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MUST READ: Doing the Right Thing Leads to TWO $20K Grants

October 02, 2010 by Bill Strong

By now, I'm sure you heard the incredibleSamsung Helmet of Hope news about Cookies for Kids' Cancer winning $20,000 for ending up with the most votes in the contest and GSF being surprised by Jimmie Johnson live on television with a $20,000 grant for 2nd place. Awesome! Simply awesome!

So, how did that happen? Well read on...

The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation and Cookies for Kids' Cancer battled back and forth and back and forth between 1st and 2nd place in the contest for 3 weeks. It was an incredibly positive contest with great awareness raised for both causes. Because it was so close, when the contest closed, neither charity knew for certain which would win the $20K grant. But, what happened next is a reminder that sometimes doing the right thing -- not because one has to -- but simply because it is the right thing to do -- can inspire others to do so as well.

The Witt family, founders of Cookies, did not have to initiate this email. They did not have to be this selfless, but they were, they are....and their kind email speaks for itself. It was sent within a few hours of the Samsung Helmet of Hope contest ending:

Dear Mary and Jimmie,

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Samsung Helmet of Hope. As parents fighting for their son's life, watching another family fight for their daughter's life makes this apparent victory bitter sweet for us. It is unfortunate that childrens charities, whose missions are often to fund much needed research and therapies for orphan diseases, must do so at all. The need is mainly due to our government's lack of focus on children, and profit-focused pharmaceutical companies that pay too little attention to childrens issues because they dont increase shareholder value. Parents whose kids are fighting life threatening illnesses like Pediatric Cancer or SMA should be able to spend their time taking care of their child, but many today find it necessary to seek funding to develop new therapies and cures and to start non-profits to do so effectively.

A race is a friendly competition amongst those who do so willingly. We as parents seeking support for our causes do not compete willingly. We do so out of necessity and selfless love for our children and others because we have a government that has all but ignored pediatric cancer research, and I assume SMA as well.

We know the Jimmie Johnson Foundation is an amazing organization that has created wonderful programs for children going through medical treatment. We know this is the first time you have held this kind of event and I imagine from a participation standpoint it was a success. I urge you, though, to consider the impact on the organizations that might be a part of such a program and think about the feelings involved, since for many it is a personal battle and not something they do so willingly. From everything I have read about the Strong family I know they are just like Gretchen and me - two parents driven by love to try and save what is most precious to them. I have a deep admiration for their efforts, their passion, and their willingness like ours to do all they can do to help alleviate a disease that might bring harm to a child and to make a difference.

Because winning to us is measured differently these daysthrough hope not just for our child but all, if we are named as the winner, Cookies is going to donate half of the $20,000 to the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation to be used for research for SMA. There are no winners and losers herejust parents fighting for what we all should fight endlessly for; our children and their future.

Sincerely,

Larry & Gretchen Witt

Founders

Cookies for Kids' Cancer

To say we were and remain deeply touched and moved by this is a complete understatement. We could have said nothing. We could have worried this was strategy or cooked up some conspiracy theory or got hung up on greed. But...the Witts are parents -- we are parents -- fighting for our children -- and they reminded us that no matter what we are fighting, no matter what it is called, at the end of the day no parent should have to be doing any of this. And so when we read their email we wiped tears away and immediately knew what we wanted to do. And so, here was our response:

Dear Larry and Gretchen:

We are speechless. Your selfless act of kindness has had a deep impact on us and words can not adequately describe how much this means on so many levels. From the bottom of our hearts -- thank you. You are correct, there are absolutely no winners or losers here, and we'd like to extend the same gratitude that you have extended to us if GSF ends up with the most votes. This was a two horse race from the beginning and we know how time consuming and exhausting these contests are to organize and execute. And to be neck and neck, trading 1st and 2nd place for three weeks, on a daily basis, took tremendous effort on both of our parts -- while also caring for medically fragile children. And what you and Gretchen have decided speaks volumes about who you are as people.

