Rotary Club of Amherst
Amherst, New York, USA
 

In Gear 1-3-13

 
 

 

 

 

 
Make up questions:

1 – Where will the club meeting be on January 24th?

2 – Why will there NOT be a lunch meeting held on January 17th?

3 – How many cards are left in the deck for our 50/50 drawings?

 

Members in attendance were Katie, Jerry, Isadore, Chris, Gabe, Cindy, George, John, Pravin, Jim, Jorge, Carolyn, and honorary member Bill.


George led the members in attendance with the Pledge of Allegiance.  Jerry then led them in the Four-way test.

President Gabe then welcomed the “small crowd” to the meeting and introduced us to Les and Alison Friedman who were our guest speakers from Mikey’s Way Foundation.  The Prez then referenced the email that he sent out regarding the passing of Vern Anderson’s brother.  He also read from the obituary in the News, which said the wake would be held tonight at the Amigone Funeral Home in Clarence from 5-8pm.

Gabe told us that the next board meeting would be held on Wednesday 1/8, 5:30 PM at the Pizza Plan on Transit.  He thanked Pravin for setting up the location and Pravin responded by saying that there would be a program about the R.I. Foundation at an upcoming lunch meeting.  Gabe hoped that we would have better attendance for this board meeting, as there were not enough members present for a quorum last time out.

Continuing down his agenda, Gabe then talked about the Mix and Mingle event that the Depew / Lancaster club was hosting at the Forestview Restaurant on 1/16.  John Huber needs to get confirmations of attendance, and so Gabe circulated the sign-up sheet again.  The cost for dinner is $25 per person and we are encouraged to bring guests.  There will be no lunch club meeting that week so that members will hopefully attend the Mix and Mingle in lieu of the regular meeting.  Dinner starts at 6.

Carolyn and her dear mother made their fashionably late entrance.

Gabe then reminded us that the club will also be travelling on a “field trip” for the club lunch meeting on January 24th.  That day we will meet at the Hope Lodge instead of Westwood.  Gabe asked us to mark our calendars accordingly and promised more details to follow.  Somebody asked about car-pooling and Cindy offered her mini-van for that purpose.

John and Jorge moseyed into the club meeting, apparently in no particular hurry.  So Gabe then recapped the past ten minutes for the sake of those that were not able to arrive on time.  (You may want to re-read this from the start if you’d like a more accurate sense of how this meeting began, and then re-began.)
El Presidente noticed that Professor Phil was not present, and neither was Gerry or Mike.  So he began looking for a substitute for the weekly pop quiz.

Just kidding, Phil!

With no Professor Phil to quiz the members in attendance, Gabe and the rest of those in attendance were quite disappointed.  However, we attempted to move ahead with the fines and Pravin seemed to volunteer for the task at hand.

But it appeared that, for the second time in 15 minutes, Gabe and Pravin were having separate conversations together.  Pravin had not volunteered to issue the weekly fines, but instead he had volunteered to address the members in attendance.  Gabe gave him the floor so that he could announce that next week’s program would feature three past District Governors and they would talk about the R. I. Foundation.  John, Pravin, and a gentleman from the Buffalo Club were scheduled to speak.

Gabe announced that we made $2050 on the Entertainment Book sale, which was not bad at all.  The 50/50 was now up over $723.  Pravin wanted to know what exactly that had to do with the cost of tea in China and what his odds of winning were.

Moving right along, kinda like a contestant on the TV show Wipeout, Gabe finally recruited Jerry to issue the weekly fines.

Jerry began by asking us to vote to decide how much we would fine Pravin for his recent landmark birthday.  Pravin, of course, wanted to have some input on this, but Jerry additionally fined him for talking over the fine-master.  I’m not sure exactly how much Pravin was fined, but if the amount was near 10% of the age, then it was a generous donation!

George was fined $2 for talking and the fines were coming fast and furious.

I apologize, because my notes refer rather vaguely to the fine that was issued for somebody in connection with Pravin’s request to know his odds on the 50/50 drawing.  It may have been Pravin or perhaps Isadore for answering that there were 41 cards left in the deck.

Jerry fined Carolyn, Jorge, and John for being late and Gabe jumped in as M.S.L.  Jerry ordered a cup of coffee from Diane.  (Sure, I got great notes for that detail.  Nice job, huh?)

Isadore proactively and voluntarily paid a fine for drinking the wine and Katie ponied up as well.

