HAITI, by foot.

“What are you running from?” was a question that the seven members of Team Tassy heard repeatedly as they ran 230 miles across Haiti over the course of nine days. The team was not running from anything, but rather for Haiti. In fact, the race took place this past February during the 5th anniversary of the earthquake that decimated the country in 2010. Dubbed Run Across Haiti, the route was equivalent to running nine marathons and was an effort to raise $75,000 for non-profit Team Tassy for placing individuals in poverty into jobs and to simultaneously raise awareness of the post-earthquake devastation in Haiti.

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Josh Elkes, FOND Group’s Head of NonProfits

 

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The team ran across a variety of terrain.

In 2010, Ian Rosenberger created Team Tassy, a non-profit focused on unleashing the inherent power in every person by training and placing individuals in poverty into sustainable jobs so that they can pull themselves out of poverty forever. After learning about the widespread destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ian grabbed his camera and flew to the country’s capital Port-au-Prince. It was during this trip that he met Tassy, a young man who was dying of a facial tumor and asked Ian to help him. Back in Pittsburgh, PA Ian and his friends found a doctor willing to do the surgery for free and raised funds to fly Tassy into the States and then back home once he recovered. When Ian and his friends flew back to Haiti with Tassy after his surgery, they quickly realized that they needed to stay with him until he did not need their help. And this sparked the question, “What does it mean for a poor person not to need you anymore?” The answer they came to was by empowering the poor with jobs.

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At times, running well into the night.

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Running through villages of curious onlookers.

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Provisions often came from unexpected places.

The Run Across Haiti team kicked off their adventure on February 21st in the northernmost Cap Haitien and ended in Jacmel, the southern tip of Haiti on March 1st. Among the team was FOND Group’s Josh Elkes, who overseas non-profit relations and partnerships. Josh is a New York native and raced in his fist marathon in 2011 during the NY Marathon, and has since continued to progress his runs. In November of this past fall, Ethan Zohn, the founder of non-profit Grassroot Soccer, reached out to Josh to introduce him to Ian, who happened to be a close friend of his from when they both appeared on the TV show Survivor. Josh and Ian met in late December while Ian was forming the team for Run Across. Just two months later Josh was in Haiti on the run.

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Josh Elkes receives encouragement on his 9 day run from local passers by.

The fundraiser blended two of Josh’s passions, long-distance running and supporting non-profits, and after interviewing him just two-weeks after returning from the trip, the experience was clearly both powerful and transformative, “Seeing a whole new country and getting to see something new with every step I took was incredible. It was all brand new and incredibly fascinating.” Josh felt particularly motivated to join Run Across Haiti because of Team Tassy’s focus on personal empowerment, “They don’t just hand out money, they take the approach, “Teach a man to fish, feed him for life” and that really resonates with me.”

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By Alison E. Berman, founder of Anchor and Leap 

All photos by taylorfreesolo 

To donate to Team Tassy you can visit the Run Across Haiti crowdrise page.

Aloha in Waikiki

FOND Group had the honor of helping to produce the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival celebrating Hawaiian Surf and Cultural Heritage which took place in Waikiki this past fall. Alison Berman caught up with visionary pro surfer Rochelle Ballard to learn more about the memorable day and the inspiration behind the event.

All Photos by Kai Markell
In Hawaii, surfing is more than an activity or a pass time. It is more than a sport. Surfing goes deep into the heritage of Hawaii; it is embedded in the roots of Hawaiian culture. And, nodding to that deep significance was the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival, a one-day Hawaiian cultural surfing event that debuted in Kūhio Beach Park in Waikīkī on September 6th, 2014. The dawn-to-dusk festival was a celebration of traditional Hawaiian surfing and also so much more. It was an effort to bring together and nurture the many at-risk and homeless youth of Waikīkī and reconnect them with their Hawaiian heritage through surf sessions, workshops on Hawaiian traditional practices, and also educating youth on resources available within the community. “It was a really amazing shared day of Aloha, and that’s what Aha Kai Aloha is, it’s bringing earth into the ocean or valley into the sea using all of the elements for sustainability, bringing together the wisdom of perpetuating the land and sea through the love of surfing-Aha Kai Aloha. In Hawaiian culture it is called Ahupua’a -from the valley into the sea of Hawaiian cultural sustainability,” said Rochelle Ballard, professional world-class surfer, who first had the vision for the festival.

Pro surfer Rochelle Ballard (center) leads the opening ceremonies with 'Uncle' Bruce Keaulani of the Living Life Source Foundation.

Pro surfer Rochelle Ballard (center) leads the opening ceremonies with ‘Uncle’ Bruce Keaulani of the Living Life Source Foundation.

Rochelle moved to Kauai, Hawaii as a child, which is where she later took her first leap onto a surfboard. She is an accomplished professional female surfer and veteran of the Association of Surfing Professional’s (ASP) World Championship Tour, and also starred in the original Blue Crush film. After an inspiring professional career, Rochelle continues to cultivate her love for surfing, one way being through her deep involvement with Living Life Source Foundation (LLSF), the organization behind Aha Kai Aloha Festival. LLSF is a charitable non-profit located in Hawaii’s Manoa Valley and has a beautiful mission, “To restore a system of living by embracing all faiths and modern science; teach concepts vital to creating a life of greater meaning, purpose, and freedom; and, educate the people of Hawaii to become self-sustainable and to perpetuate the life-force spirit of Aloha.” Professor Bruce Keaulani, locally known as Uncle Bruce, is the founder of Living Life Source Foundation and asked Rochelle to create an event that would bring together the organization’s efforts with local youth and the healing aspect of what LLSF stands for. And from this sparked the inspiration for Aha Kai Aloha Festival.

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FOND Founder, Nicole Delma, honored to share a moment with legendary shaper Pohauku Stone.

