By BENJAMIN BYRNE
Your Voice Contributor
Whether you’re a native or a transplant, it doesn’t take long in the business community to realize that this is a giving town. All around us there are signs of small business and corporate giving, in-kind donations, and dedicated volunteerism. But one thing you also quickly learn is that the “old guard” of philanthropy are starting to retire and slow down, leaving the chance for a new breed of leaders to emerge. Recently I had the chance to create a new way for young professionals to get involved in one of my favorite charities, a group that works with children with special needs. And it’s an idea that I hope gets duplicated.
For years, I have volunteered to help children with special needs at the Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies. I met them as a client of my benefits firm, but soon they became much more. The staff there saw my involvement and came to me with an idea to engage other young professionals. Having been through the 2011 Ignite Louisville class, I have seen firsthand the power of talented businesspeople when they get a cause under their skin.
Our idea was to create a “Young Champions” donor society that included a level of donation, but was not limited to just giving. We wanted to create a sense of community among this group, involve them in volunteer activities throughout the year, and help grow the base of support for the Kids Center among donors under 35. To jump-start the program, we recruited a Challenge Match, launching the society last December at the Kids Center’s annual Champions for Kids Breakfast. The response was strong, with over 20 new members to the society.
But giving was just the beginning. The Kids Center recognized early on that we’d be more loyal and energetic donors if we did not just write checks, but had a chance to get involved. This Easter, our group put together an Easter Egg hunt. The event, which had an animal theme, offered different sections for people of various abilities. The worst thing for a child in a wheelchair would be to go to an Easter Egg hunt and get no eggs due to the “fast kids” taking them all. So we had segmented areas for the kids who “hunt” at various speeds.
Feedback from the parents was great, and the looks on the kids’ faces let us know we had a hit. The day was not hard to plan, but being a part of it was invaluable for our members. In May, a few people cheered at the finish line for the Center’s Walk & Roll for Kids. This November many of us plan to serve as escorts for the Kids Center’s Holiday Fashion Show.
The point is that there could be a group like ours forming in charities all over town. Some people may have a passion for the elderly, others for sustainable agriculture, and others for social justice. Whatever your passion, there are always opportunities for young people to serve. And if, like me, you love the idea of seeing the “ability” in disability, then please come take a tour of the Kids Center. You’ll be glad you did.
If you like to eat out, come join our group on Monday, July 16, as we hold a dining-out fundraiser at the Village Anchor. To make a reservation for the Village Anchor Dinner Fundraiser, go to www.opentable.com or call 502.708.1850; be sure to mention the Kids Center.
The Holiday Fashion Show is coming up, November 17, during which over 80 clients are models. If you would like to help plan that event or get involved in any other way, contact Jim Littlefied-Dalmares at the Kids Center at 502.635.6397. Finally, to see the work of the Kids Center in action, contact me to schedule a tour at 502.426.4200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benjamin J. Byrne is President/Owner of Benjamin J. Byrne & Associates (BJB & Associates), a complete, full-service insurance and financial services agency focusing on providing unique, customized strategies that provide value to customers. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2001, and has 11 years of experience in the Insurance and Financial Services Industry. He is married to Christen Weber Byrne and has two children: Paxton, age 4, and Emory, age 2. Byrne is currently very active in the following non-profits: Kids Center for Pediatric Therapy, The Academy of St. Andrews, Best Buddies Kentucky and Business Buddies Kentucky.