We've never met, but we share a connection and bond that few should or ever will truly comprehend. We're both fighting battles to raise awareness and funding to fight alongside our children -- and there is no greater passion. The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation consists of three people -- my wife, Gwendolyn and me -- doing whatever we can to move the needle on ending this brutal disease. We're extremely proud of what we've accomplished, but as I'm sure you can relate, we wish we never had to be doing any of it. Regardless, we press on...

All 12 of the organizations in the Samsung Helmet of Hope contest are worthy children's causes and we are honored to be surrounded by such inspiring organizations. It's important to us that everything we do is positive and productive -- and we believe that this contest definitely accomplished that and provided a wonderful awareness platform for all involved. My wife and I highly respect what you and your wife have accomplished with Cookies for Kids' Cancer and, although we wish it were under different circumstances, we are honored to be connected. We may be fighting separate battles, but the core of our relentless passion is the same.

We wish you and your family the best and we're keeping Liam and your family in our thoughts.

All the best,

Bill and Victoria Strong

Gwendolyn Strong Foundation

Neither of us knew if Jimmie would actually ever see these emails. That isn't why they were sent. But, it turns out, this email exchange had an impact on Jimmie and Chandra Johnson and is what led to Jimmie announcing on live television and in his press release about the surprise $20,000 grant for GSF:

Four-time reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson revealed the winner on Speed Channels Trackside Live program Friday evening. Johnson also surprised second-place finishing Gwendolyn Strong Foundation by announcing that it would also receive a $20,000 grant, a decision made after Johnson and his wife Chandra received an email exchange between the top two charities.

We were part of an amazing email exchange between Cookies for Kids Cancer and the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation that took place after the voting contest ended. Each charity could see their voting percentage tally online, and it was clear the contest was between these two organizations. On their own, they decided that regardless of which charity won, they would split the $20,000 grant, explained Johnson. Here are these two families who are each trying to raise money and awareness to help find cures for diseases that their own children are battling, and both of them are willing to give away half of the grant to help the other work toward their goal.

When we saw what a selfless decision that was and the sacrifice that each was willing to make, we really wanted to step up and do what we could to help each of these amazing organizations, added Johnson.

Humbled. Simply. Humbled. The way this all turned out is truly something remarkable...and we're moved and humbled by the enormous gratitude, compassion, and selflessness shown to our family, GSF, and SMA by the Witt family and Cookies, Jimmie and Chandra Johnson, and the Jimmie Johnson Foundation. Thank you.

