and more of my effort to help better the lives of others around me. And there is no starting or stopping point of where that begins and ends it is something that is instilled in me for the rest of my life and something that I will continue to do forever. There is no amount that is too much because there are constantly more people out there that need help and need me and you. We will do this together, we will continue to reach out and help more people, we will continue to spread the word, I will continue to public speak and share my knowledge to thousands that I encounter with, much like I did in 2013, but most importantly I will continue to be better for all of you, continue to work harder, continue to be smarter, and actively try to be perfect and be the best that I can be each day so I'm not leaving anything short and leaving anything on the table. I owe that to you, I owe that to him, I owe that to her, and I owe that to myself to never give up. You all now have my word, my heart, and my soul, that I will continue on, never stop, never be negative, always see the light and things, and always look forward to things getting better and making the best of each and every situation. I love you all and I can't wait for a great 2014, with so many public speaking engagements to attend, an expanded Project Walk facility, another Be Perfect event, and keeping my head on my toes for anything else that is thrown at me or all of us in 2014 so we can make the best of it. I love you all.. Stay you.. Stay perfect..
P.S.-My New Year's resolution is to be more active with updating my blog and keeping each and every one of you informed of my journey, and how be perfect is making a difference everywhere. I will inform all of you each time I go speak, each time I spread the word, and each time we change somebody's life throughout the year. Stay tuned in..
Wow, what another incredible event in the record books. This blog is very much long-awaited on my part but never too late to give thanks and express gratitude. I have such an unbelievable support structure around me along with an incredible community who support gives me goosebumps a lot of times. Nevertheless, I am beyond grateful for my community, my family, and most definitely my friends who were there at the fifth annual fundraiser, or even others who were even able to make it and are there for me every step of the way. It’s crazy to think that it’s already been six years since my accident and we have already had the fifth annual event that we have been able to share with thousands of people over the years to express and share, our stories of success and how our mission of helping others is being more than exceeded day in and day out. I must start by saying that my group of volunteers that ponies up every year and jumps in to make everything about the night perfect and just the night happen in general is one of the most overwhelming displays of hard work and support than I’ve ever been surrounded by my life. The group of 20+ committee members, and countless other volunteers from community groups and other groups alike came together and made yet another historical night in be perfect event history. With over 1200 people in attendance at yet again the beautiful Hafif estate, brought such a vibrant and emotional fields of the night that I’m hoping it will be remembered by all as one of the best events attended in be perfect history. With our outstanding silent auction with yet again close to 300 items all donated 100% by community partners in both Claremont and the surrounding cities, that brought another dynamic part to our night that only contributed to our success. And during the program with so many great stories that were told by some of our clients that the foundation helps, the wheelchair dance team and so many other exceptional pieces implemented into the program, I’m really hoping that we got across to all of our donors and all of you that we truly are making a difference day in and day out in so many people’s lives in the spinal or injury world and even outside of it through inspiration. People oftentimes wonder when they donate to certain foundations whether money is truly going and that they themselves want to hear all the success stories because it makes them feel than, let me just tell you 99% of your dollars are going directly back to help SCI patients in the success stories, even beyond the physical part of this injury but merely just living life every day can’t even be described or put in the words on the amount of difference that we are making in all of these families lives. Whether you want to talk about supporting people in exercise therapy programs, adapting cars or homes, buying medical supplies or just being a resource for both knowledge and hope we all are making such an incredible difference that I can see this being a foundation that lasts a lifetime. Now as many of you are probably wondering how well and how successful we actually wear that night in terms of monetary dollars, it’s safe to say after all that has been accounted for now that yet again we raised over $300,000 that will be helping other people, and that’s all because of each of you who were in attendance or even those who couldn’t make it but were still supportive along the way. I attribute all the success to all of you guys and at times when I am put in the spotlight way too much and recognize for some of these great achievements it so easy for me to say that this isn’t about me and I did not do this, but merely it’s about all of you and we did this. From the bottom of my heart I can think each and every one of you 1000 times over for making all of my dreams become a reality and eclipsing the $2 million mark that we have raised in just five short years as something astronomical, but I will also tell each and every one of you that it doesn’t stop there and all my thanks I could ever give you is not enough. We won’t stop and we will all keep pushing forward through all of this and we will continue to change more lives for many years to come. I can’t wait to ride the ride with all of you who are willing to hop in the seat right next to me, but I must warn you, “ hold on, because we are going go really fast”. A quick update for all of you on our new franchise facility of Project Walk in Claremont, I must tell all of you how successful the facility has been over just four short months and how our dollars raised at the event will be helping so many of our clients be able to stay in our program there locally for all of you community members to see with your own eyes. You are more than welcome to come by anytime and see some of the great things that so many of the great things that our SCI friends are doing in their recovery, with the help of you keeping them in therapy. We are just at the end of month number four and already have 35 full-time clients implemented into our program and have five currently on a waiting list ready to go. We have such a great rate of expansion and growth that we are already looking to hire more trainers, assistants and to possibly expand our facility by the end of the year to potentially offer more services from more trainers, more equipment and more expertise. This is just another great thing that all of you have contributed to, not necessarily in the sense of bricks and mortar and equipment because that’s not what we’ve raised money for, but merely to help keep people in recovery and at facilities like Project Walk. We had our grand opening the week after the fifth annual fundraiser, where over 300 people attended our open house at Project Walk Claremont, located at the Claremont Club. Where people were able to view the facility and even the entire clubs campus to see all of the great things that the Claremont Club has to offer under its model of care and exercise. My family and I, have felt more than overwhelmed with all of your love and support and well wishes as of late and even over the past six years, and not a bad feeling of being overwhelmed but merely a grateful feeling. I cannot wait to see what the next five events in 6+ years has in store for all of us and I can’t even imagine to think what both project walk in the foundation will grow to in that amount of time, but I can only imagine that if it’s with all of you who have been there for the first six years of my injury then it will be far greater than I will ever expect. Thank you thank you thank you, I cannot say it enough you have all made my dreams come true.. be perfect
