From His Perspective: For A Cause

Hi Guys- Taking a little detour from my usual style/design/renovation topics to bring you this important message from Andrew.  Please consider coming, spreading the word or supporting this cause! After all, it’s incredibly stylish to be charitable, no?

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. I have all sorts of excuses like a new job, it was the summer, and you may have heard that we moved. So now that I have gotten into more of a groove with work and the house, I hope to get back to doing a post here and there.

But before we get back to my normal topics, I coerced Erin to let me make a blatant pitch, on a relatively non-blog related topic.

About three years ago one of my New Year’s resolutions was to do something unselfish. Get involved in some way, with some thing, which is for the good of others. Of course we all know that those of us who do for others get just as much, if not more, from it but that is beside the point.

My aunt invited us to a charity dinner at the Seaport Hotel in Boston benefiting a cause called Summer Search. She was on the board of this charity at the time and raved about it. Also, she said would foot the bill for our seats at the table and there was to be an open bar. So Erin and I crawled out from under our rock to go out on the town, hob nob with the philanthropic folks in Boston, and have a couple glasses of wine.

As we ascend the escalator to the second floor of the hotel to register, we are already feeling intimidated. Lots of older, richer, wiser people who all seem to know each other. Erin and I deicide our best course of action is to b-line it to the bar for a glass of wine. As we make our way through the crowd, bar in sight, we are stopped just shy of our goal by Daniel.

“You guys probably want to hear about my experience with Summer Search,” says Daniel in a confident, youthful voice. As I begin to say “right after we hit the bar” he launches into his story.

I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared to hear such a sad, heart wrenching, tale. I wasn’t prepared to hear that this young man was abandoned by his parents, spent life in and out of foster homes, and considered a problem child because of his drug use. I wasn’t prepared to hear it from a seemingly confident, educated, outgoing young man who closed his story with where he was going to college and what he was going to do with his life. Could a charity really make that big a difference? I had my doubts…anyone can get lucky once.

And then, as Erin and I had a glass of wine, others came up to us. Each one cheery, confident, disarming, and bright. Each one with a story not to be believed. Parents on crack. Escaped from another country while their parents were left behind. Shy, abused, addicted. They were the forgotten. Their lives too hard by the time they were 15 for anyone to believe in them. Spend the money where it has a chance, most would say. These kids are a lost cause.

We sit down to dinner in a room with 750 other people. 750 educated, advantaged, successful, caring people. And as we begin the first course, we hear from more of the students. These 17 year olds, getting up in front of the most intimidating crowd, sharing their stories with a passion, grace and delivery Dr. King would have been proud of. It was personal. It was stunning. I would have been nervous to speak in front of this crowd and I am life-long salesman who loves to hear myself talk, and yet these kids were brimming with confidence! It brought tears to our eyes and I knew I had to be involved.

Summer Search spends a lot on every kid it allows in, about $6,000 each, per year. For a charity, that is unheard of. Not every kid is accepted. They have to be recommended by a teacher or guidance counselor. They then go through a series of intense interviews. At the end, about 60% to 70% get into the program. They are assigned a Summer Search staff member to guide them from their sophomore year on. Each week they meet with their mentor to track progression in school, family and life.

At the end of their sophomore year, they are sent on an outward-bound type of trip…actually, in most cases it is an actual Outward Bound program they are in. They are not there with others who are Summer Search students, but with all the kids who you would normally find partaking in such a program. No special treatment, no segregation. Nearly half of the kids in Summer Search Boston have never even seen the ocean. The ocean you could pay $2.00 on the T (subway for non-Bostonians) to go to. The ocean that is less than 10 miles from any of them. And now they are on a plane, set out in the woods or desert, with a group of people they have never met and who have likely had far more exposure to the world. Scary.

Their Junior year is the same. Every week meeting with their mentor. And at the end…an international trip in which they spend half the time helping others and half the time with a host family learning about the culture and language. Such an incredible opportunity.

Of their peer group in the Boston area, 7% graduate high school. That is not a typo. 7%. Needless to say, college is not even a consideration. Of the students in Summer Search, 98% graduate high school, 93% go to college, 89% graduate college. Most are the first generation to go to college, never mind graduate. These are kids who have truly transformed not only themselves, but the generations that follow them as well. Ask any one of them what they want to do with their life and they can tell you, in great detail, both what they want to do and exactly how they are going to do it.

