Tag Archives: sports

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.

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Filed under Initiative: Thought Leadership

Celebrating Those Who Take Action

I received an e-mail this morning from New Orleans Outreach, one of our partner organizations. The beginning of the message began this way:

“There is an old phrase, ‘Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.’ I suppose it comes from our need to discuss (usually gripe about) problems that we don’t think we can change, that we are powerless to affect.

“For years, for New Orleanians, the ‘weather’ was public education. It was so bad all we could do was gripe and bemoan. No more. Last year, more than 2,000 people decided to change the weather. They came to volunteer in a New Orleans school or they made a donation so that New Orleans Outreach could bring in professionals to enrich students’ education.”

As I read that, it struck me. There have been a lot of people in the past few years talk big about enacting change in the Big Easy, but many of the talk falls empty and the intended actions lie fallow. But not these more than 2,000 people referenced above. They had finally had enough and put their time, and their money, into affecting a major change – one student, one school, one program at a time.

A couple of months ago, I sorted through hours of video footage to compile a short video about the work New Orleans Outreach and their supporters are doing (see the video here). As I was compiling the video, there was an interview with a child who talked about Outreach’s afterschool programs – where he learned to read music and learned his times tables. I was struck that he was able to learn two things, things I learned during my regular school day as a child, only because thousands of people got together and decided to make a change.

Has it revolutionized all of New Orleans? Not yet. But has it revolutionized one child’s life? Absolutely. And there are thousands of kids just like him who face a better future because someone took action.

Another New Orleanian who is taking action and affecting change is Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. When he and his wife Brittany moved to New Orleans several years ago, they vowed to make an impact in their adopted hometown. Rather than talking big and nothing more, they worked to make a real difference. In fact, one of the blogs on NFL.com today gave the “Gridiron Good Guy Award” to Drew Brees for his work in New Orleans, saying,

Three Pro Bowls, comeback player of the year, offensive player of the year, and Walter Payton Man of the Year. Is there anything that Drew Brees CAN’T do!? You might as well add “Superman” to this list. Brees supports Operation Kids and started his own charity, The BreesDream Foundation. The guy was pivotal in helping to rebuild New Orleans. Oh, and how about six touchdown passes in Week 1!

We are proud to have been a part of Drew’s efforts to help revitalize New Orleans through improving educational and athletic opportunities for the city’s children.

It has made me think about the changes I have tried to affect in my life, in my community. Do I sit and complain and fail to take action? Am I merely all talk? What about you? What have you done? Do you lament about the “weather” only to sit back and accept it, or are you the kind of person to get up and get involved?

One of my favorite poets, T.S. Eliot, said,

“It is in fact a part of the function of education to help us escape, not from our own time – for we are bound by that – but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our time.”

I couldn’t illustrate how important education is any better than that. I am confident that the work of New Orleans Outreach is so valuable that they are improving the city of New Orleans, through its youngest residents, every single day Every day they leave the city and its children better than they found them.

It’s why I am so excited that, to help give an added boost to Outreach, Operation Kids is going to double any donations received for their program this week. We too are serious about affecting change – but we need you to be as well. Together, with people like Drew and organizations like New Orleans Outreach, we can do it.

-Sara

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Filed under Initiative: Children's Issues, New Orleans

Report from Ghana

I had the privilege of spending last week in Accra, Ghana. It was an opportunity to see first-hand the efforts of two of our fine Operation Kids Charities: Right To Play and Forever Young Foundation, in addition to a new micro-credit effort by the KOMART Foundation.

There is more to tell than I can cover in several blogs, but I wanted to start with this. As part of our client service of managed giving, we are typically conservative when it comes to international aid; certainly not because we do not care, but rather due to the extreme potential for fraud and various levels of misappropriation. Africa is general is an area where an ability to deliver aid effectively has been questionable at best.

I have been asked many times by many donors about the solicitations they see on TV and via direct mail, if those “faces of need” really receive the donated help? Sadly, the answer is, “Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.” Anyone who follows this blog or any of Operation Kids’ activities knows that this inconsistent outcome is simply not good enough for us.

In regions such as this, it is even more critical that we get on the ground and observe unfiltered, the delivery of aid efforts and the tangible results. In the case of Accra and the aforementioned charities, I am very pleased to say, the report is good, and the results are real.

First let me comment on Right To Play. The concept of using sports to teach certain skills and attitudes may seem simple on the surface and for those in developed countries you may associate the teaching aspect of sports with sportsmanship, teamwork, discipline, etc.  While those are all real and valid byproducts of a well-coached sports experience, in developing countries the effort takes on an entirely new and life-saving dimension.

Trained Right To Play coaches have the trust and confidence of the children they coach. Based on that relationship and the innocent distraction of “play,” a soccer ball can be used to represent a virus – say HIV – and a simple game can show a child for the first time how the virus spreads. The games address other critical issues such as peaceful conflict resolution which can, in regions where children are forced into military duty sometimes as young as 11 or 12, be the difference in whether some of these children experience a childhood in any sense, or go on to a normal adulthood. The simplicity of the Right To Play model is the genius of it, and to see it first-hand is inspiring to say the least.