John paid a sad fine, or should I say a funny/ironic/sarcastic fine for George’s excuse for missing the previous week’s meeting.  George alleges that a snow plow broke down at the end of his driveway, making him a prisoner in his own house, and therefore unavoidably detained for the meeting.  (“Prisoner” is the editor’s word, not George’s)

John was fined for interrupting.

Jerry paid a happy fine because he was (obviously) relishing the moment as our fine-master.

Carolyn paid a couple of happy fines.  She was happy that they had a nice trip to Florida and it was warm down there.  She was also happy that her mom was with her today.

Gabe paid a fine for missing the holiday party that Cindy had arranged for us.  His family came down with the flu and they also had to change their plans for the holidays due to the illness.  Everybody is better now!  He also paid a fine for the great job Cindy did putting everything together and how well they adapted to the weather challenges.  Finally, he paid a fine for the presentation that we were about to hear from Les.

With fines completed, Gabe asked if there were any other club business to attend to.  Gratefully, there was not, so we commenced to receive our mid-day sustenance.

When lunch was (almost) completed, Gabe got up to introduce our guest speakers, Les and Alison from the Mikey’s Way Foundation.

Les began by showing us a very compelling video, which told the story of Mikey Friedman, who started the foundation and was also Les’s son.

Here’s a link to the Mikey’s Way Foundation channel on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/mikeyswayfoundation

To summarize briefly, Mike was a brilliant student that was destined for a bright future and academic renown.  He was accepted to Harvard, and actually went there for a short time.  But when he was in his mid-teens (2004) he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that eventually claimed his promising young life.

During Mikey’s treatments he learned that he seemed to feel the best when he was distracted from his illness.  The best such distractions were those that involved his friends, which made him feel connected.  Les told us how much Mikey would look forward to 2pm each day because that was when his friends would get out of class and he could start texting them.

Of course, in the years since Mikey’s observations, clinicians have confirmed the therapeutic benefits of this sort of thing and we now have a slightly better understanding of the “mind / body connection.”  Les even read us a passage from Mikey’s journal where he explores the effects of laughter and a positive attitude while he’s enduring chemotherapy.

At one point, Mikey was granted a wish from the Make a Wish Foundation.  He immediately wanted to start a foundation with his wish – one that would help sick kids deal with their illnesses by giving them the electronic gadgets that they need to stay connected to their network of friends.  At the time, the only distractions that Mikey and his peers were being offered by the hospital were crayons and coloring books.

Unfortunately, Make a Wish decided that they could not use a wish to start another similar foundation.  So, as a way to “get around” the challenge in front of him, Mikey decided that he really wanted to use his wish for a shopping spree at Best Buy.  Les told us that Mikey was sneaky about his plans, and even he didn’t know that they were going to get into the limo when the spree was done and drive directly to the hospital to give those electronic gadgets to the sickest kids in the building – those that were in the pediatric cancer ward.  This is how the Mikey’s Way Foundation got started, and it was the first ever, “Mikey’s Way Day.”

Tragically, Mikey passed away while he was in his sophomore year at Harvard.  Fortunately, by that time the Mikey’s Way Foundation was well on its way to helping thousands of kids to feel better.  Les now runs the foundation and said that over 3500 seriously ill children have received a gadget, whether it be a laptop computer, Kindle, or an iPad.

These are the tools that help kids connect with their peers, and the foundation also has a pediatric oncology psychiatrist on their board that touts and supports the therapeutic benefits of Mikey’s Way.  Last year they held 18 Mikey’s Way Days and let all of the kids choose a new gadget to keep as their own.  They average 25 kids per visit and eight of those Days were held here in WNY.  Les says that they continue to receive requests from sick kids all over the country.  Many of them go to the Mikey’s Way web site where they fill out an application online.  If they meet the criteria, they are always granted a gadget.

Today they are continuing to help kids Mikey’s way and they work very hard to keep up with all of the requests they receive.  They mostly need volunteers and donations to support their mission.  Les said that they have reached out to all of the gadget manufacturers, but it’s difficult for them to get donations that way.  They buy the stuff on sale when they can, and they continue to include all of the necessary batteries and iTunes cards with each gift they give.

Jerry asked if all of the hospitals had wireless internet access and Les said that they do.  Jerry asked about the book charges associated with the Amazon Kindle and Les said their Kindles are mostly used for their internet access as an HD tablet.  Facetime is a big part of that so they can see their friends and stay in touch.

Cindy asked if they have pitched their cause to the daytime shows like Ellen.  Les said that they had not, but they were once on a weekend edition of the Today show.  Mikey’s mom has written to Oprah, but so far gotten no response.