The festival opened with a prayer chant, Oli. Rochelle recounts the moment, “A shower came through, and everyone was facing the ocean, listening to the water and the waves, as to bless the day with safety and the Aloha spirit.” The festival offered a mix of workshops that taught youth about Hawaiian traditions such as pounding Poi, which is the process of pounding taro root into a dough like consistency. A large focus of the day was also to show youth the connection between surfing and Hawaii’s ecology. Local Tom “Pohaku” Stone brought this to life through a hands-on workshop on papa he’e nalu, showing the kids how traditional Hawaiian wooden surfboards are carved. Through teaching these traditional methods it also continues that important aspect of Hawaiian culture, Rochelle explains, “When you stop doing these practices then the culture dies, and people are no longer fulfilling the Aloha, the spirit of where they came from.”

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Aiding at-risk and homeless youth can be a delicate undertaking. On the streets of Waikīkī, it isn’t always easy to identify which kids are homeless, even more so, each child has their own unique story and circumstances. Knowing this, the festival was designed to be as inviting as possible, acknowledging that whether teaching a surf lesson or introducing to a local charitable resource, a critical first step is to earn trust.

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Local groms prepare for the female longboard competition.

Youth Outreach (YO!), which provides medical and social services to homeless youth through YO! drop-in centers in partnership with Waikiki Health and Hale Kipa, Inc., was one of the resources available to the children, as well as Surfrider Spirit Sessions (SSS), a Hawaiian non-profit that serves at risk youth through ocean-based experiential education and mentoring programs.

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Commentator Kaipo Guerrero (left) lent his voice and surf expertise to the day’s events. Guerrero is a well-known announcer in the sport of surfing and a fan favorite.

Surf lessons and an eight-division surf competition open to the public also took place during the day. Competition entry fee was waved for canned food donations and divisions were bracketed by age, not gender, encouraging participating for the love of the sport, rather than for fierce competition.

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Local youth take turns experiencing outrigger canoe rides through the Waikiki surf.

With over 600 arriving for the festival, 100 participating in the surf competition, and 400 healthy breakfast and lunch meals shared, the impact of the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival was inspiring. The festival is committed to continuing to partner with existing organizations to enhance and support their efforts to aid local at-risk youth, both for next year’s event, and also with the possibility of building workshops throughout the year.

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Volunteers teach local youth how to make traditional Poi from locally grown Taro root.

Surfing holds a unique significance within Hawaiian culture, which Aha Kai Aloha Festival gracefully demonstrated by connecting at-risk youth with their heritage, its traditions, and community recourses, all through the shared love of surfing and Aloha.

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Special Thanks to Alison E. Berman for this recap of an amazing event and to the Elkes Foundation for helping to make it possible.

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Alison is a storyteller, marketer, and the founder of digital storytelling platform Anchor & Leap. She has a complex understanding of multi-channel storytelling and gained her roots working at prominent media companies Meredith Corporation as a Marketing Manager and previously at Rodale, Inc.’s in-house content marketing agency. While at Rodale, Alison also facilitated a company-wide social media think tank that was formed by CEO Maria Rodale.

As a consultant, Alison helps companies define and share their own stories through rich content marketing and strategy—all with a focus on aligning messaging with the core values of the organization. Some past clients include Nissan, Applegate, Norton by Symantec, Kraft Foods, and Energizer Holdings.

Alison is passionate about creative cultures, design thinking, and social enterprise. You can follow her on Twitter @DigitAlison

Killing Fast Fashion

A panel of insiders debate solutions to ensure a brave new future for fashion.

Killing fashion is an ambitious endeavor, not for the faint of heart. It is fitting, then, that the people leading the charge are those who immerse themselves in that cutthroat world of brands and big personalities, public relations and creative complications. Tomorrow night, Refashioner founder Kate Sekules has gathered a panel of insiders to discuss the future of fashion. No one wants fashion to die, but perhaps it should cease to exist in its current form.

Sekules, a champion of sustainable fashion, will also moderate the panel, making sure to keep the discussion lively and “nonboring.” “It’s essential that we get solutions rather than just complaints,” she says. Sekules will limit each panelist’s contribution to a certain amount of time and, she says, “As soon as someone says something really predictable, I’m going to encourage the next thought.”

 

With the right encouragement, this group of panelists may just end up saving fashion instead of slaying it. Alexandra Jacobs, fashion critic at The New York Times, will contribute a maintstream media perspective, while Elisa Goodkind brings tidings from new media as the co-founder of StyleLikeU, a video-centric online platform representing authentic personal style. Sekules describes Simon Collins, Dean of Fashion at Parsons, as “someone with great gravitas in academia—as well as deep experience on the coal face of fashion.” His expertise extends to the global fashion industry and sustainability in fashion. Finally, Julie Gilhart will provide perspective from her extensive experience as a top level fashion consultant and as the former fashion director of Barneys New York.

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Sekules will first ask panelists to define fashion. Then, they’ll address fast fashion—the constant cycling of trends to push masses of disposable clothes. “I want to get their opinions on what use it has, and whether and how it should survive and change,” Sekules says. Brands like H&M and Zara have paid lip service to conscious consumerism, but does that really mean anything?

Sekules believes much of the responsibility lies in the hands of the consumer. Audience members at the panel will get more advice on how to personally kill fashion, but Sekules offers everyone a starting point: “I think we can all be braver. We can all mix up old and new and we can all definitely invest in better quality, whether it’s pre-owned or not. We can make it last and value what we own.”

An audience of consultants, designers and stylists will gather at NeueHouse on Tuesday at 6:30 to incite the fashion revolution alongside the panel’s experts. Ensure your place by emailing rsvp@neuehouse.com. In addition to conversation and creatives, the after-party will include cocktails.

Gathered’s Elizabeth Kairys Allspaw

Gathered brings personality to buying art online.

