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Posts Tagged ‘georgetown’

Last Tuesday was an exciting and busy day for the Year of Giving project.  As I went out on my journey looking for someone to give my $10 to, I was accompanied by a local TV news crew that is doing a story on the project.  I will let everyone know when the segment will air.

Another exciting element of Tuesday was that I was able to deliver some much needed clothes and shoes to Anthony from Day 67.  Maureen and Josh from PA sent him some shoes and socks.  Darnell from MD had sent me some items for Gregory from Day 71, but Gregory has disappeared.  I have not seen him for over a month and the local businesses near where he used to panhandle everyday say that they have not seen him either.  One of the items that Darnell sent was a brand new Tommy Hilfiger waterproof jacket.  I thought that it might fit Anthony and it did!  A big thank-you to Maureen, Josh, and Darnell!  Check out this short clip of Anthony receiving the items.

Then it was off to find the recipient of the day.  I headed over to the neighborhood of Georgetown and found Mariana.  She said she didn’t have time to participate and that she really needed more like $1,000 not $10, so I kept on looking.

Davenport, IA

Just a few seconds later I spotted a young woman waiting to cross Wisconsin Avenue.  Her name was Katelyn.  The 21-year-old from Davenport, IA, is a junior at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, just 50 minutes south of Chicago’s Loop.  She has been in DC this semester as part of the university’s Study Abroad Program.  While here in DC, she has also had the opportunity to intern with Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Katelyn’s home state.

I asked Katelyn where she was headed and she answered that she was walking over to a boutique to pick up her dress for the Naval Academy’s Ring Dance, where her boyfriend attends school.  Let me stop and tell you that Katelyn has a beautiful smile.  When she started talking about her boyfriend and attending the Ring Dance, she was beaming. 

Katelyn (Photo: Reed)

I tried to take copious notes, but I may have gotten this wrong.  The Ring Dance is a special ceremony where the second class midshipmen, third year students, receive their class rings.  Their date wears the ring around their neck and then during the ceremony they dip the ring into water from all seven seas.  This is a pretty big deal for the midshipmen.  There is even a website that has a countdown clock letting you know exactly how long until the Ring Dance 2010 as well as the 2011 event!  If you were wondering, at the time of this post, it was 20 days, 6 hours, and 40 minutes.

Although Katelyn said she felt like she should do something greater with the $10, she said the money would most likely be used for lunch.  Her decision could have been influenced by the fact that it was 2:00 and she hadn’t had lunch and said that she was really hungry.

 I asked her what her thoughts on giving were.  She flashed her beautiful smile again and said, “I think it’s very important.” In fact, she was on her way back from volunteering that morning at Martha’s Table.  She also has volunteered her time at the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, and other organizations.  

After spending this term in Washington, DC, Katelyn said, “I have learned a lot about myself.  I used to think I wanted to go to law school, now I think I might want to teach English.”

As far as those who want to help Katelyn, she thought of two things that people could help her with.  The first one is that she hopes to go to Japan sometime soon as her boyfriend’s sister is currently living there.  Katelyn would like some tips on how to get good deals for traveling to Japan.  Also, with her recent thoughts on her career, she would love to find an English professor who would serve as a mentor to her so that she can better plan her future in order to realize her goal of becoming an English professor herself.  Please leave a comment here or drop me a note if you have any advice for Katelyn or know of a potential mentor for her.

As I left, I spotted John from Day 40.  He said he was not doing well and had just been diagnosed with Cancer.  Every time I have met John, either someone in his family has died or he has been diagnosed with a new life-threatening issue.  You want to believe people, but this sounds like too much.  For his sake, I hope the stories aren’t true.

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Day 101 was last Thursday.  I was on my way to meet up with my brother, his wife, and my cousin for dinner in Georgetown.  I got down there early and had some extra time.  I spotted Brad sitting on a bench in front of Barnes & Noble.  There was something so calm and relaxed about him that I decided to see if I could give him my $10.

Brad in Georgetown (Photo: Reed)

He was waiting for a bus but said we could talk until the bus came.  Originally from New Jersey, Brad is somewhat new to the DC area where he works as an internet strategy consultant. 

Knowing that I had potentially very little time until his bus came, I got his email and asked if I could take a picture of him.  He said sure.  While I was taking pictures, I asked him what he was going to do with the $10.  He said, “I’d like to say that I am going to donate it, but it’s probably going to get used for dinner tonight.”

Right then his bus came and we parted ways.

Barnes & Noble Georgetown (Photo: Reed)

Later that night I ended up losing my small notebook that I take notes in, but luckily got it back when I retraced my steps and discovered that it had fallen out of my backpack outside of the Barnes & Noble and somebody had turned it in to the security guard at the bookstore.  

I got home that night and thought that I would just leave the blog entry for that day as it was…I didn’t get a lot of information about Brad, but such is life right.  However, I thought that maybe I would just Google Brad and see what I found.  I am so glad I did.  Had I not, I wouldn’t have discovered a much more beautiful story underneath the surface.

