A Tribute

A Tribute

This is a tribute to my Dad as given at his Funeral Service ten years ago today…October 25, 2006:

Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

My father was a thoughtful, committed citizen. Thanks to my dad, by the time I turned twelve I had stuffed more envelopes, knocked on more doors and passed out more political brochures than most people will, or would care to, in their life time.

My dad wasn’t just someone who cared, but was someone who was usually leading the charge – the ring leader of the small group of thoughtful, committed citizens. And for him, it wasn’t just about politics. Sure he served as a Republican County Committeeman, an Elector for President Nixon, a town councilman and president of the Republican Club in Franklin Lakes, but he was also a volunteer and the president of the Franklin Lakes Ambulance Corps, President of the Parish Council and PTA at Most Blessed Sacrament, and he was even my softball coach.

His life of community involvement started as a member of the Knights of Columbus and then he went on to serve his country in the Army Air Corps during World War II. While retired on Shelter Island he became an active member of the American Legion and although he said he planned to stay out of politics in retirement, he found himself leading the Shelter Island Republican Club and running my mother’s successful campaign for Tax Assessor.

As committed as my dad was to his community, he never missed an opportunity to be with his family. Some of my fondest memories are of our many vacations. He also never missed a Girl Scout Father-Daughter Square Dance. He was always in the bleachers cheering me on and he was ahead of his time – a dad, who in the 1970s arranged his work schedule so he would be waiting for me with milk and cookies after school anxious to hear about my day. I have often thought how much better the world be if every little girl had a caring father with milk and cookies waiting for her after school.

I believe my father has left a legacy in everything he has passed on to me and I, in turn, hope to pass on to my daughter. I am a Rotarian, not because he was, but because he taught me the importance of “service above self.” I am the executive director of a non-profit organization, not because he was, but because he taught me the importance of being passionate about what you believe in. I like to think that I too am a thoughtful, committed citizen – I am because he was.

My dad shared all this with me, but he also let me find my own way and my own passionate causes. He always was there to support me, even if he didn’t agree with me. I will remember that and hopefully be able to do the same.

img_5289Palisades Interstate Park, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. October 2016.

Races to Run – Summer 2016

Races to Run – Summer 2016

Last weekend I worked a 5k run for Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund of Hackensack University Medical Center. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a paid employee hired by the race director, not a volunteer. But it is ultimately the expertise of paid staff that allows non profits to best utilize volunteers and create a professional event that participants come back to year after year. There are of course a lot of events that do not have paid staff, but in my opinion as a participant, the better organized events have some paid staff, at the very least a professional race director. Paid staff do a lot of these events. We know how to set-up and manage the flow of everything from registration to the finish line and awards ceremony. We train and lead volunteers so the event can run efficiently. When I organized my first charity 5k back in 1998 I had already participated in a number of road races, but really knew nothing about what happened behind the scenes. I hired a race director. And that event is still going strong. The 19th Annual Teterboro 5k is taking place in just two weeks. I will be there – as a participant. Below is the second installment of my quarterly list of road races for charity. This time I have included the cause on the list, so you don’t have to click through to find a charity you wish to support. Since its summer I included some races at the shore, too. This is by no means a compressive list. For moe information on races in your area go to USA Track and Field’s events calendar.