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Elizabeth Kairys Allspaw

Even as art becomes more accessible online, the gap grows between people who can afford to buy and those who pin feverishly to their “Someday” Pinterest board. To help bridge the two, Elizabeth Kairys Allspaw founded Gathered.com, a site that aims to connect artists with art lovers at an affordable price. Elizabeth curates the entire site, choosing artists who sell one-of-a-kind works, not prints. Prices range from $60 to $5400 (for a 40 by 60” watercolor), though most works fall under $1000. The Gathered shop currently hosts eleven artists whose talents range from illustration to watercolor, collage to predetermined systems. Dave Eggers’ selection includes a naked man in a lake (ink on paper), part of a series: “Lost Panels From a Weekly Cartoon Never Seriously Attempted.” Many of Svetlana Rabey’s watercolors resemble giant dripping ice cream scoops, while Helen Booth’s snowy paintings are inspired by the winter light in Wales. Elizabeth trusts her instincts when it comes to selecting the right artists for Gathered. “If I want this piece for myself, I’ll put it on the site,” she says. “It’s that simple.” Basing the site on her own tastes results in a smaller selection. Elizabeth recognizes that might mean a narrower audience, but she thinks that’s the draw of Gathered. “I’m really trying to stick to the advantages of a highly curated experience,” she says. “I think that goes hand in hand with having a small group.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 6.04.46 PM Gathered features a small selection of artists, but their work spans a variety of genres.

Elizabeth sees the site as an extension of herself both artistically and charitably. When Elizabeth left her world of art directing and design in order to pursue entrepreneurship, she thought hard about the ideal direction for her new company. Curating art was front and center, but “it felt kind of empty and soulless in a way to just be selling art online and making a profit,” Elizabeth says. “Something was missing, and I really wanted it to feel more meaningful.” She created the charitable component of Gathered to include an element of generosity in her business. A percentage of each Gathered sale goes to an arts-related non-profit organization, depending on the collector’s preference. In addition to doing her own research, Elizabeth asks Gathered artists if they feel passionate about a particular non-profit. Materials for the Arts, CUE Art Foundation and Chashama all came recommended by artists.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 6.05.13 PM An artist profile on Gathered.

Besides benefitting the larger creative community, buying art becomes more than a transaction when artists and collectors feel connected. Elizabeth facilitates camaraderie by asking each artist to include a note to the collector when they send off a piece. When Elizabeth was posting new work by Helen Booth, she couldn’t resist buying one of the paintings for herself. The art arrived with a letter, pictures of Helen’s studio, and a photo of Helen holding the package on the beach in Wales. It’s that kind of tender personality that Elizabeth wants to instill throughout Gathered. “That’s what really gets me excited,” she says. “This piece is one-of-a-kind. The passion and personal experience which the artist puts into each piece gets transferred to the collector, who gets to live with it and love it forever.” Gathered’s blog also features studio tours and notes on Elizabeth’s inspiration so collectors can learn more about each artists’ process online. Her business may rely on technology, but the quality Elizabeth hopes to convey is an authentic humanness. Gathered isn’t just art online, it’s a place where artists and collectors find home.  

by Ella Riley-Adams

KITCHEN CAM FOR A CAUSE

An intimate look at the culinary creativity of the world’s most famous chefs. 

This week the FOND Group unveiled the JBF Kitchen Cam, a real-time video feed streaming the fast-paced culinary action from the James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The project aims to capture creative cuisine in progress, introducing an intimate, unscripted look at gastronomic excellence.

Stepping into this historic culinary enclave means entering the home of the man who can be regarded as the original Celebrity Chef. James Beard may be the original Celebrity Chef, paving the confit-laden path to cooking-show stardom for accomplished cooks whose careers may have stagnated in restaurant kitchens without his trailblazing appetite. Whether you’re a food freak or just someone who likes to eat well, it’s easy to appreciate the amount of edible history steeped into the walls of the Beard House.

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The menu for the evening.

Until now, an inside look at this illustrious kitchen was reserved for James Beard Foundation members or those lucky enough to grab a sought-after seat at a special dinner. With the launch of the JBF Kitchen Cam, the entire world can view the preparation of over 200 dinners a year, crafted by a rotating cast of innovative chefs.

On Monday night, I attended a cocktail party to celebrate the unveiling of the JBF Kitchen Cam. Daniel Boulud helmed the kitchen as the Cam streamed the sights and sounds across the Internet.

Walking into the House, I was hit with an immediate wave of enticing lemony herb-infused aroma and the clamor of the kitchen clanging through the small lobby area. Conducting his focused team like a maestro, the cool and collected Boulud talked to observers while laying down greens that would nest a Citrus-Cured Fluke with Shiso Bavarois and Ponzu Gelée. Pots of thick stock simmered like liquid gold and uniformly chopped herbs and vegetables stood neatly piled, waiting for plates.

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Boulud at work.

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Boulud shows the Kitchen Cam a recipe from his new book.

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The team poses for a celebratory selfie.

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It was truly impressive to see such controlled chaos in the cramped confines of the historically seasoned kitchen. A dozen of Boulud’s sous chefs toiled feverishly – press and general food fanatics filled the tight space while diners ambled through on their way to the cocktail area to enjoy appetizers and sip champagne.

Servers made rounds with trays of Duck Pâté en Croûte, Wild Mushroom Tarte Flambée and Watercress Velouté with Louisiana Crayfish, all drawn from Boulud’s new book DANIEL: My French Cuisine. The dishes both sparked appetites and fueled conversation about the inaugural night of the JBF Kitchen Cam; Boulud perfectly curated the start of this innovative culinary experience.

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As the cocktail hour wound down and guests were seated, Boulud took the floor. He spoke about the inspiration for his latest book and his deep appreciation for the James Beard Foundation. Then he noticed a diner watching the first-course plating via the JBF Kitchen Cam on her phone; he chuckled with delight. The evening lives on, online.  