Before I go any further, I should let you know that when I found out what I am about to share with you I contacted Brad and asked permission to share this with the readers of my blog.

Brad’s mother, Joan Dancy, was diagnosed in 2002 with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  This is a disease that I have heard of all my life but I didn’t know much about it.  Here are some facts:

  • ALS can happen to anyone
  • ALS has no known cause
  • ALS is diagnosed in 14 people everyday
  • ALS affects 30,000 people in the US at any given time
  • ALS is always fatal 

 (source: http://www.joandancyandpals.com/facts.php)

Brad’s mother battled the fatal disease until 2006 when she passed away.  Later that year her fiancé, Terry Magovern (former personal assistant to Bruce Springsteen), founded The Joan Dancy & PALS Foundation.  The PALS stands for People with ALS.  Joan and her family and loved ones discovered that despite their urban location and proximity to numerous medical centers, there was a tremendous need for resources at the local level to help people afflicted with ALS.  Before she passed away she decided that somebody needed to change this.  Terry continued the work and in 2006 her dream became a reality when he launched the foundation which is committed to improving quality of life for ALS patients and their loved ones in the ways that matter most.  Sadly, Terry passed away unexpectedly in July of 2007 and the organization is now lead by Terry’s son Sean.  As an Advisory Board member, Brad is active in the organization and heads up some of the fundraising events that they do.

I spoke to Brad about what it was like dealing with this disease.  “It’s really tough because the disease moves very fast.  The body degenerates but the person’s mind knows exactly what’s going on.”  This was the case with his mother.  I can only imagine how difficult that must have been on Brad and his family..

Because there is no cure and because this disease is so hard on the individual and their family, groups like the Joan Dancy and PALS Foundation are extremely important.  According to Brad, the foundation holds support meetings once a month, about 40 people who meet to help one another improve the quality of life of those living with ALS.  

I was so touched by this story.  Maybe because I also lost my mother to a terrible disease…maybe because of the courage I felt from Brad in how he and others have managed to honor his mother so beautifully with the foundation.  I urge all of you to visit the website of this very special organization.  They survive through donations and proceeds from special events that they hold…hopefully I can make it to one of them this year so that I can personally experience the love that this group has for those living with ALS.

By the way, when I spoke to Brad this past Wednesday he said the $10 was still in his wallet!  I hope he will comment here and share with all of us how he uses the $10!

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I found myself in the picturesque neighborhood of Georgetown.  As I walked along M Street, I notice a man on the corner of M and Wisconsin sitting in front of the Banana Republic store.  

I cross the street and make my way to where he is sitting.  John has on a pink foam hat that says Vintage Virginia (I have been to this wine festival and was not impressed), a heavy wool blanket wrapped around him and a mini disco ball on a chain that hangs from his neck.  I stopped to talk to the 52-year-old homeless man and walked away with a smile on my face.

A clever phrase, a warm smile, or just a wave seems to work for John as he is successful in getting the attention of those who walk past him.  His kindness and free-flowing smile seem to almost warm the crisp winter air.  

John has been homeless for about 5 years he explained.  His life took a dramatic turn after he lost his wife and child in an auto accident.  He also said that he lost his other son due to heart failure at the age of 17 while playing basketball.  Too much personal tragedy for one person.

Now, he has become somewhat of a regular at this intersection I found out from a neighborhood local.  I asked John about his hat and disco ball.  He said they were gifts and he has worn them for over a year and that people remember him by his crazy pink hat.  That may be partly true, but I will remember him not for his hat, but for how friendly and optimistic he was despite his situation.

On top of being homeless, John suffers from heart disease and is an insulin dependent diabetic.  He recently lived through a difficult situation when he was denied benefits to get his insulin.  He doesn’t appear angry though.  He seemed to just take everything in stride.  We chatted for a while about all kinds of things; from his health stories to a meeting he had with Mayor Adrian Fenty to his fondness for really tall women!  Hey, if there are any 6’ or taller women out there who want to meet a really nice man, let me know and I will hook you up with John!

I asked South Carolina native about the hat.  He says that everyone knows him now by the pink hat.  He has other hats too.  A turkey hat for Thanksgiving, a complete Santa Outfit for Christmas, a red, white, and blue hat for the 4th of July, etc.  He doesn’t have an Easter Bunny hat, so if anyone has one that they would like to give to him, let me know! 

I asked John what he was going to do with the $10 and he replied with a big smile that revealed some missing teeth that he would get himself a big vegetable dinner.  He was very thankful of my donation.  I asked him how much he collects on  a good day and he said about $30-$40.  I think he might have lowballed me on this, as I saw at least $5 make its way to his bucket while I was standing there and a few more as I jotted down some notes from across the street after I spoke to him.  I bet a good day for him is at least double what he stated.  He explained that people do a lot of nice things for him and I asked him what has been the best “gift” so far.  “Conversation,” he said without hesitation.  I was touched by this.  A man who desperately needs financial resources valued the conversation of others much more than the money that they were giving him.

If you are in Georgetown, keep an eye out for the pink hat and stop and say hello to John.  It will be worth your time, trust me.

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