In an attempt to be much less boring to people and much less redundant one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 is to be much less long-winded and more to the point with the things that I’m trying to get across. I am going to try and do that now as I recap and reminisce upon what a great year 2012 was and what great things we have in store for 2013 both personally, as a family and namely as a foundation with helping more people. 2012 was an unbelievable year for not just my family and myself but for the foundation as well. The foundation has and is continuing to receive the national recognition that it deserves as we are continuing to get on a national scale with trying to find donors to see the foundation is a fit of where their dollars are wanting to go to help other people. At the conclusion of 2011, we ended it with a bang with our Fourth Annual event where we raised $425,000 to help other people in the years to come. As many of you know those dollars only go so far, and what the rearranging of when our Fifth Annual event would be, some 18 months later we certainly as a foundation had to be accountable to our donors and make the money stretch out for those 18 months to get us through till the next event. With the Fifth Annual event approaching rapidly here on May 11, 2013 the foundation and its committee members are excited for what we think will be another great night, where we all break out our boots and enjoy a country themed and inspiring night again at the Hafif Estate. The committee and the foundation is working hard in preparation for the upcoming event to make it at night that we will all never forget and to try and top our last event which is becoming hard to do year-to-year. We have a lot of great ideas and hope to blow the boots off your feet with an inspiring night where we will try and change other people’s lives once again. 2012 marks the culmination of the five year mark since my accident. It simply astounding and amazing for me to think about not just how far I’ve come in those five years, but surely the row that I have traveled, the people I’ve met, the lives that have been changed and most importantly all the people that the foundation has been able to help in those five years. As I look ahead to 2013 and the next five years I can’t help but think how big the foundation will become and the amount people that we will be of the help here in the near future. A lot of my dreams have become a reality in 2012 was no different as I was able to be blessed with many of those dreams to come true. Some of you might’ve heard by now that the foundation and my family is proud to present and announce that another dreams is coming true that we have tried to make happen for quite some time. Some of you may remember back at the Third Annual event when my family presented a donation in order to start a new facility to expand upon the one that we have at the Claremont Club and help more people. The truth of the matter is we are outgrowing our facility at the club and were looking for different avenues to expand upon our existing facility and make it a place where more spinal cord injuries can come and really get a bang for their buck, as we expand upon our level of training as well. Project Walk has been a rehab facility that I have been attending for the past five years down in Carlsbad. They have done many great things for me as far as my recovery goes in getting back on my two feet again and I have seen so many miracles happen for many different people over the course the past five years in that facility. My dream has been wanting to bring that modality of training up to the Inland Empire and service people with spinal cord injuries up in this area under the same curriculum. My family is proud to announce that the Claremont Club will be the site of the first ever Project Walk Franchise and will be named Project Walk Claremont. This facility is set to open here in a few weeks in the first part of February. Our new facility and its renovations are almost complete as we will be operating under a room that is more than five times the size of what we have right now. We feel as if this will truly be able to help and extend our modality of training, level of training, creativity and our dynamic ability to help others with spinal cord injuries above and beyond what we are already doing at the club. We will have in our facility one of just a few gait training devices and treadmills in the United States. This type of modality could be the difference of somebody walking and a walker to walking unassisted for the rest their life, or even somebody who’s in a chair and has a little bit of movement in their legs to getting up out of their chair and walking. The sky’s the limit and we know what this new facility we will have the opportunity to make people’s dreams a reality. There will be more announcements in the weeks to come with the grand opening coming soon. The operational part of the gym will begin in early February, where we will occupy the facility and be working day-to-day out of it. On May 18, 2013 we will have our grand opening that will be open to the public and all of you to come check out the new facility and a lot of the great things that we are doing to help others. There are so many great things to come in 2013 and as a foundation we are really trying to extend our services and ensure that we will be around forever. In an attempt to do so I have dreams of being able to set up an endowment fund where we can set up an account that ensures that this foundation will be around forever. I hope that this year will bring us a step closer to doing so and I can’t begin to tell you how much all of your support affects what I do on a day-to-day basis and how it keeps me going and gets me up out of bed. You all mean the world to me and I mean that from the bottom of my heart without you guys this all isn’t possible. Please keep checking back for more updates and until then I hope you all have a great 2013 and please continue to spread the word about The Be Perfect Foundation as we try to get this nationwide and remind people of all the great things they can do to help others. I love you guys... Be perfect
I woke up today with a rash of emotions, from both the high and low end of the spectrum... Recounting the events from the past five years and namely the past week... my week started with some very unfortunate news much of which has gotten me where I am today and has shaped who I become over the past five years. On Saturday, July 21, 2012 before 8:30 in the morning, my trainer at the Claremont club for the past five years , Lee Russo was found collapsed on the side of a walking trail in North LaVerne by two pedestrians. Unfortunately, my trainer Lee was pronounced dead at the scene. I’ve had five days to recall this and take it all in and it still hasn’t quite hit home yet of truly how important, how special, how meaningful and how vital Lee is to my life and my recovery. However, I did have a chance to reminisce over the past five years and how he has gotten me where I am today. If I were to tell all of you that Lee was 69 years old none of you would probably believe me. He was the most in shape and fit 69-year-old I’ve ever seen. Lee taught me a lot about self-discipline, hard work, self-control and willpower. And how harnessing all that, and focusing your energy towards a goal with the help of a trainer like Lee, anything is possible with a strong mental outlook. He was a model citizen, with a positive attitude a great outlook and a smile that reflected upon everybody around. He brought an energy to the Claremont club not just to the trainers but to the members as well, as he lighted up the atmosphere and always made you feel right at home. His warm personality created for a very gentle and caring man, as he cared so much to be the liaison for the Claremont club with the community of Claremont. He was very active in the community as well as his church in which he called home. If there were more people like Lee in this world there’s no question this world would be a better place with much less tension and more caring individuals everywhere. Lee is somebody that I look up to and I will always have a certain drive and motivation to get back up on my feet now more than ever on account of that being a goal for both Lee and I in my recovery. I will never forget him, as he was simply perfect in his own right and he will definitely have a legacy that lives on not just that the club but throughout the city and neighborhood to. As that weighed on my mind this morning as I woke up I realized I had to find a reason to wake up and have the motivation to go out and work hard for Lee. And motivation came quite easily as I woke up this morning to immense amount of text messages, and voicemails and comments on twitter that I simply realize I had nothing to be down about, nothing to be upset