 

The James Beard House Kitchen Cam Live with Daniel Boulud

By John Figlesthaler

Since 1986, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) in New York City has been the premier institution at the peak of the gourmet high ground. A culinary sanctuary for chefs pushing gastronomic boundaries, reinterpreting tradition and simply cooking the best food out there, there is no place like the James Beard House.

Starting Monday, March 31, 2014, the FOND Group is bringing the world a candid look into this eater’s paradise through the JBF Kitchen Cam. Live streaming from three intimate camera angles, the JBF Kitchen Cam will share true culinary artistry, in real time, capturing the painstaking preparation, calculated intensity and the ensuing splendor.

We invite you behind the closed doors of one of the most celebrated kitchens in the world with the launch of the JBF Kitchen Cam. Offering a rare look into this culinary epicenter, we are honored to be joined by none other than Daniel Boulud for the unveiling of the JBF Kitchen Cam with the sold-out “Dinner with Daniel.”  Boulud will draw inspiration from his latest cookbook and memoir, DANIEL: My French Cuisine.

Photo by Daniel Krieger

Photo by Daniel Krieger

Whether an aspiring chef, die-hard gourmand, or someone who simply enjoys fine food, the JBF Kitchen Cam offers an inspiring glimpse into the world of James Beard. On over 200 nights a year, the world will now be able follow the feed to watch celebrated chefs from far and wide as they create unforgettable meals in this illustrious kitchen.

The JBF Kitchen Cam is the brainchild of the FOND Group’s own Josh Elkes and his father, Steven Elkes, who have also created The Elkes Family Culinary Scholarship, supporting aspiring chefs who are pioneering the future of the way we eat.

Get to know past scholarship winners here.

In addition, chef Boulud will be participating on a live Twitter chat on Thursday, March 27th at 11:00 a.m. EST. If you’d like to join in the conversation, use the hashtag #ChefChat and follow @BeardFoundation  @DanielBoulud @fondgroup

See Full Press Release on the JBF Kitchen Cam Launch .

Animoto’s Stevie Clifton on Success & The Art of Giving Back

FOND Group catches up with an old by friend by way of a new one. 

People of Purpose | Stevie Clifton

By Hillary Kaylor

What do we talk about when we talk about social media in 2013? With teens fleeing Facebook, heated Twitter stock debates, and marketers looking at monetizing every possible digital moment, it’s no wonder that most people are fatigued on the topic. But when really investigating social media’s landscape and some of the recent backlash behind it, we’ve found it’s because the connectivity and community that makes virtual sharing so important has increased while the thoughtfulness behind that community has decreased. Certainly selfies have a time and a place; so long as they’re countered with an output of real purpose, expression, and art.

Enter Animoto: a bicoastal-based video creation service where users can upload their pictures and video clips, and, with the help of some very high-level production technology, turn those clips into a gorgeous, cinematic work of sharable art. A natural fit for consumers who want to share their thoughts in a more compelling way, but as co-creator Stevie Clifton found, Animoto is also making a difference by bringing literally millions of unlikely artists, photographers, schools, humanitarians, and non-profits together.

How was Animoto founded? Did you see a need not being filled in the community?

My good friend Jason (Hsiao) and I both moved to NYC to work in the film and television industry over 10 years ago.  After working for a few years (he in production and me in motion graphics work), we started to get a bit antsy, and began meeting weekly to brainstorm fun ways to bring production-quality video to “normal” people. We both had backgrounds in computer science, and we knew there had to be way to make beautiful video creation accessible to more people.  After hitting on the idea of Animoto, we looped in my brother Tom (Clifton) and our friend Brad (Jefferson), worked on prototyping the concept for awhile, and had our first working version of the site in early 2007.

Can you walk us through the process of a project like this from inception to delivery?

After coming up with the initial idea, Jason and I created a founding team with a diverse set of strengths.  In addition to complementing each others’ skill sets, we also trusted each other. This allowed each of us to focus on the things we were good at and get a lot done quickly.

Once we all had conviction about the idea, we committed.  At the beginning, most of us were working part-time on the project, but if you stay in that mode too long, you’ll never make the progress you need to make.  Once we realized this, we quit our jobs and dove in.

We then focused on getting a working concept as quickly as possible so that we could get feedback from real people.  Without that, I think we could have made a lot of missteps along the way, or spent a lot of time working on things of little value to our users.

How did you realize that Animoto could serve the philanthropic community as a whole? Once you did, how did you change your product?

When we first launched Animoto, we thought that it was going to be a great fit for consumers who wanted to share their memories. But we noticed that photographers, businesses, nonprofits, and schools were pretty active too. It makes a lot of sense. Video is a powerful medium for communicating a message, so when you make it easy for people to create video to share their message, you open up the doors to a lot of different people.

When we noticed that a lot of nonprofits were using Animoto to try to spread the message about their cause, we decided to give them free access to our Pro features with our Animoto for a Cause initiative, which we launched in 2009.

Over the years I’ve spoken at various nonprofit and humanitarian organizations to help them understand how to share their message more effectively using video and Animoto (e.g. at the UN and Rising Tide Capital), and it’s been really fun to see the ways in which people are using it.

 “…With Animoto for a Cause we have the potential to help real causes and real people, which is satisfying.  I was tempted to give you guys major props based on the famous partners we’re working with, or the amount of press/exposure we’ll get through this, but even more important is the fact that we’ve found a way to use our product, a fun video creation platform, for real humanitarian work.” 

 –Tom Clifton, Co-Founder, Animoto

What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know where to start in terms of becoming mindful and starting consistent charitable work?

There are three things that helped me get involved and stay consistent.

1) Just start.

I think the most important thing is just show up. There are a ton of opportunities, and many are probably closer than people think. Don’t try to find the best opportunity; just find one that’s close and start showing up.

