Get ready – here’s another one of those first person blog posts. I need to be 100% open and honest. There are some people who look at me think, “Wow, Ike. You’re running a certified non-profit that’s reached over 60,000 kids across the globe, including deliveries to each continent, and you’re doing it all in your free time. How do you do it?”
My response would simply be, “Come on guys, let’s be honest. What else would you expect from Forsythe Middle School’s nicest boy?”
1998 – 8th Grade Nicest Boy in the School
Some may say I’m being SUPER nice, while others could say I’m just being SUPER competitive. I’m trying to retain my title and now I’m not just competing against other 8th grade boys, but now it’s adults of all ages and I decided to expand it to companies, groups and/or schools. I want to be the nicest. When I tell people how to pronounce my name, I’ve always said, “Although it’s spelled I-K-E, just think he’s Extremely Kind, which is pronounced E-K”.
With that acronym, most people can remember! 😊
Now, competitive Ike thinks he’s doing pretty well. And I like to think I’m holding on to my title. Although it was never really named who was nicer between Amanda or I in 8th grade, I had an idea. Since we first won that award in 1998, this year would be our 20 year anniversary of being recognized for our compassion! It’s been a long time since I won, so I’ve started to expand my expectations for myself.
It has expanded past individuals and now onto everything. For example, if you look at the first place Cardz for Kidz! started, Lurie Children’s Hospital, I like to think I’m winning. Although we’ve been able to take a bunch of pictures of patients, families, and staff there, I think since I’ve volunteered over 250 hours, dropped off 1000+ cards, and wrote them a poem, I’m in the lead!
One place I think I’m a bit closer with is the University of Michigan as a whole. At first I was giving myself a bunch of points since it was before my #PurplePridestages and was proud of my condition, and I let them write about my epilepsy and wrote about U of M myself. Then I thought about it again, after I had to drop classes due to epilepsy testing, I recall my Spanish teacher letting me come in and sit in on classes so I wouldn’t get too rusty. That’s still going.
Child Life Visit During Hospital Surgery
Sit in on Spanish Classes During Testing
Volunteered Hundreds of Hours at Mott
One battle where I keep thinking I’m getting ahead, but then get pulled back, is with the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association (CIMA). Competitive Ike is getting discouraged. Here’s the full history about this organization and how we’ve been going back and forth.
I first heard about CIMA when I started in media buying back in 2007. Originally I thought of this as an organization for digital media professionals that threw fun events, and since I was at a media agency I could go to them all for free – thanks to the sales reps purchasing the tickets! Unfortunately, in 2009 the economy took a downturn and I lost my job at the time. I was desperately searching for positions and realized that one way I could improve my odds was doing more networking – enter CIMA. The events were too expensive for me to purchase the tickets myself, so I reached out and learned that if I volunteered (e.g. ran the check in) I could work for the first hour, then attend the rest for free.
Competitive Ike figured that was close to a break even. I was volunteering for a bit, and then they were letting me in for free.
I was doing this for the majority of their events, since they would often reach out and ask if I was interested in volunteering. Then at the end of the year or early 2010, the head of volunteering reached out to me and told me that I was chosen as VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR! In my head, I thought “For what?!?! Getting free drinks and networking?!” I got a plaque and a certificate that I have to this day.
Competitive Ike wasn’t accepting it. They were clearly being nicer for recognizing me for doing something so little.
I reached out to my CIMA boss, Lisa A, and told her I needed to do something more. I didn’t want to simply accept that award for just attending free events. After some deliberation, she connected me with one of the heads of the education department who was starting a new $5,000 scholarship for undergraduate marketing students. They asked if I would help promote it. Perfect. I accepted the job.
By this time I had started an evening MBA program and, thankfully, started a new job, but I had to be the nicest. I walked around multiple campuses in the Chicagoland area handing out flyers. I tried talking about it on social media. I even reached out to some professors who I knew had connections. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working and we weren’t getting enough applicants. A few years later that scholarship that I helped start promoting was open to any marketing student, whether it was full-time or part-time, graduate or undergraduate. In 2016, I applied and won.
Normal Ike was excited since that was going to help with the MBA costs and the additional certification I was going after. Competitive Ike was disappointed since one again CIMA was taking a step up, being much nicer.
Now, I was thankful and kept close to the board and was trying to do little things as time permitted. Unfortunately, with school and work I wasn’t able to do as much. Then later when I was done with school, it became work and Cardz for Kidz! that was taking up my precious time! Then what made it tough for my competitive side was CIMA didn’t take a break.