for and simply a feeling of all the hope and the world given back to me through the support structure that I have within me. You see today is my birthday. July 26. And for those of you that know me know that that truly isn’t my birthday you would all say “no Hal it’s August 14”. I would certainly agree with you in the sense that that is my literal birthday. However, now there is a new day in my life that is far more important to me. July 26, 2007 was the day I was officially born, again. Yes, I am five years old and counting. This was the day thatlife stood still and a new perception and attitude towards it was formed. In some sense, I was remade as a baby all over again. I had my legs taken from me, I’ve had to relearn how to walk, and had to relearn how to take care of myself, I’ve had to relearn how to feed myself, I’ve had to relearn how to be independent, and yes I’ve had to relearn how to poop and pee to be quite honest. And as gross and disgusting as this sounds, all of this is now a reality to me. And never once has it become a reason or source of something to get me down or make me sad, is simply used as a driving force and motivation to get back to where I was prior to July 26, 2007. But I’ve come to realize since those five years ago that most of those physical things in life don’t necessarily matter to me as much, believe it or not. Do I still have the urge and the drive to go out and be a kid again and go out and do physical activities, and wakeboard again, and play baseball again? Absolutely! But I’ve also come to realize that the mental and emotional aspects of life are far more important than anything else. And I found a whole new love a new passion for life that I never had before. I’ve found that are starting my foundation and helping other heal. Through starting the foundation and seeing others heal and helping them heal is more therapeutic than anything else to me in life. I’m not just talking about the SCI patients either, I’m talking about devoting my life to helping others around me. This is far more important than anything that has to do with me personally as far as I’m concerned. I myself as I’m sure many other people can accuse themselves of being too selfish at certain points in time, whether or not they’re willing to admit it to other people but mark me down as one of those people that is willing to admit. I’m not afraid to say it but yes, prior to my accident I probably live my life much too selfishly in light of doing what was in my best interest and not in the interest of other people and that was completely wrong. My purpose, is to be there for other people not want other people to be there for me, that should just come without any questions asked what the people I’ve surrounded myself with, not in any cocky or stuck up way am I saying that either. I am saying that because you have all lived up to expectations of who I truly thought you were. You all have been there by my side for the past five years and have never left and I truly love every one of you for that from the bottom of my heart. Each and every one of you that I call my friends, have never failed me and have completely gone above and beyond the call of duty to express your true light of who you all are and that’s great people. I could sit here time and time again and say that I myself, is the one to think all this because I chose all of you to be my friends, yet that again would simply be wrong. You, all chose me to be a part of your life so I should be thanking each and every one of you for answering the same question I have for all of you in a positive way, “ are you a good person” and I can tell you for each and every one of you, I would say yes. You that all know me have heard me say the motto at some point or another, “worry more about your character than your reputation, your character is to you are and your reputation is merely what others think of you”. This would in fact indicate that each and every one of you should care less if I or anyone else has the perception of you that you are a good or a bad person, that judgment and decision should be made in the nature of just who you are as a person. My point is is that many of you are just who you are, and that my eyes is a great person and is somebody that I’m proud to call a friend and a supporter of mine and the foundation. So some of you might ask what have you learned in the past five years. I wouldn’t know where to begin to be quite honest... I could start by saying patience, or that walking isn’t everything in life, that the most important thing in life is your friends and family, that I’ve learned how to be an optimist and always be positive, that the road I’ve traveled down with something that I never expected that I would but is a blessing in disguise, but I would probably say more than anything else that this all happened for a reason.. That this was meant to be and for one simple reason that I can assure you that this is a true statement.. And that is because I have all of the people that I have surrounding me in supporting me. Each and every one of you reiterate me every morning why I get up and do what I do and that this is all worth it to me, walking or not if this is what life has in store for me but I’m perfectly okay with it simply because the people I’ve met, the stories that I’ve heard, the friendships that I’ve gained, the friendships that I’ve maintained and the future that I have ahead of me. Did I expecting to be walking now my five year anniversary? Early on in my recovery yes I would’ve told you no doubt, do I have any doubt now? No absolutely not, it just may take a little longer than unexpected. Was this because I wasn’t applying myself for trying hard enough? Most definitely not, I can name 1000 reasons right now why I would never give up on each and every one of you. I guess my body is just at the point where it’s just not ready to get up and do its thing yet. And that’s perfectly okay with me because I’ve realized something new about life. That it’s not about how fast you get there, it’s about how slow methodical you can get there while choosing the best route, the best path to go down, the bumpy as road that tests your adversity, a wild adventure, unexpected run-ins, eventfulmoments that take your breath away, all with the understanding that everything is going to be okay and that I will reach my goal someday with the help of all of you. Time is of the essence.. My no rush to walk tomorrow as long as I continue to understand and learn new things along the way but most importantly never take a single moment for granted ever again for the people I have around me, my physical state, my mental and emotional outlook, and that I have the greatest gift of all.. The gift of life itself. But I want to take the time to thank you all for something that you didn’t know you help me learn and that is to pay attention to the little details in life because those are what mean the most... To cherish little victories and little accomplishments along my road to recovery. Because people automatically assume as an outsider looking in that it’s either walking or nothing... Which isn’t true.. I continued to defy odds every day of what people and doctors told me I would never do again. It’s the little things now that are more important than ever. My second round of “1st time doing something” all over again. If the little victories such as learning to feed myself again, learning to push my wheelchair and become independent again, learning to have a great mental outlook on life again, learning to be positive, learning to cope with this injury, and yes trying to put 1 foot in front of the other every day and trying to take the biggest step of my life while I try to get back to walking again someday. You may notice that I in fact didn’t say everything had to be physical to be a 1st for doing something all over again.. Because that is not what is important to me anymore.. Changing somebody’s life in a positive way is all that I am worried about now.. And I’ve come to find out that I can still be Hal without walking.. And that was the greatest discovery in the entire world.. I have learned one last thing, and that is the difference between having a good and bad memory, because having a good memory is carried with the people who pay attention to the little details of life. And I certainly pride myself on that more than ever right. Where will I be five years from now? I’m not even going to try and tell you that I have an idea.. But I can tell you two things that I know for sure will still be here five years from now.. All of you and the foundation! Thank you all so much for the support! I love you all and never forget to BE PERFECT!