Nine years ago I started volunteering at the breakfast program my church puts on for the local hungry and homeless, and I’ve been doing it ever since.  At the time, all I knew is that I wanted to find a local volunteering opportunity because if it was far away, I’d be too lazy to stick with it.  Finding something local is great because it helps open your eyes to some of the pain that’s right in front of you, but invisible until you know where to look.  I bump into people who come to get breakfast at our church frequently in our neighborhood, and being confronted with need keeps me from getting too comfortable.

2) Commit to something

I think the longer you wait to commit to doing charitable work, the less likely you’ll ever do it.  You only get busier and take on more responsibilities as you get older, so it’s not going to get any easier.

My wife and I have committed to giving away a minimum of 10% of our income to charitable causes, and we’ve been doing it since we got married nine years ago.  We didn’t make much money back then, but we both had a strong conviction that it was the right thing to do.  Since then we now have a lot more financial commitments–we have two kids, more bills, a mortgage, school tuition to pay, etc.  If we hadn’t committed to doing this together, we wouldn’t still be doing it.

3) Know your reason

Knowing why you want to be charitable is an important part of continuing to do it long term.  There’s no right answer here, but I think without feeling a sense of purpose behind what you’re doing, it’s going to be really hard to give money away when you have a big credit card bill one month, or to show up at 6am on a Sunday morning to serve people breakfast when your kids kept you up the night before.

Were you involved in philanthropy as a kid? Family? Religion? Community?

I wasn’t involved in philanthropy in the typical sense growing up, but I was exposed to it in its more traditional sense of “hospitality” throughout my childhood.  I was brought up with my five siblings in a pretty devout Christian family, with parents who demonstrated a sacrificial hospitality to anyone who came across our doorstep.  They are rare people who care more about relationship than dogma and are some of the most generous and empathetic people I know.  Even though it must have been crazy raising six kids, they always had an open door policy for anyone that needed help.  We constantly had people from all walks of life living with us when they needed a safe place to stay.

As an aside, I think it’s sometimes easier to be “philanthropic” these days than hospitable, especially with how much more isolated we are. To a lot of people, philanthropy is giving money away to organizations that need it, or going out and volunteering at an event.  This is important stuff, but I think true philanthropy is welcoming people into your life, especially people that are different from you.  It’s easier to sacrifice money or a little time than to sacrifice comfort by really engaging with people.

What’s the most rewarding thing about running your business today?

The people. It sounds clichéd, but it’s true. I look forward to going to work every day because I like the people I work with and respect them.

How would you like your legacy on this earth to be defined?

One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Maurin, a founder of the Catholic Worker movement.  His goal was “to make that kind of society where it is easier for men to be good.”  That’s such a wonderfully practical formulation. I’d be pretty happy if I felt I had somehow made the world a place where it’s easier for people to be good. I think it’s getting awfully hard to be good in the world.

Why does doing good feel good for the world and for you? 

I think it’s because it reminds me that the boundaries between me and other people are porous. We’re actually all connected in really tangible ways, if we let ourselves see it. It’s both extremely comforting for me, but also a call to action.

If there is just one thing readers of this should take away from your project and your personal mission statement—what is it?

Don’t wait until you have it all figured out. The most important thing is to recognize your desire to be philanthropic and then just start somewhere!

About Animoto

Animoto

In the works since 2005, Animoto was founded with the vision of inspiring people to share their lives through the magic and power of video. Animoto’s founders include veterans of the entertainment industry and have produced shows for MTV, Comedy Central, & ABC, studied music in London, and played in indie rock bands in Seattle.

Today, Animoto is a video creation service (online and mobile) that makes it easy and fun for anyone to create and share extraordinary videos using their own pictures, video clips, words and music.

Simply upload your pictures and video clips, choose your style, add words and music, and click the “produce video” button. Then, Animoto’s cinematic technology does its magic and in minutes brings it all to life with a beautifully orchestrated production you can share with family and friends.

Millions of people actively use Animoto for everything from special occasions like birthdays, weddings and trips, to sending a quick special greeting, or just to share everyday moments.

Based in New York City with an office in San Francisco, The entire Animoto team is a passionate and innovative group devoted to helping more people experience the power of video for sharing their lives.

YOGA + SCIENCE, DISCOVERING THE ANATOMY OF WELLNESS WITH MICHAELLE EDWARDS

HOW I LEARNED TO RETHINK MY BODY BACK INTO ITS RIGHTFUL POSITION

When I visited Hawaii this past spring, I was told stories about a very special woman living up in the hills of Kauai named Michaelle Edwards who had dedicated her life to helping people get repositioned in their bodies so that they could enjoy them as they were meant to be used. This intrigued me on a personal level as I had often felt as though I wasn’t sitting quite right in my body and had great difficulty doing anything that required me to remain still for any length of time. More than just your average restlessness, my body actually brought me tremendous pain if I was forced to be still and, while this predisposition served me well in sports and running very long distances, it also prevented me from pursuing other activities I was curious about such as yoga or meditation.

Regardless, I had tried Yoga only to be chastised by teachers who insisted it was the restlessness of my mind that was causing my physical pain (viable, I thought) or forcefully tried to ‘straighten me out’ and pressure me in to positions my body wasn’t ready to accept. Strangely, not one teacher had ever suggested the reverse – could it be that the positioning of my body might actually be agitating my mind? What’s more, as a trained massage therapist versed in anatomy and physiology, I found it very disturbing that some of my teachers didn’t even know the various parts of the body or the mechanics of how they were connected yet they were bold enough to sit on me to try and get my body where they thought it should be. There had to be a better way to work with my body, I thought.

The view from Michaelle's property in the hills of Kauai just outside Hanalei.
The view from Michaelle’s property in the hills of Kauai just outside Hanalei.

