MUST READ: Doing the Right Thing Leads to TWO $20K GrantsOctober 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,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:
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.
Larry & Gretchen WittFounders
Cookies for Kids' Cancer
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 StrongGwendolyn 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.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.
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.