R.I.P. LEE RUSSO
LEE AT THE 1ST ANNUAL EVENT
It's funny how things work in life... My friend Stephanie, who is a very active member in the SCI community with promoting positive awareness and views on life in a chair to all people, had contacted me via text message yesterday with wanting help answering a few questions from a mans perspective in a wheelchair to help her out with her blog. I found the questions quite interesting and very thought provoking as I hadn't given much thought to dating after SCI, I just figured if it happened then it happened..in the spirit of my last blog post and the Recency of this loving time of year I thought some of you may find the thoughts and perspective, directly from someone living with SCI, on dating that it may enlighten you. My responses I'm sure are different from gender to gender living with SCI and even person to person but I guess the moral of it all is self sacrifice, and a willingness to risk your heart and to give up things without expecting something in return, which would go for any type of relationship.. Here's our Convo
Steph: Hey Halgrave! You up?! :))
Steph: Awesomeness! :)) haha mind if I ask a few serious questions?? You dont have to answer them all if you dont want to but I need a mans perspective for this next blog... I've asked a few others but no one has responded yet :/ lol wanna help?! :D
Hal: Of course :)
Steph: Ps. I read your vday blog! ;) your great at writing! I read it to my mom too! We both enjoyed it! Thank you... Before I ask my questions I wanna thank you for whatever questions you do feel comfortable answering. :)) I appreciate your help!
1) Has your feelings about dating changed from before your wheels to now? How so? 2) Do you think its more difficult for a male or female to date while in a chair? 3) Would you have dated s
omeone in a chair before? Would you date someone on wheels while you are? 4) How would you feel if someone refused to date you because of your chair? 5) What do
you believe is most rewarding about dating someone on wheels?
Hal: Okie I can answer those!
Steph: Yay! Thank you! <3
Hal: Do you want it In a text or email ?!
Hal: 1. I definitely would say my feelings about dating has changed not in necessarily more of a negative or positive way but definitely a greater sense of appreciation that is willing to put in the effort that I am to make it work! I realize relationships take effort but now it's a different type of effort it's more of an understanding and respect amongst both individuals to know that both can't offer what they normally could physically but the heart soul and passion of both can make up for any lacks for any physical lacking
Steph: Whichever is easiest for you! :)) Thank you so very much!! Heres my email just in case: Stephanieannaiello@gmail.com
Hal: 2. My opinion personally not cause I am one or biased but I believe it's tougher as a boy in a relationship ... Boys most of the time feel a large sense of pride in being able to take care of the woman they love! By meeting some physical demands, but namely just the proper standard and expect ediquet of taking care of a woman like opening doors for them, pulling out chairs for them, driving them home, walking them out to their car, tucking them in bed , they being the ones driving them places, taking the girl they love out on dates not thee other way around .... All things that break my heart at the end of the day that I'm not able to do to take care of the girl I care about most. I try to make up for those things with my heart and respect. If the situation is flipped and the girl is in the chair not to say this is a stereo type or how everyone feels but I feel that if the girl were the one in the chair the boy taking care of her would feel a huge sense of pride to be that guy that can take care of her and even meet all the physical "standards" of taking care of a girl and even by doing transfers that a woman may not be able to do allowing a relationship to be more versatile and independent... There's also a stigma about being a father and raising your young kids through sports by being their coach and doing those physical activities with them.. Not to say a mom couldn't either just my opinions..
Steph: Exactly what I was thinking! I feel its harder for men too but I didn't wanna be the first to admit it! Thank you! us girls have it so way when it comes to dating and theres nothing wrong with the female doing those things its just not what we are taught growing up through movies and the father son talks... I can't wait! Your gonna help me make this blog amazing! <3 thank you!
Hal: 3.honestly I don't know I'd like to think I wasn't shallow enough to at least consider the thought of it... I just don't think I ever took the time before to ever understand someone's true beauty beyond a chair .. I know selfish ... But I also was never exposed to it. I think I would At least give it a thought or consider it but the basic reality is it would be very tough to maintain a balanced emotional , physical , intimate relationship with both in a chair but anything is possible after overcoming what we've all dealt with.. Having said all that I really respect, admire and tip my cap to all those individuals who have taken the leap and sacrificed things to make those in a chair by either sticking by their side before , after and through this tough injury as a girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse or fiancé or husband and wife, those who newly met someone after they were in their chair and saw through their chair to see their true beauty, and even those who maybe who knew and were friends with the individual for a long time and still saw that person for themselves after the accident and fell in love for that person.. I understand these situations all take extreme courage by both individuals but I promise you the cost also comes with a huge reward.. I highly respect and admire all of you for your perseverance as both individuals trying to date after SCI .
Hal: 4. I would be understanding of it no question cause I get girls need certain things that I can't necessarily give or offer to them... Id also feel degraded and helpless but also motivated to prove to another girl out there that there's other things that I have to offer that other men don't and that I can make up in other areas for those things thAt I lack with with other aspects and facets of life that may be even more meaningful in a relationship. I'd hope they could see beyond my chAir and see me for me still.
Steph: Thank you so much! Your answers are so helpful! <3 So great to hear from a mans perspective. I hope you dont mind... Can I quote you??
Hal: 5. I think dating someone on wheels is love , respect, caring , unselfishness, non shallowness, lower expectations knowing you'll get gains in other things, all of this at its purest form... Dating someone in a chair is both people seeing through Boths flaws and imperfections and seeing eachother perfectly and knowing than that person inside and their heart, love , personality , passion , determination , willingness, respect, emotional capability, mental compacity is far greater than any physical capability and who that person is visually .. None of those things matter... And if you can find two willing individuals regardless of which one is in the chair than this is the strongest most powerful love you'll ever find ... It's truly unlike any other experience and I wouldn't change it for the world cause I know If I can overcome this than I can do anything I set my mind too.