While reading Michaelle Edward’s book YogAlign, which was gifted to me by one of her former students, Pro Surfer Rochelle Ballard, I read something that quite possibly changed my life. Using detailed attention to anatomy and physiology, Michaelle explained that the Psoas muscles, which connect your spine to your legs, have a direct connection to your emotional state and that connection goes both ways. You see, the Psoas are somewhat of the ‘fight of flight’ muscles that respond directly to stress and are linked to the proactive tightening of the tissues around our torso/major organs that occurs to protect our most vital parts when danger or a threat are imminent (an approaching predator, for instance). The thing is, improper positioning or stress on these muscles and associated nerves can actually cause the agitation in the centers the brain responsible for the ‘fight of flight’ response to stay on well after the perceived threat is present and when there is no threat at all. Hence, a physically rooted cause for a restless mind. Aha! This was a light bulb moment for me and I at once contacted Michaelle and arranged come and study/work with her for a week at her home and studio on Kauai.

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As I got to know her, I learned that Michaelle Edwards has spent the better part of her 60 years studying the human anatomy, the dynamics of movement, the brain/body connection and various disciplines of yoga and bodywork and applying that knowledge to her own unique method. Over time, that method evolved into a specific set of exercises or adapted Yoga poses aimed at freeing that stress on the Psoas and thereby relaxing the mind and just generally shifting us into a more peaceful place at home within our bodies. Her technique, called YogAlign is the embodiment of much of her life’s work coupled with her own personal practice and that of the hundreds of students she has worked with over the years. Understanding the intricacies of human anatomy, its connection to our brain and our spiritual and emotional well being is Michaelle’s passion and, after spending a week with her, I could clearly see was also her calling.

Out front of Michaelle's property, an ample supply of surfboards, snorkels and fresh bananas.

Out front of Michaelle’s property, an ample supply of surfboards, snorkels and fresh bananas.

I arrived at Michaelle’s amazing green property just outside of Hanalei in early July where I was housed with Katrina, one of her advanced students who teaches YogAlign in LA and was there helping her to shoot some informational videos to post on YouTube. The property is nearly completely sustainable and she and her students can subsist on the fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and coconut water naturally provided from her land with little need for anything from the outside. As I came to learn, this is not unique on Kauai and is part of a growing movement to help keep out GMO yet, for Michaelle, it was just a way of living she had acquired nearly 40 years earlier to stay in sync with the natural environment around her. This pure diet is likely one of the reasons she looks substantially younger than she actually is and is literally exploding with energy.

Michaelle at work with a student in her studio.

Michaelle at work with a student in her studio.

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Our days together mainly consisted of an hour of YogAlign group class in the morning, an hour or two of swimming in Hanalei Bay early afternoon (in which she always swam twice as fast as me), running on the beach or on the trails above her home followed by a natural lunch and then 2-3 hours of focused practice working on my own unique ‘posture challenges’ and learning a specific combination of exercises, breathing, bodywork and mental techniques I could use to reset and realign myself to a more natural and dynamic positioning. As Michaelle explained it, our bones are really just ‘strung’ together by our fascia, muscles and ligaments – all of which are soft tissue and can be coaxed back to their optimal positions. When we are aligned, motions and proper posture take far less effort as the natural human form is quite efficient by design- just watch a toddler move sometime and you will see how effortless their motions are before their posture begins to get compromised.

Daily swimming is part of Michaelle's healthful regimen. The waters of Kauai are said to be curative.

Daily swimming is part of Michaelle’s healthful regimen. The waters of Kauai are said to be curative.

Michaelle absolutely blew my mind with her knowledge and I genuinely felt as though I was sharing time with someone who had indeed ‘figured it out’ and was on to something remarkable. After one week, I could see a marked difference in my posture and actually measured a full inch taller in height as a result of the release of the pressure on my spine that was being imposed by a wound up Psoas from years of suboptimal posture and overconditioning. What’s more, I felt so different. I was sleeping better than I had in months, my eyes and sinuses were clear and my energy levels were steady and strong. At 60, Michaelle still ran circles around me in terms of her energy level but I got the sense that she had tapped into some inner knowledge of health and longevity that others had not.

The studio where we practiced daily. Michaelle hosts regular retreats and training on her property: Manayoga.com

The studio where we practiced daily. Michaelle hosts regular retreats and training on her property: Manayoga.com

We took before and after photos, measurements and careful notations on things I would not otherwise have looked at such as the distance and positioning between my toes. Realizing that my little toes being crunched up had a direct connection to pain in my neck was eye opening, literally. There were techniques she showed me which actually changed the way my face looked by altering and releasing the stresses that pulled on my eyes and jaw and positioning of my head to my body. We sat together and went through photos of her previous students who had even more dramatic results after spending weeks with her and even my skeptic’s mind started to change. Perhaps the secret to ‘straightening out’ my body had nothing to do with forcing through painful positions and stretching muscles to the point where I was hot and throbbing in pain. Perhaps the key to evoking lasting change in my posture was actually in these very subtle movements coupled with focused breath and mental techniques. (You can see some before and after photos here on Michaelle’s site Manayoga.com. )

Since leaving, I have kept up with the practice and continue to see added benefits and results. I look and feel taller, lighter. My core is toned and elongated all the way around. My running is better than ever as I now feel as though my legs and hips are moving efficiently in an anatomically correct gait. I would not go so far as to say that I am a Yoga devotee but, when it comes to YogAlign and the techniques and theory I learned from Michaelle, I can say that I have unquestionably received tremendous benefit and that the quality of my life has improved as a result.

Michaelle even taught me how to sit correctly (though she is the first to explain how most of our human health woes seem to have evolved out of our sitting culture). As I sit and write this, I am pain free and thinking of my next run – a 22 miler and considering I might actually bump it up a day as the need to recover from yesterday’s 18 miler just doesn’t seem to be there the way it used to be.