As far as the other programs we observed, including the work of KOMART and Forever Young Foundation, I would prefer to address their efforts with individual stories. Over the next couple of months I want to explain in detail, how they have overcome the major issues that are blocking effective aid in so many regions of Africa, and introduce you to some of the individuals who live in Ghana, are Ghanaian by birth, and have not only elevated their own lives, but the lives of thousands of young Ghanaians. I think you will find their stories fascinating and the images compelling.

-Rick

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Filed under Initiative: Charitable Giving & Accountability, Initiative: Children's Issues, Initiative: Thought Leadership

Running for Healthy Kids

Tanner  Bell (Ragnar Co-Founder), Chad Iverson, Curtis Bennett (OC Tanner) and Don Stirling (Operation Kids)

Tanner Bell (Ragnar Co-Founder), Chad Iverson, Curtis Bennett (OC Tanner) and Don Stirling (Operation Kids)

Since 2005, Operation Kids and Ragnar Events have partnered to try and make an impact on youth health and fitness. Over the past year, the partnership has developed into a national campaign, where Operation Kids partners with Ragnar Event for each Ragnar Relay to benefit local youth health and fitness campaigns.

For the 2009 Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back, we tried something new – several generous businesses donated some wonderful gifts to those runners and supporters who raised funds or donated toward this year’s cause – Best Buddies Utah, where we worked to raise funds for the  Best Buddies 5k walk/run for intellectually disabled children.

We had hundreds of donors – giving anywhere from $5 to $500, who were excited to run for a cause. One of the donors, Chad Iverson, was the lucky winner of the grand prize – a $3,200 Tag Heuer watch from OC Tanner.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to present Chad with this gift and thank him for his generosity at the OC Tanner store downtown. It was a great experience to meet him and thank him first-hand. We don’t  often get to meet our donors face-to-face, and when we do, it is always wonderful.

On behalf of Ragnar Events, Best Buddies Utah and Operation Kids, I’d like to say “thank you” to all those who donated who helped us raise thousands of dollars for a worthy cause – to help intellectually disabled kids stay healthy and fit.

We can’t wait to see you in Logan next year for the 2010 Wasatch Back race! For those of you from out of state – we will see you at several of the upcoming Ragnar Relays between now and November.

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Bringing a Smile & A Hug to Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back

Operation Kids had a blast this past weekend at the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back! Our morning started at the break of dawn along with our friends at Best Buddies. Best Buddies actually camped out in their RV, and came ready to roll up their sleeves. And man did they!

Brett, from Best Buddies, handed out flyers and gave hugs to the ladies, while the rest of the Best Buddies crew manned their booth. Brett worked the crowd with his magnetic charm and warm smile. While it’s hard to keep your mind off the pre-race jitters, our friends at Best Buddies helped ease everyone’s minds and made everyone remember that there is a great cause to run for.

Several members from our team took snapshots of the runners and the Ragnarian fans throughout the race.  We even managed to capture a few photos of our Best Buddy pals while they were working. As the first day ended, Operation Kids and Best Buddies anxiously awaited to serve breakfast/lunch at Exchange 30 in Heber City, UT, for the next day.

On Saturday, breakfast started out busy! We were on a roll and then the torrential rain caused the runners to stay in their vans. However, we were not going to let that stop our fundraising efforts for the breakfast/lunch. With the help of Best Buddies and the Best Buddies volunteers we brought the food to the runners! 

After serving breakfast/lunch at Exchange 30, our crew moved to the finish line in Park City, UT. The weather turned into a storm straight out of the Wizard of Oz! Operation Kids along with Best Buddies hung in there until the crowd started dwindling down in numbers due to this unusual weather.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time interacting with the all of the runners and spectators. Operation Kids would like commend and thank our Operation Kids volunteers, the Best Buddies volunteers for all of their hard work, and of course Ragnar! Most of all, our fundraising efforts were for Best Buddies of Utah, and we cannot thank them enough for their contagious energy and “never give up” attitude.

 P.S. Here are a few flickr photos from the Wasatch Back, more will be posted soon! And don’t forget to check out who won in the Operation Kids/Best Buddies drawing.

-Brandon aka “the intern”

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Sun, Rain, 188 Miles and Best Buddies

If you happened to be in northern Utah on Saturday, you might have thought you had gotten your locations mixed up. Never have I seen such a deluge of rain in Utah’s high desert country than I did on Saturday during the last half of the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back. I’m not sure who ordered up the weather, but it only added to the adventure that Ragnar races always promise to be.

The entire Operation Kids team spent the weekend hanging out with the 9,000 or so crazy Ragnar runners at this year’s Wasatch Back, helping runners and teams raise money for Best Buddies Utah. What a weekend! There will be more updates to come, but the most important is the 40+ generous donors who won gifts as a result of the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back/Operation Kids charity giveaway … our sincere thanks to those generous people who donated to help Best Buddies Utah produce a 5k walk/run for intellectually disabled children.

Prize winners (and prizes won) include:

*Those in orange denoate those names/teams whose donation status achieved Ragnar Raiser status – giving a minimum of $30 an individual or $360 as a team.