End of Convo
Now that you all had a brief experience of what it may be like to date before, during and after SCI what do you think ? Are you grateful for your situation? Or not? Do you maybe all understand it a little more? This isn't to make anyone feel sorry for me or anyone living with SCI, it was just merely meant to put it all into perspective of what may go through some of our heads in regards to dating. This isn't to say my opinions are the only correct or meaningful ones because I'm sure woman would also tell you else wise of raising and mothering their children which I also entirely respect and agree with... The fact of the matter is is that this injury and dating situation stinks, is unfortunate and alot of the times extremely unfair.. But those couples and individuals who can somehow manage to make it work have done something unbelievable and unheard of after SCI, almost every statistic and common knowledge has shown this injury tears couples apart, but never give up! So if you've ever considered it hopefully this blog puts you over the top and changes your perspective forever and just know that your counterpart who Is in the chair believe it or not makes sacrifices and would trade positions with you in a heartbeat just to thank you for all you've done for them and to be the one that "takes care of you"! There isn't a day that guy that I wish I could be someone I'm not physically to take care of a love one the way I want again. But at the same time I would never change who I am because I'm prideful of myself with knowing I have something to offer that no other man doesn't and that's a heart that's forgiving, full of passion, full of desire, full of respect, full of willingness, full of sacrifice, full of pride, full of courage, full of will, full of perseverance, but most importantly full of love... Now I want all of you to know how much I admire and respect all of you who have ever considered, have tried, have worked, or even had a situation that hasn't worked and dating someone with SCI or even a relationship that's able body.. Any type of relationship is extremely tough all that you have is two individuals who are reciprocally willing to sacrifice certain things and I promise you if you can find that in someone else with you than you two have a shot at making it work.. We all need to be loved by someone... I love you all... CAN YOU LOVE?! Be Perfect
Do you ever have those mornings when you wake up and it all just kind of hits you? Of what’s important in life’s.. A perception of how life is supposed to be and meant to be... The things that you value and care about most... The things that hold meaning with you... The things that you miss yet an understanding of the things that you have now and how those things have filled the void of the things that are no longer.. Not necessarily a void that you are imposing on purpose to try and cover up old feelings just merely something that has naturally happened in life that you find the same if not more happiness through it than those things you once had before.. I feel like that was today for me... I don’t know what it was.. Whether it was a feeling of gratefulness, happiness, fulfillment or just a sense of appreciation and pride for the things and people that I’ve surrounded myself with that define who I am. When I woke up this morning like I do every morning, I stared at the mural on my wall. A mural that truly defines who I am, where I’ve been, where I’ve come from, how far I’ve come, my passions in life, my previous dreams and goals, the standards that I set, the values that I held, and today a driving force that gets me up and out of bed every morning. Wake boarding was something that I loved. A sport, a passion, a hobby and to me a way of life that was unlike any other. It was my escape from everything in life, nothing else mattered, no worries in the world and no one else to blame but me. I had dreams, dreams to land my first backflip on a wakeboard and turn professional someday. Half of this dream came true, but not all of it. Yet that is not what I defined my life as. A failure, something left unsaid, something incomplete, something I did not achieve.. Because life went on, things got better and I achieved other things in life that I never thought that I would. This mural of me landing a backflip that lays above my head every nightis never a downer. I know everybody approaches things differently and I am no different. When people lose things in life they tend to be depressed, they shut down mentally and emotionally and at times want to give up. I couldn’t be more the opposite of that for anything that I’ve lost in life. I’ve come to find out and even most importantly to understand that the things that we lose in life were intended to happen, which is the hardest thing of all to grasp your hands around and truly understand and make sense of. It’s not always so clear at first as to why things happen which is living with the free and open line to understanding that these things have a greater purpose behind them and a bigger meaning helps the transition stage of getting back to who you are once again. When I lose and have lost things in life I use it as a sense of motivation, as a sense of getting back to who I was when I had those things in my life by replacing it with other things that hold stronger and equal value to me. Not being able away port at this point in time doesn’t get me down it’s merely a motivating factor for me to defy all the odds and getting back up on my feet again and riding on board. I know if I live my life with an attitude that is depressed and sad I will have no shot at being that person never again. But to be honest if I never become that person physically again, I may actually be okay with it, not because I don’t want to be, but because of so many great things that have happened and continue to happen in my life since I lost everything. The life and the people that have now I would not change the world because it is something that I love. In the spirit of the holiday season, during this loving time of year, and Valentine’s Day coming up I think all of us spend the time to sit around and think about the things and people that we do love and care about. And for most of us we don’t fear loving somebody or having things love, but merely we fear not being loved by others. Now I know Valentine’s Day might seem silly to a lot of people and most girls may even give you the standard answer that guys should show their love for the ones they love no matter what day of the year’s. This I do tend to agree with in most respects. However, I tend a think of the little differently myself. I more or less use this time a year and this particular day to identify those things that I truly love and care about and most importantly showing my expression of care to those things and individuals. I know many people would tell you that “love, to love, and to be loved” is an extremely strong word and expression that should not just be thrown around for no reason at all, and like many of you that know me my different opinion on things stays true for this topic as well. I know love can be defined as an intense feeling of deep affection towards someone or something, which most people would see as the type of love that only exist amongst two people. However, I do find love a little differently. I see “love” as a great interest or pleasure in something. This definition of love I put to practice my life, while it makes me a more open person to accept and love into my life at any magnitude or any form. To me this isn’t necessarily to say that I don’t throw the term love around cautiously enough, I guess that I’m just a much more open person to letting the people and the things around me now how much they are truly cared about. I feel as if that has benefited me tremendously as I have surrounded myself with many great things and many great people. I love these people. I like to think I’m a pretty attentive person, my awareness of things around me, hints and clues that are thrown at me, and opportunities that are put in front of me that I should bite it on and take. At this point my life I don’t see it any differently, so I like to think every decision I’ve ever made was the right one. It wasn’t always the right outcome or even a positive thing, about the end of the day I can live my life without regrets because where I’m at right now, the things that I’ve accomplished, the direction I’m going, the person I