Thank you Michaelle for helping me to find a pain-free way to be within my own body – in stillness and in motion. I can’t promise I will sit still any time soon but, at least it is good to know that I now can 🙂

Mahalo!

Nicole

MICHAELLE IS COMING TO NY! – SEP 21, 2013This Fall, Michaelle is making her way to New York to teach her first ever clinic here: Change Your Posture, Change Your Life. The class will take place on September 21 and I will be sure to be there and will post more information on how to sign up as it becomes available. If you are interested, feel free to email me at nicole@fondgroup.com and I will alert you when I have those details.

The view of the studio from above, nestled in the green hills.

The view of the studio from above, nestled in the green hills.

The GMO controversy came up a lot during my time on Kauai - a heated local and global debate.

The GMO controversy came up a lot during my time on Kauai – a heated local and global debate.

Michaelle cracking open a fresh coconut for me post-class.

Michaelle cracking open a fresh coconut for me post-class.

Her beautiful chickens that provide much of the protein for the property.

Her beautiful chickens that provide much of the protein for the property.

The chicken coup.

The chicken coup.

Daily greens with equally vibrant views were a part of the wellness routine at Manayoga.

Daily greens with equally vibrant views were a part of the wellness routine at Manayoga.

View from a hike above the house.

View from a hike above the house.

The stunning hidden bamboo gardens Michaelle took me to.

The stunning hidden bamboo gardens Michaelle took me to.

Mangoes and papayas fresh from the trees were in constant supply at the house.

Mangoes and papayas fresh from the trees were in constant supply at the house.

An accomplished musician, Michaelle treated us to an impromptu jazz performance after dinner one night.

An accomplished musician, Michaelle treated us to an impromptu jazz performance after dinner one night.

Hanalei Farmer's Market was easily one of the best I've ever experienced. Fruits and veggies you've never seen before and GMO free!

Hanalei Farmer’s Market was easily one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Fruits and veggies you’ve never seen before and GMO free!

The view from the backyard never got old.

The view from the backyard never got old.

Hanalei sunsets were spectacular every night.

Hanalei sunsets were spectacular every night.

Kauai Proper – living the life of a local Pro Surfer…well, almost

While I don’t like to pick favorites, there is no secret that I feel incredibly lucky to have Surf Pro Rochelle Ballard and her company: Surf Into Yoga (SIY) as one of my clients. Surf, nature, sweet gear, massage, amazing natural foods, Hawaii…what more could you need? From the moment she told me she was moving from Oahu’s North Shore to reestablish SIY Wellness Adventures from her native Kauai, my bags were pretty much packed while I waited for the green light.

That green light to come and check out the new digs in Kauai came in July when I anxiously boarded a plane to spend 16 days in Kauai working, brainstorming and ‘testing’ (wink, wink) all the experiences SIY Kauai Wellness had to offer.

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Napali Coast view from the North

Aside from the obvious perks of this arrangement, add in a refreshingly humble world-class athlete who generously offers tips on the Hawaiian approach to health, nutrition and local wave knowledge and you pretty much have the perfect Hawaiian experience. Couple that with the the fact that she is who she is, a surfing legend who truly helped pioneer the sport for women, and you can imagine that the experience of jaunting around her favorite local haunts, surf breaks, camping spots and excursions is that much better.

BETTER WITH A LOCAL LEGEND: CASE AND POINT, SURF LESSON WITH ROCHELLE
On the first day Rochelle took me out to surf the very break she learned on, I was shown so much Aloha from the locals paying their respect that you might have thought I was in Blue Crush and not her. Not one dirty look, not one negative word – it was all positive and powerful energy of encouragement as I paddled into waves twice the size of my comfort zone. I know Hawaiians are super friendly but, I’m not naive. I’m aware that much of this welcome reception had to do with who I was paddling out there with and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Not only did I get countless smiles and thumbs up from perfect strangers who made me feel completely welcome as I struggled just to stay put in the line up on her Joel Tudor single fin (about 3 feet shorter than any board I’d ever actually stood up on) but they lovingly launched into a joint hoot of booming cheers and whistles when I finally caught my first ever short board ride allllll the way into shore (albeit on my belly-foot-knee-belly-butt). It was an unbelievable experience I will never forget. In between receiving tips from Rochelle on how to position myself, how to breathe, where to put my toes, how to open my stance, I sat in awe as she paddled outside to the larger sets and gracefully demonstrated why she is a champion of the sport.

The itty bitty Joel Tudor single fin I rode/tried to ride my first day out on a short board.

The itty bitty Joel Tudor single fin I rode/tried to ride my first day out on a short board.

Day two of surfing went a little smoother once I got back on the comfort of a long floaty board.

Day two of surfing went a little smoother once I got back on the comfort of a long floaty board.

What is so cool about what Rochelle is doing on Kauai is that she is aiming to share that priceless insiders-only experience with visitors right there on the very beaches that she grew up learning to surf at. The experience is about understanding what it really means to enjoy the Hawaiian lifestyle, to value nature and family and to live with a strong sense of community, health and service to others. Surf Into Yoga has now successfully relocated from Oahu to Kauai and has expanded into an outfit offering lessons, day packages and full multi-day wellness retreats to include anything and everything from Surf, SUP paddles up the Waimea River, Napali Coast Boat Excursions with Snorkeling to Private Yoga and Massage or Ayurvedic Wellness Consultation. Like any good researcher would do, I had to try all of these things myself before I could sign on and approve. The verdict: AMAZING.

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Rainbows abound daily on Kauai. This is, in fact, a double rainbow!!

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Breathtaking views of the Napali Coast cliffs from the boat during our excursion – this view is an actual Windows Screensaver, for obvious reasons. And yes, those are dolphins!

