A Tribute

It was April, 2009 and we were in Milwaukee at the neighborhood church where my grandparents had raised my Mom and her family. As I listened as the minister gave the eulogy, I heard a few stories about my grandma that I hadn’t heard, but I knew they fit her character. After the service, we went to the cemetery for the burial. Each family member told a story about how we remembered my grandma. I was struck by how many of us members talked about different ways my grandma has helped other people or used her time, effort and resources to do help accomplish something remarkable . How she took in relatives, worked with church ladies on community projects or helped others achieve their dreams.

I forget who said it, but one of my aunts or uncles said something about how whenever there was anyone in need, grandma tried to help them. As I was listening to everyone’s memories, I knew I wanted use the bit of money that she bequested me to carry on her legacy. I wanted to spend it in a way that she would be proud: helping people and making others’ dreams come true. I’ve tried to follow your example and it took me over two years to find things that I think you would have liked. Grandma, here’s a few of things I’ve used your bit of money to make the world a better place.

In August 2009, two of my best friends, were getting married. They were the first of my close friends from college to married and all of my friends were really excited. One of our best friends who lived on our dorm floor freshman year was living in London. She had decided to travel the world after college, instead of getting a boring office job (awesome!). When she got the wedding invite in London, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to come home for the wedding. All of her savings were tied up in money for rent, food and were going to be used to continue traveling.

I asked our friend from London if I could make her my wedding gift to my friends. She refused, she wouldn’t let me. After weeks of convincing, she finally relented and I made it happen. We didn’t tell anyone. At the rehearsal dinner, I asked my friends if I could give them their gift early. They looked at me strangely, but agreed. I made the signal and our friend walked down the stairs. It was incredible and I know you would have loved to see it.

A month later, I was messing around on Facebook and a post from a college friend caught my eye. She was a teacher for Teach for America in New York City and posted that her class really wanted Time for Kids subscriptions, but couldn’t afford them. I loved reading these types of magazines when I was in school and think that they helped me stay interested in current events, politics and history to this day. Grandma, you gave me subscriptions to National Geographic for Kids, Smithsonian, Science and Discover for Christmas growing up and I loved getting them each week. I knew passing this gift on to more kids was a perfect use of your money. Since then, I’ve used Donors Choose to pick out a bunch of education projects that I know you’d support too.

In December, I found another cause that I knew you’d like. Since my sophomore year in college, I followed an online wisconsin-themed sports message board. It’s where I go to keep up to date on Wisconsin sports. A few years ago, one of the regular posters started a Holiday Fund, a message board wide drive to raise money to buy gifts for families who need help. Each family is screened by a charity and then submits a list. The message board community donates money, then some of the active posters buy the gifts. We used your money to help bring Christmas cheer to families that wouldn’t have otherwise been able to buy any presents.

A few months later, I read Three Cups of Tea, an amazing book about Greg Mortenson’s quest help educate rural Pakistan and Afghanistan’s girls. He was climbing one of the worlds tallest mountains and ended up in a small village called Korphe. He promised to build them a school and did. Fast forward fifteen years, Mortenson has built over 131 schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, educating over 55,000 students. We used to look at National Geographic and watch The Learning Channel growing up and I know how important education was to you. I know you’d like to know that some of your money is helping educate girls in Afghanistan.

In January 2010, a huge earthquake decimated Haiti. UW alum and ex marine Jake Wood took matters into his own hands and led a team into Haiti to help people. His team beat the traditional aid organizations and was helping people within 36 hours of the earthquake. Team Rubicon was funded by people who read his blog and I knew I had to donate. Grandma, your money went to support the Hatian relief effort. After Jake got back to the states, he formalized Team Rubicon as a non profit with two missions. First, to help bridge the gap in disaster relief and second, to help war veterans transition back into society. Your money is helping Jake change the world and make it a better place.

In March, my friend Becky told me about Going For Ten Thousand, her goal to raise $10,000 to donate to Multiple Sclerosis research in honor of her mom and a family friend. I helped Becky set up her website and donated some of your money to help get her started. I’d like to think that our early donation helped motivate Becky to keep going. Two years later, she’s raised over $40,000 and become a force for good on the UW campus. Your money not only is helping scientists research MS, but helped inspire hundreds of students.

In January, a friend started a nonprofit to help women in India start small businesses. She needed a bit of money to help get her business off the ground. I used a bit of your money to help her meet her goals. Since then, thousands of other donations have flowed in and her non profit has helped hundreds of women start micro businesses that have changed their lives. I’ve also used your money to make loans on Kiva to microbusinesses in Tanzania that allowed a family to purchase more inventory for her store, which in turn let her make more money so she could send her children to school.

Grandma, I’ve used your money to support a friend walking to raise money for breast cancer research, to take a trip with an awesome girl that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to, to support our local library and support some promising small time entrepreneurs I met while in Chile and South Africa. I’ve used it to see my family and friends and make it home in time for my brother’s graduation. I’m very thankful that I have the luxury to use your money this way, Merry Christmas Grandma!