am, the values that I hold, the attitude I maintained, the perception of my life and the world around me, the life that I live, the people that are part of it, and the things that I hold most dearly in life are all things that I would never change for the life of me. So I can only begin to think that my life is perfect and that every decision I made was the right one. There are certain aspects and things in life that come and go, phases that we go through, trends that we abide by, new things we learn, old habits we forget about in great and things that we love that we will hold onto forever. Now more than ever in my life I have those things that I love and that I refuse to let go. Some things are more evident than others, some things people know about and can see on the surface and other things that I choose not to tell people and I simply go about my day with living with such a happy and motivating feeling inside for those things that I have that get me up and out of bed every morning. I haven’t feared to not love something or even not be loved by someone, what I’ve feared most is losing what I have. When I was younger and I got complacent with my life and felt like I was on top of the world was when I lost it all, I will ever take life for granted again and the things that I have in mine simply because if I were ever to lose it all again I won’t have any regrets, and he worries or any doubt because I gave everything I had to those things in life that I truly loved. From people, to Hobby’s, to sports, to friendships, to relationships and my values that I hold in life. I’m a pretty lucky individual. I feel loved by many people, I love many people, I love many things in life all because I wasn’t willing to hold back, and was willing to put it all out there with knowing that there was a chance that I get something in return, and I feel as if I’ve gotten that now more than ever. This feeling that I have, this happiness that I hold, this attitude I carry is unlike anything I’ve ever felt in life. I feelinspired. So this year, this month and even this week when you’re trying to figure out something to love, and if you will ever be loved do yourself this favor. Go out and be prideful of who you are, be yourself, live life with motivation, work hard, achieve your goals, never stop pushing forward, never hold back, be assertive enough to go after the things you want, lay it all out there, say the things you need to say, don’t hold in the feelings that are most valuable to you, express your love to the ones you truly care about, you give your love to the things that you love and I can promise you that not only will you find something to love, but people and if anything somebody will love you for who you truly are deep down inside and will want to hold onto that forever as well. So this morning when I thought about the things that I’ve loved that I’ve lost, the things that I love that I have, the things that I love that I want and I think of my life now I get really excited for what is to come in the near future. I can’t change what has happened, I can only make the best of my situation and try to alter the course of what’s going to happen through good decisions, perseverance, hard work and a loving and caring attitude towards others. We all love different things. From our girl friends to our boyfriends, our jobs, our lives, sports, hobbies, religion, school, friends and even family. When you love something that much do go to any extent to not lose that feeling and hold onto it forever. You’ll whatever it takes to make that other person feel good and feel happy about themselves. Love is unselfish, love does not expect things in return just merely has the mindset of giving and someday will be rewarded. Love is not an accident, love is a feeling you get only do certain things in life. Love is more than a feeling, in some cases it’s controlling it keeps you going, it motivates you, it makes you happy, it makes you sad, it teaches the lessons. Love causes people to break down, love makes people lose hope, but sometimes love makes people stronger, love makes people daring, love gives you hope. Love drives us all crazy for all the right reasons. The things that I love, have changed over the years, in some cases change day-to-day. But there are some things that I love that I will hold onto forever.... I love you all, I won’t let go of you, I won’t give up, I won’t stop, I won’t give in, I won’t break, I won’t bend, I won’t get down, I won’t be sad, I will keep moving forward, I will keep moving on, I will continue to learn, I will never regret, I will always stay positive, I will always maintain hope, I will cherish life, I will be grateful, I will stand tall, I will hold to my word, I will tell the truth, I will voice my opinions, I will state my beliefs, I will give everything I have into no matter what it is I’m doing, I will continue to be me, I will walk again, I will wake board again, I will always love... And I will always try to be perfect
I owe that to you guys
LOVE who you are, LOVE what you do, LOVE what you stand for, LOVE your family, LOVE your friends, LOVE what’s important to, LOVE your life
Living One Vibrational Energy
Look Observe Verify Enjoy
Love Overcomes Virtually Everything
Let Our Voices Echo
Listen, Overlook, Value, Encourage
Lots of Valuable Energy
Lots of Varied Emotions
Let Our Values Endure
Living Our Vision Everyday
Life's Only Valuable Emotion
Life Offers Valuable Experiences
Living out Various Emotions
Lots of Violent Emotions
Love Others Very Eagerly Love Our Valuable Earth
Living Our Values Everyday
Living off Vital Emotions
Let Our Voices Emerge
CAN YOU LOVE?
As the new year rings in, the look back on how I spent my time in 2011 and how it got me to where I am today in 2012, and all the great things that have to look forward to in this new coming year. 2011 was one of the best years of my life as it marked the culmination of certain things in my life and a berth in the beginning in other things. But no matter what one thing definitely maintained throughout the course of 2011 and I know will continue wanted to 2012, and that is my unbelievable support structure of friends, family, and my favorite the community. If I ever had any doubt that any people were behind what I was doing in my mission that I was trying to succeed in both personally with my own personal physical goals and most importantly my goals of the foundation and trying to raise more money, all of you reassured the fact to me that all of you are 100% supportive of everything I’m doing and that is the best feeling in the world, and if anything else is something that gets me out of bed every morning. Needless to say, is definitely a year I will never forget, as it was historical in several aspects to me. Most importantly our fourth annual event where we raised over $425,000 and had over 1000 people attend the event at the Hafif Estate. As I sat up on stage that night giving my speech to everybody had many emotions running through my mind. And sometimes as your fundraising and putting all your time and effort into one thing, you have your doubts, your doubts on whether or not what you’re doing is being appreciated and what you’re doing to help other people is worth it. Those doubts one away pretty quickly as I sat up on stage that night and saw 1000 people all eyes in listening to what I had to say. Then that moment in my world stopped and everything went into slow motion I had a really good chance that think about why I do what I do, and how at that very moment it was all worth it. To see 1000 people there not just to support me but to support a cause, to support a population of people that’s in need of help. I came to find out that I wasn’t the only one who got it, the only one who understood it, there was thousands of people there that knew exactly what I. Got sometimes we just need to lean out and reach out to help somebody, and everybody there that I understood that very thing to. That’s how I knew this was all worth it, all the time and effort, all the manpower, all the hours put in, because no matter what at that moment in time I wouldn’t have been doing anything else other than trying to raise money to help other people. And I like to think we did a pretty darn good job of doing so, as we all helped create a record-setting night for the foundation. It made our foundation’s mission extend much farther beyond what we could have ever thought for this coming year in 2012, with having