Tag Archives: Partners

The OK List of America’s Best

As we congratulate Bill and Kathy Magee and Senator Orrin Hatch on their well-deserved recognition in November’s U.S. News & World Report, we are mindful of other great leaders with whom we have had the privilege of working during the past year. With that, I’d like to contribute an “Operation Kids: America’s Best Leaders in 2009” by highlighting additional leaders who have made an enormous impact in their communities and, due to their commitment and influence, the world.

Anthony Kennedy Shriver: In 1989 Anthony created a mentoring program on his college campus. That project turned into a life’s work. Today, through his stewardship and entrepreneurial spirit, Best Buddies® has grown into a leading nonprofit entity with increasingly international reach across six continents. It has established a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They positively impact more than 400,000 participants every year.  The organization is active in each of the 50 United States, and operates accredited international programs in 44 countries.

Drew Brees:   When Drew left the San Diego Chargers and signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2006, he and his wife Brittany took a higher view of the situation. They believed that they were directed to New Orleans for a reason, and committed to become part of the community. They immediately sought way to help rebuild post-Katrina. Today, Drew and Brittany have rebuilt nearly a dozen successful projects including athletic facilities, day care centers and critical education programs. Their adopted city of New Orleans have hailed them as true “Saints” in the city.

Steve Young: With an NFL Hall of Fame career behind him, Steve maintains a broadcast career, participates in a private equity firm, and continues to provide leadership of the Forever Young Foundation. Forever Young Foundation is a non-profit organization that serves children facing significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges. They focus on efforts to provide academic, athletic, and therapeutic opportunities to at-risk youth. They have expanded beyond their historical focus on Northern California, Arizona and Utah, to include development projects like the Forever Young Zones, Youth Education Town Centers (YET Centers) in each Super Bowl city and now, international initiatives including the building and expansion of schools in Ghana, Africa.

John A. (Jack) Calhoun: In his “retirement,” Jack manages the 13-California City Gang Prevention Network for the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families. In 2007 and has published a book, Hope Matters: The Untold Story of How Faith Works in America. He has spent a lifetime attempting to improve the lot of children and families and the communities in which they live. President Carter appointed Jack to the nation’s top children’s job, Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, where he oversaw such programs as Head Start, Child Welfare, The Center to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, the Office of Domestic Violence and the Office for Families. For 20 years he served at the National Crime Prevention Council as its President and CEO. He also has served as Vice President of the Child Welfare League of America, was the Massachusetts Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services, and chair of both the Adolescent and the State of the Family Task Forces.

We give our deepest gratitude and respect to these great Americans who have truly made an enormous impact on their communities and the world around them.



Filed under Initiative: Thought Leadership

Never Give Up

L to R: Justin Haskell, Anthony Shriver, Brett Banford, Scott Thornton, Betsy Thornton, Rick Larsen, and Dan Clark
If you want to learn how to create an effective program that impacts a lot of people, talk to a Shriver.  After all, Sergeant Shriver and his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, between them helped create or launch the Peace Corps, Special Olympics, Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps and Foster Grandparents. 
Wednesday, I had the pleasure of listening to their son, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, founder of Best Buddies International, speak at Westminster College’s Institute for New Enterprise in Salt Lake City.  It was educational and inspiring.
Anthony was only a college senior when he founded what became the Best Buddies organization at Georgetown University in 1989.  “Growing up, I’d met lots of different kinds of people,” Anthony said, “but it was those with intellectual disabilities who really touched my heart.  My father always told me that everyone has at least one great skill, but that some, including those with intellectual disabilities, often never get recognized for it, never get to develop it. Everyone, he said, deserves a shot at the American dream.”
Anthony continued: “I also realized early on that the happiest people I knew were involved in volunteer service.  That’s why I think the greatest legacy we can leave our children is the legacy of service.”

At Georgetown, Anthony paired university students with people with intellectual disabilities of a similar age. The program proved so popular that students from other universities asked if he could help them develop similar programs on their campuses.  With that, Best Buddies was born. 

Today, the organization has 1500 chapters and impacts nearly 400,000 individuals in 50 states and 40 countries.  Its mission: to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.

Recognizing its effectiveness and impact, we have supported Best Buddies for several years.

Recognized internationally for his achievements as a “social entrepreneur,” Anthony described several factors necessary for a non-profit leader to help his or her organization achieve consistent success.