Gabe commented on the support that his employer, Lakeshore Savings, has given to Mikey’s Way.  Last August they got involved in the Mikey’s Way golf tournament and they have also hosted a Mikey’s Way Day.  Actually, Gabe said that each branch did some fundraising for them, and the response was so strong that the raised enough to do two Mikey’s Way Days.  The chairman of the board was so impressed that he decided that the bank would match the amount they raised.

Finally, with Les’s presentation concluded, he was presented with our fish bowl and selected John’s ticket.  However, John did not pull the winning card from the deck, and the money carries over.

And you would think that the meeting would now be over, but it was not.  Cindy asked if we had yet determined how the wine tasting proceeds would be distributed.  Of course, this turned into another confusing circle of questions and comments.  Somebody wondered if the club’s foundation would need to meet and the answer was, yes.  Another member wondered if the club shouldn’t first generate some suggestions for the board, and again the answer was yes.  Gabe pointed out that there wasn’t a quorum at the last board meeting, which led me to believe that, if there were a quorum then, the decision would have already been made.  Gabe said that he would put it on the agenda for the next board meeting, and my guess is that we’ll learn about their decision at the next club meeting.  George commented that we really need to build up our foundation’s endowment.  Carolyn thought we had agreed to put 10% of our proceeds towards the endowement.

Editor’s note:

I sincerely apologize, because I now realize that I missed a week of the In Gear over the holidays.  Somehow I forgot (very conveniently) to write one up for the 12/20 meeting when Katie’s friends from Smilin’ Pit Bull Rescue spoke to the club.  So I will now write a few paragraphs about the talk that we received from this very worthy charity.

December 20, 2012

Katie introduced Eric Grey from Smilin’ Pitbull Rescue and told us the story of how they met and how Katie ended up being a foster host for a mother pitbull and her litter of puppies.  The whole family was about to be euthanized, and Eric gave great support to Katie throughout the process.  In fact, due to some challenges that Katie and her poor adopted puppy have been going through, Eric has continued to support her and little Noah.

Eric took the floor and began talking us through his slide show.  He founded the organization 15 years ago while he was in law school and he adopted Spud from a kill shelter.  He commented that it was difficult to adopt his first Pit Bull and he ended up having him for 10 years.  They are a 501(c)(3) charity and they feature his dog Elvis in their logo.

One of their big challenges is trying to overcome the stereotypes associated with the Pit Bull breed.  They have a reputation for fighting and aggression only because some humans choose to miss-use them that way.  Being an owner of three of them, he spoke first-hand about how their temperament is great when they are cared for correctly.  He also showed many pictures of kids, even sick kids, and other people hugging their Pit Bulls, which no doubt showed us that they really make great pets for a lot of families.

They are 100% run by volunteers and they have annual revenue of about $50k.  They place about 180 dogs a year and put each applicant through a thorough screening process, which includes a home visit.  Their screeners are told to determine if they would leave their own dog there with that family.

Eric showed us their web site, which he designed himself.  (He didn’t really say it, but it seemed as though he might be doing most of the work for the organization.)  Not so surprisingly, he said that Facebook gives them the most benefit in terms of P.R.  They have over 22,000 people that “like” them, which is how they met Katie.  They also found a lady that drove down south to pick up Katie’s adoptive dog family.  Their web site’s online forum has a million posts, which is where each application is filed.

We then saw some photos of the family of dogs Katie hosted, including them taking care of the puppies as they sniffed and crawled around the floor.  You better believe me when I say, it was totally adorable.  They have a big advantage in this area because Eric is also a photographer and they’ve become very good at taking incredibly cute shots that help to get dogs adopted.  Another video showed a litter of dogs that became excited and animated when somebody knocked on the floor.  Eric explained that this was part of some sort of training for the dogs, but they also use it for marketing because the puppies get so active.

We also saw pictures of a bunch of other dogs that he’s gotten homes for, and you could tell that Eric was very proud.  He told the story of Piggy, who was tragically mis-used as a fight dog.  She had a lot of scars and was missing most of her ear and lip.  He noted that she’s become a loving dog for her new owners, though, so another happy ending was provided by Smilin’ Pit Bull.

They raise money by selling merchandise (calendars, water bottles), writing grants, accepting donations, and of course, their adoption fees.  They also need volunteers to be fosters like Katie, home visitors, application reviewers, and grant writers and fundraisers.  Their costs are considerable and they recently had an issue with the deadly parvovirus, which cost them $9,000.  This cost them three dogs, but they were able to save the rest when a volunteer spread the virus to her foster dogs.