the opportunity with being able to help out more individuals with SCI than we could have ever expected. You all made that possible, and in doing so have gotten the foundation’s name out on a more national scale as we are finally getting the recognition that we all deserve in this community. In 2011 we witnessed the foundation grow far bigger than we would’ve ever thought of, as the foundation held court and made a big run in the vivint.com philanthropy voting competition this past summer, as we almost took home the prize of hundred thousand dollars by winning the Pacific region. It just came to show me all the people that are behind the foundation that were voting every single day in trying to make this dream become a reality. Some of you may recall the huge honor that the foundation received at the beginning of summer from ABC 7. In culmination of the Opera Winfrey show coming to an end on ABC, she launched a program called pay it forward in which it promotes individuals in society or community groups in society to raise money and awareness for a particular cause. Our foundation was nominated to help receive the $7000 reward from one of our own SCI friends that we help, Chris Siebel. Chris nominated us to 87 by sending in a video where he explained how the foundation has helped him get back to being himself once again. ABC 7 gave me a call and said that they would like to come in and do some filming at the Clermont Club, because we were one of the nominees that they highlighted to potentially be a $7000 recipient. After the two-hour filming session, many questions asked and responded to, the news crew brought the entire staff of the club and my family together and presented us a $7000 award is one of the winners of the Pay it Forwardcampaign. Needless to say, we were all shocked and blown away in quite honored by such a reward. This yet again got the foundation on a national scale and was seen by thousands of people across the nation. But the experience didn’t just stop there. A few days after the segment showed on national television, I received an e-mail from somebody within the ABC 7 Studios broadcast team, their very own and my respected idol Rob Fukuzaki. Rob is the local sports reporter at ABC 7, and he is the host of his own show Sportszone. Rob is somebody who I have been watching for years as he provides much analysis of our local hometown teams. Rob saw the segment of Pay it Forward in the studio, and had heard that I was attending the University of LaVerne to become a sports broadcaster. Ironically enough Rob is a huge prestigious figure on campus at Laverne, is he graduated there himself. Rob invited me into the studios to sit on set, during one of the recordings and live segments of his Sportszone program. I had quite the experience as I got to see Rob in action, and what everything was like behind the scenes. This only further entice me to look forward to working hard and getting my degree so I am able to follow my dreams of hopefully someday becoming a sports broadcaster myself. At a and yet even after that are the foundations recognition didn’t even stop there. My dad and I were contacted by Southwest Airlines with some great news. My dad had submitted a few applications for the past several years of trying to get a story about the foundation put into Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine. Finally our voices heard and we got our big break. Southwest agreed to writing a story about my dads company in conjunction with the foundation, and how his company and the foundation are making a difference in the community by helping other people. The article was written, after a photo shoot with my dad and I was taken by representatives from Southwest. Are article was submitted and published in every seat back pocket across the nation, on every Southwest plane for the entire month of November. Many of you might’ve seen the article. It was perfect. And if anything, continued to get more and more exposure across the nation for all the great things that we are doing to help other people here in our little community. That year that will be remembered forever was personally highlighted by a family trip to Lake Powell, on a houseboat for the first time since my accident. I didn’t know how I would do and what many would consider to be solitary confinement on a 75 foot houseboat. Did I mention that it was out in the middle of nowhere in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world? Yet I guess it wasn’t so bad to be in solitary confinement. We spent 10 days on the houseboat, where I have a lot of time to reflect about how far I’ve come, where I’ve gotten to, who I am as a person, what my aspirations are in life, how many people the foundation has helped, how much my life has changed in four short years, but most importantly how happy and proud I am of just finally coming to accept who I am as a person, what my role is in society and the fact that people are accepting of that role and that person today. That more than anything is one of the best feelings in the world when I wake up and I know that people are accepting of who I am no matter what my condition or state is. And if anything through this entire process I have found the true me. And that person with no cockiness involves, is one of the strongest and mentally powerful people that I know. I say this with confidence with knowing that I can overcome anything that is thrown at me in life and that life is simply quite easy when you break it down to what it really is all about. Life is about being happy, living life to its fullest, not being content with what you have, just simply appreciating everything around you and never giving up, focusing on your dreams, achieving your goals, settingprecedence, creating standards, carving new paths, being innovative, reaching out to others in need, but the most important thing of all being confident and comfortable with who you are as a person and knowing that that is the best thing in the entire world. You are you, and there is nothing more that anybody can ask for because you are somebody great, somebody I can go out and make a difference, somebody that has something to offer to the world that nobody else does, and that’s what your unique. God didn’t choose me to be in this situation because he was punishing me for something, he is using me because he will find glory through me. That’s why people are put through these situations. Things in life happen for a reason and it doesn’t necessarily make sense at first, until we are slapped in the face and we have a huge reality check of the big picture of life and how everything in life seems to help us further our pursuit of happiness. So what have I figured out after another full year of my life come and gone again? I guess that my situation is it really that bad. Am I doing all the things that I would want to at this age and stage my life? No, not necessarily, but that doesn’t really matter to me. What matters to me more is the fact that I have the opportunity to wake up every single day and go out and affecting change somebody’s life. That’s far more important than any other personal achievement that may obtain, and it’s more fulfilling than anything in the entire world that I have the opportunity to help others heal. After several country music concerts, a country music benefit concert for the Be Perfect Foundation, several trips to the lake, nights out on the town with friends, nights at home with my family, speaking engagements to people of all ages, high school football games, Angels games or should I say Red Sox games, Dodger games, and what I’m most thankful for these days Laker games, holidays with the family, off roading out at Havasu, and every other little experience and moment that I will hold onto forever spent with my family and friends throughout the year, I like to think I live the perfect life. Under the perfect circumstances, the perfect situation, the perfect community, the perfect support structure, the perfect recovery, the perfect foundationand simply just the perfect mindset and heart full of appreciation, gratitude, sincerity, honor, praise, respect and motivation, towards all of you who help get me up out of bed every morning. I love you all and always remember to be perfect. I look forward to an unbelievable 2012 shared with all of you, let’s go take another step forward in all of our lives and our pursuit of walking again someday together. Happy holidays. HAL JR.