Prize First Name Last Name Team Name  
Hires Big H James Sorenson Norwesters Runners Not Winers

 

Olive Garden Justin Manning Where’s The Finish Line

 

Tucanos Terry Wright Jacobsen Construction Turtle Crew – The Turbo Tortoises

 

Merle Norman Shanna Futral Performance Under Pressure

 

Tucanos Chad Iverson Strong Women, Strong Men meet Gym Class Heroes       

 

Red Rock Bryan Tagge Bourne to Run

 

Red Rock Dave Brooks CTR

 

Wasatch Touring Shawn Christiansen Rose Clydesdales & Athenas

 

Sun Valley Shanna Futral Performance Under Pressure

 

             

 

Tin Angel Cafe Chad Iverson Strong Women, Strong Men meet Gym Class Heroes       

 

       

 

Best Buy Shane Shupe The Gimps

 

La Caille Molly Nicholes    
La Caille Josh Winward Second Timers

 

Salt Lake Running Co. Warren Duff Team Chusqui

 

Sinclair Trent Wade One Less Appendix

 

Sinclair Molly Nicholes    
La Caille Missy Collard Collard Chiropractic

 

Sinclair Denise Rager UTANG MILI-pedes  

 

Happy Sumo Molly Nicholes    
Happy Sumo Nathan Flaim Whiskey Militia

 

Utah Museum of Natural History David Dunkley Slowskys

 

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company Nick Woodward Mach Trauma

 

Repertory Dance Theatre Terry Wright Jacobsen Construction Turtle Crew – The Turbo Tortoises

 

Utah Museum of Fine Art Bill Ricks Rage

 

Lagoon John Spicer Doggie Paddlin

 

Odyssey Dance Theatre Shawn Christiansen Rose Clydesdales & Athenas

 

Utah Symphony/Utah Opera Rich Simmons Honey Buckets

 

Hogle Zoo Shayna Paul Ultra Team + 6 Guys

 

Hogle Zoo James Borden Victorious Secret

 

Evolve Salon & Day Spa Shawn Christiansen Rose Clydesdales & Athenas

 

Evolve Salon & Day Spa Jan Bernhisel Broadbent Vaguely Related

 

Evolve Salon & Day Spa Teresa Reed Falcon

 

Flemings Michelle Green 12 Oxen

 

Utah Jazz Bryan Tagge Bourne to Run

 

Utah Jazz Molly Nicholes    
Real Salt Lake Robert Smith Strangers in the Night

 

Anniversary Inn Jody Worthen Family Friends & Fools

 

Grand America Joyce Wall Got Pain

 

Gold’s Gym

Gold’s Gym

Jennifer

Mark & Christy

Celestino

Owens

Shake-n-Bake

Road Crew

 

 

Ragnar Relay Free Team Denise Rager UTANG MILI-pedes  

 

Tag Heuer Watch – OC Tanner Chad Iverson Strong Women, Strong Men meet Gym Class Heroes       

 

Check back tomorrow for more adventure stories, photos and charitable giving updates!

-Sara

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Filed under Events, Uncategorized

14 Days and Counting … Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back

This week has been quite the week at Operation Kids, as we prepare for the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back – which starts in just two weeks.

Four years ago, Operation Kids began working with Ragnar Events in a joint effort to improve children’s health and fitness along the Wasatch Back relay route. When Ragnar launched the Ragnar Relay Series and began to expand nationwide in 2006, they asked us to join them as their national charity partner.

Over the last year we’ve really ramped up our efforts with a goal of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for children’s health and fitness programs in the 11+ metropolitan areas through which a Ragnar Relay runs. This year, we are celebrating our biggest Ragnar fundraising effort yet at the Wasatch Back relay – which runs 188(ish) miles from Logan to Park City, Utah.

It is significant because it’s virtually in our own backyard, but also because the charity to which we’ll distribute funds is one of our long-standing “OK-Approved” charities, Best Buddies, where the funds will go to provide opportunities for kids with intellectual disabilities and their buddies along the Wasatch Front to participate in their own Best Buddies Utah 5k Walk/Run (scheduled for spring 2010), as well as to provide seed money for new chapters along the race route.

It’s easy to take for granted that I (were I in good shape and desired to do so) could enter a race – virtually any race – or lace up my running shoes and run out my door and down the street – but many kids with intellectual disabilities never get those same chances. I am so excited to work to try and make that possible for hopefully thousands of kids next spring.

As we gear up a great fundraising effort, we have generated dozens of spreadsheets, checklists, e-mails, field trips and a lot of formal and informal meetings. Operation Kids is helping Best Buddies put on a spectacular breakfast at Exchange 30 Saturday as one of the fundraising initiatives. I can’t wait until I can share the menu – it’s not your typical fundraising breakfast, for certain!

I love working on projects like this – to see everyone so energized about an event that is going to help raise money for such a great cause. There is a vibe around the office that is almost like what you felt just before Christmas or summer vacation as a kid – a sense of great anticipation and eagerness to see it all come to fruition.

You can keep up on all the crazy progress by following us on Twitter @OperationKids or keep an eye out on the  blog for pictures, updates and a recap of the fundraising success.

-Sara

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