  1. Be creative. Create unique experiences for your donors and volunteers that they can’t get anywhere else.  Don’t be a commodity.
  2. Be passionate. Make your non-profit job your lifestyle. Engage your family in your work.
  3. Hire incredible people. Build a great team. Invest in training and coaching so everyone is on the same page.
  4. Exercise fiscal discipline. Manage your organization efficiently, and if a program or service can’t sustain itself, then drop it.
  5. Create diversity of revenue.  Plan to get revenue from multiple sources; don’t be tempted to focus your fundraising efforts on one primary source.

 Being successful in the non-profit world is hard work, Anthony said. “There are no shortcuts. Just set your goals for the top of the mountain and hammer away every single day, and you’ll eventually get there. Just keep going and never give up.”

 It was exciting to spend some time with Anthony – to hear firsthand his story – and   to think about applying his five success factors to my position at Operation Kids.  I’ll also remember his admonishment to “just keep going.”

 We are working every day to be better, more efficient, more effective, more impactful – in short, a better organization that betters the lives of more and more children each year.   If we keep going, and do a little more each day, just imagine what we, along with organizations like Best Buddies, can accomplish!







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Ragnar Relays – Florida II

What a spectacular experience I had at the finish line of the MyoMed Ragnar Relay Florida in Daytona Beach on Saturday! It was my first time to sit at the finish line of a Ragnar event and, while I knew no one running the race, each runner that crossed the finish line made me stand up and cheer. I cheered for their efforts, their accomplishment and because not many people can say they have run across the state of Florida!

Congratulations to all of the teams and a “well done” to those teams who finished top overall and in their divisions. Team Road Thrill came in at 22:12:47, first overall – their bright orange jerseys were certainly hard to miss. Ragnar has posted all results online here.

Several teams have posted blog entries about their experiences:
Twelve Wild Soles Kicking Asphalt
Team Hendryx (1st in Ultra/Mixed/Master’s and 6th overall) here and here

Most importantly, while in Clearwater at the starting line and Daytona Beach at the finish line, we were able to collect donations for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida. Florida was a great inaugural race, and we’re excited to see this race grow into something spectacular. Unfortunately, Tom Bassano, the runner who was going to make the 191-mile trek solo, ran into some injuries just past the halfway point and wasn’t able to finish the race. Next year, Tom plans to take up the race again to help us help Ragnar help kids in Florida. Each year, as the races grow larger and people become more familiar with the charitable component of Ragnar, the donations and the race’s impact on the communities’ children becomes even more significant, so we are excited already for 2009!

There were many questions about the Ragnar/Operation Kids relationship, which was great, since our official standing as their charitable partner is so new. Some of the questions and answers:

How do Operation Kids and Ragnar work together?
Operation Kids is Ragnar’s official national charitable partner – we help Ragnar find deserving, effective charities and projects focusing on youth health and fitness in the cities/states through which the Ragnar Relays run.

Our belief is that it is critically important to know where your donations are going and for what they will be used. We help Ragnar ensure that their donations and the donations of their runners are put to good use and make a solid, measurable impact on local youth health and fitness.

Where does the money go?
100% of the charitable proceeds from the race – raised by runners, volunteers and others – goes to the race’s designated charity (in this case, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida). All of the money stays locally to benefit youth health and fitness programs.

How is the money raised?
Teams have the option of raising money for the charity, giving individual donations and/or “buying” their volunteers. Teams have the option of paying to have us arrange their volunteers for them. Approximately half the fee is used to have a staffing agency fill the volunteer position. The rest is a donation toward the locally benefitted charity. If the charity fills the spot, they receive 100% of the volunteer placement fee as a charitable donation.

Did you run the race? Have you ever run a Ragnar relay? If so, leave a comment and let us know!

Overall, it was a wonderful event. We are excited to help Ragnar find deserving charities nationwide, as well as excited to see the passion of the runners, volunteers and support staff that make these events so worthwhile!

Want to see more photos? Check out our Flickr photostream here.

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Ragnar Relays – Florida I

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Running Across Florida. I am here in Clearwater, Florida, at the inaugural 2008 MyoMed Ragnar Relay Florida. Today we sat at the starting line and met the more than 60 teams who have come here to run the 191 miles across Florida to Daytona Beach.