July 2016
7/03 Harbor Hustle, 5k Stone Harbor, for the benefit of Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer
7/04 Glen Rock Tribute Run, 5k Glen Rock, for the benefit of GRACE (Glen Rock Assistance Council & Endowment
7/10 Stone Harbor Fitness Challenge, 5k Stone Harbor, for the benefit of Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer
7/16 Teterboro Airport 5k, Moonachie, for the benefit of Bergen County’s United Way
7/16 Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breath, 4 miles Central Park, for the benefit of the Boomer Espason Foundation
7/27 Downtown Westfield 5k, Westfield, benefitting Downtown Westfield Corporation
7/31 Al Mackler Cancer Foundation Race, 5k Atlantic City Boardwalk, for the benefit of the Mackler Cancer Foundation
August 2016
8/04 Toys for Tots 5k Run, Colonia, for the benefit of Central Jersey Toys for Tots
8/07 Flat Rock Brook 5k Run in the Wild, Englewood, for the benefit of Flat Rock Brook Nature Center
8/14 Stone Harbor Surf and Turf 5-miler, Stone Harbor, for the benefit of Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer
8/20 Chickie’s and Pete’s Boardwalk Run, Atlantic City Boardwalk, for the benefit of Archway Schools
8/20 CASA Superhero 4 Miler, Garret Mountain Reservation, Woodland Park, for the benefit of Court Appointed Special Advocates
8/21 Midland Avenue Road Mile, Montclair, for the benefit of the Montclair Public Library
September 2016
9/03 5k Run/Walk for Warmth, Bloomfield, for the benefit of Spread the Purple
9/10 The 4 Miler at Garret Mountain, Woodland Park for the benefit of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital
9/24 Haworth 5k Run/Walk, Haworth for the benefit of Haworth Road Runners Association donations to local non-profits
9/25 Steeple Chase Distance Run, 5k & 10k Hillsborough for the benefit of Steeple Chase Cancer Center of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Looking ahead to October, AliveAndKickn (who I introduced you to in March) is officially gearing up for the Get Your Rear in Gear 5k race in NYC on Sunday, October 23rd.  For more information or to run for and/or donate to Team AliveAndKickn, please go here.

Paid event staff are the first to arrive and watch the sun rise on the event.

IMG_4270Overpack County Park, Ridgefield Park, NJ June 2016


Don’t just run the event; volunteer!

Don’t just run the event; volunteer!

Do you volunteer? I suspect that most of you do. Perhaps with your child’s school or recreational activity; perhaps you give time to a cause whose mission touches your soul. If you have been employed by a non-profit like I have, you probably have given a significant amount of time to your employer. Regardless of how you invest your time in your community, I’m sure we can all agree that when we do, we get an enormous return on that investment.

The origins of my volunteer service date back to when I was a Brownie Girl Scout. Plus I went to Catholic School where “service” was part of the curriculum. My parents were also involved politically and I volunteered for more campaigns by the time I was 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Aside from learning about the virtues of giving of oneself to help others, I was also, without knowing it, planning for my career. I learned through many of these early experiences how to conduct a fundraising campaign and, most useful, how to run a successful event. I still volunteer and I still see my volunteer work as a way to learn and grow both personally and professionally.

Beyond being helpful to a meaningful cause, volunteerism can, and should, be done strategically. As special events director for Bergen County’s United Way in 1998, I was tasked with co-organizing a golf-outing; something with which I had absolutely no experience beyond occasionally watching the PGA on television. I had a friend who was organizing two golf outings, so I signed up to help him out as a volunteer. And of course it helped the organization holding the event as I filled a much-needed staffing void without adding an expense. Special event directors should always be looking for other events at which to give their time. What a great opportunity to learn some thing new…or maybe just a better way of doing something you already do.

Corporations have known for a long time that employee volunteerism helps build teams, creates camaraderie, and generally makes employees feel better about their employer. The same holds true for schools and clubs. My running club volunteered for the New York City Marathon last November. Aside from the amazing experience of being involved in such a huge, spectacular event, the collective volunteer time brought us closer together. If you’re a runner, you should be volunteering at races occasionally, too. It’s of course important to support the running community in this way, but it is also a way to learn about parts of the race you don’t see when you’re running the course. You begin to understand the experiences of race participants that run at a different pace than you.

My advice to anyone looking for a job, looking to switch gears in their career, or just looking to tackle a new project, is to volunteer. When you’re out of work, fill the time by doing something meaningful that helps broaden your skills. I interviewed a candidate for a job once and asked what he had been doing with his time in the six months since losing his last job. He response? “Catching up on Netflix.” Wrong answer and not what you should be doing.

Some places to start your search for volunteer opportunities:

IMG_2461New York City Marathon. Sun setting on Mile 21 Water Stop. November 2015.