LUKE 5:24 “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
I feel like I start every blog by saying wow…. And this time is no different except for the fact that I’m absolutely speechless. About eight months ago when we started planning for this event we knew it would be a lot of work, a lot of man-hours, a lot of thinking, much preparation, much to do, many volunteers to be found, much-needed help from our committee to step up and get things done, much last-minute stressing about thinking we were going to have 400 people at the event and within the past two weeks before the event 500 more signing up, we definitely knew we had our work cut out for us. But, with the help of all you, with the help of all of our unlivable volunteers and with the help of my perfect committee that I would not change for the world, we successfully created and put on a historic event, that will break records, be a night that will be remembered forever, a night that will change people’s lives forever, and a night that I will hold onto forever. I’m sitting here today my room back to my fast-paced life, school, friends, family, sports the life that I love living. But, I think back to a week ago to wear time literally stood still. A night that was planned for a straight year finally came, and it was one of those moments where you’re so relieved that the night has finally come and all of your hard work is the payoff, but it’s also one of those nights where you want that moment last forever, you want to ingrain everybody you saw that night into your mind, you want to cherish every moment about the program and what you took out of it, but most importantly you come to realize that you are forever changed. That your perception of life is forever changed simply because what you witnessed that night, history, inspiration, motivation, hope, perseverance, and just an overall unbelievable feeling of self-fulfillment of who you are as a person and being proud of that, but at the same time wanting more from yourself. Pushing yourself that much harder to reach your goals and achievements you’ve set for yourself, focusing that much more on the little details in life and not letting that fast-paced life get the best of you, and most importantly valuing every moment for what it’s worth, cherishing every breath you take and every step you take just knowing that it could be your last. Is there one more thing you could’ve said? Is there one more thing you wish you could have done? Is there one more person you wish you were reached out to? Are you proud of who you are? Or do you still want more? Hopefully, all of you are proud of who you are but the same time hopefully all of you still want more out of yourself. Hopefully all of you feel that you can push yourself even harder, that there is more within you, more than you have to offer to this world, more that you can give rather than receive, and if you haven’t already found your purposethis certainly hope that you left that night with eithera better idea of what that purpose is, for finding a certain motivation to go on a pursuit to find what your purpose is. I am just hoping that like myself, all of their lives were changed forever that night. I Cannot tell you how blessed I am and how blessed I feel to have such an amazing support structure around me. Even though that night was not about raising money for me, and I got much of the credit in the attention that night for the mere fact that I’m the face of the foundation, I don’t necessarily care for it to be that way because it is because of all of you the donors, the volunteers, my committee and most importantly the reason that we were all there all of the SCI victims whose lives were dramatically changed forever in a split second. All of you guys are the ones that give me hope and of the ones that I should be thanking and looking up to. You guys are the reason that my decision is so easy every morning for me to get up and out of bed and go do what I do, and it simply because it’s worth it to me at the end of the day when I see a huge smile on all of your faces and tears rolling down her cheeks at that event, it’s all clear to me that it’s worth it. The reason we do what we do to help others heal. As for me if you’re wondering what I have learned through all of this and taken away from it? It’s actually that life is quite simple yet not easy. Life throws you curve balls and most ofthe time you swing and miss, or sometimes you just let the opportunity pass you by and take the free pass. But no matter what we are presented with opportunities and that is what’s most important. Without opportunities we have nothing, and that’s all we need because we are not looking for security we are just looking for opportunities to make something of ourselves and our situation. Then, he simply does run with it and you go with it, and you don’t stop until you achieve that goal. Because life isn’t about how successful you can be because that is defined through other people, life is just simply about your achievements because those are defined for yourself and that is the bar that you’ve set for yourself. At times we all need to be self-motivated and when you set the bar that high and you achieve those goals is when you realize that it’s all worth it not because someone else has told you how successful you are and can be but simply because we have lived up to our own expectations of what we feel and think we are capable of. Being all have it within us and we know it. It’s those people who doubt is that like a fire under us. We all have to realize that talentjust simply gets us through the door but your character is actually what keeps you in the room, because we will shouldn’t let other people’s judgments of us affect who we truly are we should simply live our life to its fullest and be proud of who we are as individuals. Because life isn’t about wearing about our reputations it’s about worrying about our character, because our character is who we truly are and our reputation is merely what others think of us. However, sometimes there is contradictory in that statement because other people’s doubts of who we are is our driving force in what we do. So what I’m trying to say is, no matter what it takes and no matter what the reason is fine that little thing that gets you up and out of bed in the morning and go do what you do. Whether it’s someone else’s doubt, your own personal motivation, or just your physical want and emotional want to achieve those goals that you have set for that day fine that’s only connected to up and out of bed because that will define who you are as a person. Once you realize this and you realize that you can be self-motivated you are to be a bigger and better person than you ever thought you could be. All that I asked is that you stay true to yourself, treat your morals, cherish your beliefs and values and most importantly stand up for what you believe in. I’ve come to find out that there was 1000 people there last Saturday night that believes in what I am doing and I am forever grateful for that. So when you’re out in public and someone asking about that bracelet around her wrist don’t tell but you are supporting me at home that you’re standing up for what you believe in advance that you can be perfect. And that doesn’t mean that you are the perfect person necessarily, what it simply means is that you can be the perfect person that gives their all to no matter what it is that they’re doing whether it’s relationships, family, friends, school, therapy, and most of all what we were all there Saturday night for someday walking again. But please continue to spread the awareness and continued to support them if you can do that for me I am forever indebted to all of you. As for today what I’ve learned, is that my change in my life hasn’t paralyzed me it simply motivated meet to find who I am truly supposed to be and what my purpose is in this world. As for where begins, well it starts every morning when I roll over and look at that alarm clocks and I have to make my decision, then I begin to think of what my life is truly about, the people that I have around me, the people that I need to walk for, and the achievements that I need to obtain for myself. Because I’m not still entirely convinced of who I am nor am I complacent with who I am and i’m not content with who I am, I continue and want to search for more within myself because of all of you.. So when you wake up tomorrow morning to let me help you make that decision, just roll over and look at the alarm clock and for those of you who wear the bracelet looked down at her wrist and see what it says… It does not only does it show that you’re supporting a cause but also shows her standing up for what you believe in. Life’s about surrounding yourself with great people and this isn’t by accident that I have so many great people around me. I’m not being conceited by saying that I’m great at choosing my friends but what I’m really trying to say is that all of your true colors have shown and I know that all of you that are in my life where that bracelet simply because you all are perfect in some way shape or form and you all wake up every morning with the attitude that you’re in to try and live up to being perfect. So as for the face the foundation, is simply laugh when people say that it is me and that I’m the driving force behind all this, people are so naïve and they don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. You all who are involved and support are the face of this foundation. Thanks for a record-breaking year with record-breaking numbers. 1000 attendees, 50 spinal cord injury attendees, $425,000 raised, one goal, one purpose, one night, one theme, thousands of life’s touched forever, history Marked on that mile marker, but the most important thing all of you giving back the hope to all those that we will continue to help reach their milestones that they have set. Because it is the little victories in life is not just about walking a, it’s about becoming comfortable with who you are again, becoming independent and just figuring life outwhen it throws you that curveball. So when your face about stuff like this week and you’re confused on whether or not to go when it’s yellow, simply just slow down and stop, take a deep breath, take everything in around it andnoticed the little details in life, because you may have just passed up the biggest opportunity of your life…. Be perfect