Here are just a couple examples:
Through some connections, a company held a fundraiser and donated all of those funds to Cardz for Kidz!. We used that donation to hire a company to build our website, www.cardzforkidz.org. Sadly, working with them was a big disappointment. We realized they were cheating us and we weren’t getting the type of service we were requesting. They told us it’d be between $2,000-$4,000, but then charged us at least $5,000. After the site was finished, we paid them but then we found some flaws. When we contacted them to update it, they told us it would cost more. We immediately canceled all ties. Unfortunately, we weren’t sure how to make updates to the site since we’re still rookies. Thankfully, a gentleman name Eric stepped in and helped fix a couple of those flaws (e.g. made it so we could evenly upload logos on the Participants tab). What does that have to do with this blog post? Eric was the President of CIMA. More nice points for CIMA.
One of our connections, Barry W, worked with CIMA as well. He recommended I connect with some people there about setting up a table at the holiday party. Based on our close relationship, we were easily able to get a table set up during some of the most recent events. That may not describe it enough so below are some examples that show the sign they made for us, a glimpse that shows the scale of the event, and some of the people working. Through those events, CIMA has been able to make 311 cards for our disheartened kids. Once again, more nice points.
Once again, being honest. As of now it seems we at Cardz for Kidz! get a good amount of cards in English, but have a hard time getting cards in other languages. For example, you’ll see us pleading for cards written in Spanish for our locations in the US and Mexico. We also need cards in French for our hospitals/homes in Haiti and Quebec. But another language we often fall short on and don’t often plead for is Arabic. Currently there are 4 separate hospitals in the USA who have requested cards in Arabic and unfortunately VERY few groups make cards in that language. When the 4th hospital reached out asking for cards, I was trying to think of ANYONE I knew who could potentially make some cards in that language. As I was glancing on the CIMA board page, I saw a picture of Binsih. I remembered how during the 2017 holiday party instead of simply partying and enjoying her friends and coworkers, she stepped aside and created multiple cards in Arabic for us! I reached out to her and told her about our new need and she agreed to help. She’s currently helping us fulfill our need for Arabic cards. Wow, CIMA. More nice points.
How has it been reading this blog post so far? Have you seen a bunch of grammatical errors? Have you seen mistakes with words like there vs their vs they’re? Please don’t get me wrong, I went to strong grade schools and the University of Michigan, so my writing isn’t horrible, but it is VERY difficult having a full-time job and also running a non-profit on the side. With Cardz for Kidz! this entails keeping a presence on most social media sites and a lot of corporate, educational and non-profit partnerships, so it’s bit hard to check all the time. And let’s be honest – I’m better at Analytics than English. I tried writing some of the blog posts in the beginning since I heard that could help our SEO and it was a way to acknowledge some groups. Some groups gained more interest and I had a couple people who were willing to proof them. Originally I had people who just glanced at them and said, “Yeah, this looks fine,” but I could tell they didn’t take the time to read it. I had some editors who were helping, then one was slow responding to proofing. Then another dropped off and said she didn’t want to help anymore, #wasntworthit. ☹ I tried contacting my mom to help, sisters, old teachers. I was getting nervous. Then came the 2017 CIMA holiday party. Yup, Binish stopped by and made some much needed cards in Arabic. Also, a superhero, Alexis stopped by to make some cards. I gave her a brief background and she said she would LOVE to help more. I told her about my desperation for an editor and although she does this professionally, she agreed to volunteer her time to proof this. Now when we write blogs about corporations or groups such as CIMA, I can be 100% comfortable that when Alex reviews it, it’s correct. Wow. If it wasn’t for CIMA granting us space at the holiday party we wouldn’t have connected with one of our current editors! More points for CIMA.
Example edited post:
Ok, Competitive Ike is desperate. On the other side, I did agree to meet with the head of the education portion of CIMA, Nick Cheetany, and highlight how great CIMA is and how helpful the scholarship was. I do have the CIMA flyers hanging up in my office and encouraged my company to join in, but that’s not enough.
I guess it’s true. I was planning on reaching out to Amanda and seeing if we could do something special for our 20 year anniversary of being the nicest, but maybe not. Seeing how CIMA originally helped me personally and has helped my growing nonprofit in a variety of ways, I have to admit, when you compare me to CIMA, I’m NOT AS NICE. I’ll officially pass along my title. Thank you CIMA!
To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website www.cardzforkidz.org; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitterand Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!