The experience one can have on Kauai surfing and exploring the far less touristy west coast is unparalleled and the waves, well, no complaints here. Yes, the North Shore of Kauai is spectacular and beautiful but the west is magical in its own special way and for so many reasons. Most notably, its proximity to some of the most amazing sights and adventures on the island of Kauai. Nestled right at the base of the Waimea Canyon and 30 minutes below the majestic hiking territory of Kokee State Park, the west coast also offers direct access to Napali Coast Boat Adventures where you can cruise the sights of the pristine northwest cliffs and beachfront inaccessible by road.

An experience on the west side guided by Surf Into Yoga allows you to explore the island as something more than just another tourist and to get a sense of what is truly the Hawaiian way of life sans the overcrowded and overpriced restaurants, souvenir shops and marked up coconuts you will find in the more resort-focused areas. The accommodation options, ranging from converted plantation style cottages to private beach bungalows, are nestled among beachfront communities where you are more likely to stumble on family potlucks than bars and very likely to be greeted as though you are a neighbor rather than a foreign mainlander.

During my stay, we surfed, camped and hiked up at Kokee, paddled at sunset up the Waimea River, boated up the Napali Coast, snorkeled, bodysurfed, practiced surf-specific yoga, did an outdoor massage, talked a bit of Blue Crush history, ate gobs of fresh lilikoi, avocado, mango and payapya right from the trees, sucked down buckets of Mate (a miracle green tea), ran, planted some trees, did some work in the garden, caught every sunset and almost every sunrise, did a little off roading, ate some killer fish tacos, had a campfire, experienced a run in with local bulls and pretty much wore our faces out smiling.

My experience was so epic that the final days of my trip consisted of me looking at potential rentals for a more permanent stay along this lesser traveled coast in what is arguably one of the most magical places I have ever visited.

I returned home nourished, tanned, toned and so excited to start sharing my experience with friends so they too could see what a special thing she has going there on Kauai’s west side with Surf Into Yoga.

Contact: Visit SurfIntoYoga.com for info or email info@surfintoyoga.com or call 808.343.0616 for custom package or booking options. Be sure to mention FOND for special rates and preferential treatment 😉

Mahalo to Rochelle for hosting me, to Aura and her other friends and family for amazing food and hospitality, to Nukumoi Surf Shop, Hanapepe Naturals, Brennecke’s Deli, Napali Coast Adventures, Michaelle of Manayoga.com.

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Sunset overlooking the valley on my final day on Kauai.

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Early morning view from my tent atop Kokee State Park where we spent the day hiking along rivers and waterfalls.

The original SIY sign finds a new home in Kauai.

The original SIY sign finds a new home in Kauai.

Overlooking Waimea Canyon on the way up to Kokee.

Overlooking Waimea Canyon on the way up to Kokee.

I think we saw dolphins everytime we were in or near the ocean - so beautiful.

I think we saw dolphins everytime we were in or near the ocean – so beautiful.

My makeshift massage table where I was treated to bodywork by Rochelle, a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years.

My makeshift massage table where I was treated to bodywork by Rochelle, a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years.

More stunning views from the Napali Coast Adventure.

More stunning views from the Napali Coast Adventure.

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Closing out the day with a perfect sunset moments before the 'bull incident'.

Closing out the day with a perfect sunset surf moments before the ‘bull incident’.

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Quick swim in the river after a nice hot hike in Kokee.

Quick swim in the river after a nice hot hike in Kokee.

re{FASHION}er shows us how to shop vintage and save the world

Last Fall, FOND fell in love with Kate Sekules – the charismatic visionary behind re{FASHION}er. In addition to running ReFashioner, a {r}ecommerce site dedicated to the practice of ‘haute-cycling’ unwanted or unworn couture and vintage (green, yes!), Kate has embarked on a personal mission to educate other style-mavens-with-a-conscience on the virtues of recycling and upcycling vintage wares. Her message is catching on.

 

Kate at work at re{FASHION}ers Brooklyn based headquarters.

Kate at work at re{FASHION}ers Brooklyn based headquarters.

The art of vintage and its place in high fashion (all fashion for that matter) is somewhat of a taboo topic since designers are constitutionally opposed to revealing just how heavily past collections influence their style and creative process. There are people in New York City and in other fashion meccas whose SOLE JOB is to hunt through past designers’ work in thrift shops and online, organize it into collections and then share those collections with their employers (big name designers) who use their finds for ‘inspiration’. It’s a fascinating rung in a complicated industry that doesn’t get the press it deserves but that it should because the more of us who recycle and upcyle our clothes by shopping and trading second hand and vintage, the better off the world is. (More on this in a future post.)

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KATE’S CLASS – VINTAGE HOW TO>> This July, Kate is teaming up with Skillshare (another business we love) to teach a course on Vintage to give would-be and experienced hunters alike the resources they need to embark on successful couture treasure hunts. Taught online, the course is self-paced and taught via a video and curated resources hand selected by Kate.  She’ll walk you through the who’s who of the underground vintage curation society as well as provide the basics on how to search by date, price, fabric, designer. All for just $15.00.

Check out the course and sign up here.
USE CODE: FBFWEND for 30% OFF

More on Kate Sekules >>

Kate_HeadshotKate is the founder of online couture and vintage consignment site ReFashioner. She has been obsessed with vintage ever since it was called “secondhand” and found only in rummage sales.  She started her hunting career in London’s famous Portobello Road at the age of 11, and ten years later had collected so much she had to open her own vintage business. She never really stopped: hence ReFashioner.

More on re{FASHION}er >>
The site aims to educate against throwaway fashion, giving individuals a means to recycle their unwanted clothes, save money on new items, reduce waste and shop without guilt. Users can also share their clothes’ stories, attach emotion tags, answer 20 Fashion Questions, and can ‘stalk’ each other’s style, making it easy to shop and find quality couture and vintage clothes.

To shop online, swap online and sell your unwanted clothes, visit www.refashioner.com

Don’t forget to read their blog, re{MAG}.

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