We were able to share a bit about who Operation Kids is and how it helps Ragnar and its runners contribute money to local youth health and fitness programs – which, for this race, is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida. It is exciting to tell the runners that 100% of their donations stay local and go to help programs such as the BBBS’ sports buddies program. Thomas Bassano, the elite distance runner who is runing the entire 191 miles solo, started the race at midnight last night. The other teams started at intervals between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., depending on their pre-race pace times. They came decked out in wigs, costumes and high tech running gear – celebrating the crazy and the competitive.

Tomorrow we will make the drive to Daytona Beach to continue to help raise money and to cheer on the teams as they cross the finish line. Those of you unfamiliar with the race should check out a short YouTube video of this year’s Wasatch Back race here to get an idea of why this race is so popular – and why we see it as a great way to help promote youth and fitness.

Here are a few photos of the day.  I’ll be back with updates after Daytona!


Filed under Events

Running Across Florida

In two weeks I will be heading to Florida for the inaugural MyoMed Ragnar Relay Florida – where runners will start in Clearwater and run across the entire state to Daytona Beach. This is the same race that has become such a beloved tradition in Utah – the MyoMed Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back from Logan to Park City. Ragnar has expanded its races each year and it is exciting to see all of the places where the race courses are popping up across the country.

Earlier this year, Ragnar announced their selection of Operation Kids as their official charitable partner. We work to help Ragnar find deserving, efficient charities in the areas in which the races are held that promote youth health and fitness. As always, 100% of what we raise goes directly to the selected charities.

This race is an especially exciting one, because elite distance runner Thomas Bassano will be running the entire race … by himself. We have teamed with him to help raise money for the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Pinellas, Hernando and Citrus Counties.

With the money received from the MyoMed Ragnar Relay Florida race, Big Brothers Big Sisters will further develop its Sports Buddies program, which provides Big Brothers with the opportunity to participate in monthly sports activities with their “Littles.” Sports Buddies provides opportunities for adults to build friendships and model good sportsmanship, while enabling children to experience and participate in sporting, fitness and recreational events that may be out of reach.

Over the last month or so we have had several great calls with BBBS in Florida. I am excited to get to meet Tom, the great BBBS team and to wach all of the crazy runners make the 190-mile trek from “sea to shining sea.” More importantly, I am excited about supporting another worthy cause to help make an impact in children’s lives.

We’ll see you at the race!

For more information on the Operation Kids/Ragnar Relay partnership, click here.

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100% of Our Future

There is ample research, and for any parent, a lifetime of personal observation, that tells us children need to be noticed; to be responded to; to be accepted.

Juvenile crime and many learning issues so often find their roots in a lack of interaction and attention.Kids need to have adult interaction in their lives. In fact research says kids need to receive the support of and engage in meaningful conversation, with six non-parent adults every week. This may include teachers, coaches, scout leaders, volunteers, etc.

In working to improve the lives of children, it is important that we do not forget the children already in our lives. Every child has a need to be known, accepted and loved; and yet we sometimes fail to do the most basic and obvious things for our children and the children in our communities.

In his most recent book Forgotten Fundamentals, my good friend, and Operation Kids National Advisory Board member, Dan Clark shares a story that illustrates this.

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Filed under Initiative: Children's Issues

Speak Your Mind: Top children’s issues 2008

Have you ever thought about how  charities decide who to help? Especially when it comes to children’s issues – how do you decide which is most important?

If you have a child affected by a certain illness or disability or risk factor, that becomes the most important thing in the world to you…as it should.On a larger scale, when it comes to decisions that direct millions of donated dollars toward specific issues, how do you know the issue is real and the effort supported is really making a difference?

The Operation Kids approach to this has always been “listening to experts.” In February, our group of experts will meet to present from their varied and hands-on perspective, the top issues facing children in the U.S. and around the world. This meeting is important because it sets the agenda for our giving and focus for the coming year.With the access afforded by online communities, we would like to broaden the discussion a little.

I would like to ask for your help in preparing our 2008 agenda. I would like to hear from you: What do you feel are the most important issues facing your children?Please take a moment and let me know what you would consider the top five issues facing kids. The list may include anything you feel is relevant and widespread. Hunger, education, autism, bullying, juvenile diabetes…you make the list.Just comment below and let me know how you feel.

I assure you this; your responses will be read and used. We want to hear from you.Think of it as your opportunity to direct how at least one children’s charity spends it time and efforts in 2008. 

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