Talk About It

My goosebumps haven't disappeared! WOW...I have said it repeatedly, the true human spirit at its best! Simply divine! Speaking for myself I know that SMA gained a new platform amongst many of the people I know through FB and email. the fact that so many more people now know about SMA and standing up to join the fight and GSF gained 20K in the process is incredible. It is after reading something like this my faith is restored knowing that there ARE many selfless, amazing people in this world. Congrats once again Victoria, Bill, Gwendolyn and Cookies for Kids! smile
Posted by Lisa Prokopetz on 2010-10-02 12:04:16
I read this before going to work at the church cafe really early this morning. I read this follow up and again I shed happy tears. God is so good and Jimmie is pretty stinkin wonderful too. What a huge blessing both of these sets of parents are.
Posted by Lisa on 2010-10-02 12:05:12
Un-freaking-believable. So there ARE still good people in the world! This is a great story. I'm sharing it...
Posted by Dani G on 2010-10-02 12:11:18
I am speechless...Awarding $20,000 to both organizations was totally unexpected and unbelieveably generous. I am overwhelmed by the goodness of these two families, and by the generosity of those who gave to both of these two organizations, and all of the organizations in this event. Sometimes, I get so disheartened by all the greed and hatred in the world, and then you see people's love and goodness come shining through. Thank God there are people like this in our world, willing to fight out of pure love. Maybe there is hope for us yet.....
Posted by Dorothy Altin on 2010-10-02 17:13:49
GOD HAS BLESSED ALL OF YOU FOR BEING GOOD !! CONGRAT'S AND THANK YOU FOR OUR GRANDDAUGHTER -BROOKLYNN , SMA TYPE 2 AND WHO WILL BE A RECIPIENT OF YOUR WONDERFUL DEEDS-ESPECIALLY WHEN A TREATMENT IS FOUND. !!! THOUGH I OFTEN THOUGHT WHILE VOTING THAT I WOULDN'T BE SURPRISED IS EACH CAUSE (COOKIES AND GSF) WON DUE TO THE TIGHTNESS OF THE RACE. JIMMY JOHNSON AND HIS WIFE DID WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE IF I WERE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE SUCH A FOUNDATION ($$$) THANK YOU JIMMY JOHNSON AND FAMILY !! HEARTWARMING REGARDS TO COOKIES FOR KIDS WITH CANCER. IT WAS VERY HARD NOT TO VOTE FOR YOU TOO !! DEAREST REGARDS TO THE STRONGS!!!!!
Posted by Brooklynn's "Gidget" on 2010-10-02 17:57:02
This is just amazing! So grateful this worked out--there were visions of this happening and it did! Congratuations GSF---Victoria, Bill & Gwendolyn!!! Candy Johnson, OTR
Posted by Candy Johnson on 2010-10-02 19:08:54
Unbelievable, you guys. I am so, so proud to call you my friends. And way to go Jimmie and Chandra Johnson!
Posted by Cass on 2010-10-02 20:26:13
Tears are running down my cheeks. I knew Jimmie Johnson was a NASCAR Champion, but now I know he has a heart of GOLD! So does his beautiful wife Chandra.....being new parents, I am sure they have feeling of being so Blessed with a beautiful healthy baby and giving to 2 wonderful children's organizations was just so an AWESOME thing to do! Way to go Jimmie Johnson and congrats GSF!!!
Posted by Tammy Duke on 2010-10-03 00:28:58
AWESOME!!!! WOW!
Posted by Devon on 2010-10-03 09:13:55
Thank you Jimmy Johnson Fpundation for awarding both organizations. I was a caregiver to a baby that dies fron SAM, so this touches n my heart deeply. This money will help find a cure for SMA. You are so AWESOME!!! Thanks again.
Posted by Pansy Johnson on 2010-10-03 09:15:31
I have been a NASCAR fan all of my life and I just say Im a even bigger fan now. The cheer of joy when I heard what the Johnson did for this childen is overwhelming. This proves that we are not alone we have people out there giving to help fight this fight for our precious children. I would give anything to find a cure for SMA and keep my beautiful niece here on earth, happy and helth. Thank you to the Johnson for being so giving, you will never know how much we apprieciate your giving heart. ANd thanks to Cookie for kids for being do willingt o help our couse with your win. much love to eveyone involved.
Posted by Shannon Dickerson on 2010-10-03 10:48:38
I still get goosebumps as I read about how this situation transpired. Amazing and wonderful!!! My heart sings for what has transpired. WonderfuL!
Posted by Sarah Turnbull on 2010-10-03 13:15:16
I am simply AMAZED!! I This is so awesome!! We had every single person we could voting to get to that first place and then they surprised you with a grant! Just unbelievable!!
Posted by Shellie Lopes on 2010-10-04 18:04:23
[...] On Sunday, Bill, Gwendolyn and I were invited by the Jimmie Johnson Foundation to attend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pepsi 400 — the Helmet of Hope race. We were really excited to get to be part of this and especially to thank Jimmie and his foundation for all they have done for SMA and the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation this year. (If you missed it — read this.) [...]
Posted by Jimmie Johnson Pepsi 400 Gwendolyn Strong | Gwendolyn Strong on 2010-10-15 07:36:22

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