I could go on, but I need to get to the point. What I have done to play my small part in making this organization grow, is to help throw a party to raise money and awareness. For those of you in the Boston area who are free Friday 21st, we are inviting you to an event at the W from 7 to 11. Tickets are $75 and include beer, wine and snacks. It is always fun, great music, you get to meet some of the kids and there are raffle and auction items that are pretty cool. If you want to come, click here to order your tickets and get more details.

If you can’t come, but you want to help support this cause, please click here to donate. Any amount is greatly appreciated. Just imagine what could be done if everyone who read this donated $5 or $10?

If you want to learn more about Summer Search click here.

Thank you all for all that you have done for Erin and me. You all feel like a part of our family and keep Erin going and growing. And thanks for listening to me ramble on about Summer Search. I can’t help it. Hope to see you there.

Andrew

P.S. Note from Erin: Pleeeeeeease come support this (and hang out with Andrew and I) and spread the word about the event!

19 Responses to “From His Perspective: For A Cause”

  1. gayle p says:

    What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing – wish i could be in Boston on the 21st, but alas not to be. Maybe next time – keep us posted with updates on Elements of Style. Made a donation instead!

  2. Elyse says:

    What an amazing charity to support. I am sure kids from the Home for Little Wanderers – the charity truly closest to my heart – have benefited from this program. We can’t be there on the 21st but will definitely support. Thanks to both of you for bringing attention to it!

  3. Kathleen says:

    Erin, your husband is a gifted writer who delivers a hell of a sales pitch for a worthy cause. Hats off to both of you.

  4. JW says:

    So, I was reading this, and I was like, this sounds like an awesome charity, I should totally donate. Then I was like, the name sounds familiar…and then I realized it’s because my uncle is the CFO! Kind of ashamed I haven’t donated before, but better late than never, right :/ ?

  5. Annie says:

    I loved this post- wish I lived near Boston. going to donate instead!

  6. Andrew Gates says:

    JW – That is so funny! Thanks to everyone who has helped so far! It really means so much to me.

  7. Emily says:

    What a great organization! I wish I lived in Boston, but alas, I’m a southern girl! I made a donation. Best of luck!

  8. Suzanne says:

    Erin & Andrew, My husband and I will be there! I read your blog everyday and love every post (incl Andrew’s). This is a wonderful organization which we can’t wait to find out more about. Especially my husband who runs a school for high school kids who have either been expelled or have dropped out. Can’t wait to meet you both! Suzanne

  9. Andrew Gates says:

    Suzanne – we can’t wait to meet you both as well!

  10. Lauren says:

    This sounds like such a worthy cause – so glad to have learned about it! I’ve emailed a few friends to try and rally a group to head over next Friday and everyone was excited… we’re just wondering what the attire is?? You had to know at least one girl was going to ask :) Looking forward to learning more and supporting these amazing students!

  11. Erin Gates says:

    Thanks so much everyone- see you there! As for dress, anything from work attire to cocktail attire is a-okay!

  12. Holiday says:

    Holiday thanks you for the opportunity to contribute. One more “backpack for a student’s wilderness expedition” has been purchased!

  13. Andrew Gates says:

    Way to go Holiday!

  14. Elise says:

    What a wonderful story, and what a wonderful organization!! I think this is such an important and worthy cause! I checked their website, hoping that they have a branch of the organization somewhere near Charleston, but it seems that they are pretty much located in the Northern US.
    I would love to help though! I paint oil landscapes, and though the majority of my work is of the Carolina Lowcountry, I do a lot of paintings of the New England coast as well (might be more tailered to your audience in Boston), so if you would ever be interested in a piece for an auction or anything-please let me know! I would be happy to paint something and send it up.
    I will definitely be following the organzation and donating, thanks again for shining a light on the work they do!

  15. kbb says:

    I’m in. Because it’s cool to give. See you on the 21st.

    Kirstan

  16. lauren says:

    Andrew, you are a fantastic storyteller. and what a compelling cause. I would like to be there (I’m in NYC) but will definitely be making a donation and hooking up the organization with Erin Giles, who teaches entrepreneurs how to build giving into their biz models.

    P.S. have you connected with http://www.myplang.com

    it’s an innovative new way to track your giving…might be great to connect.

  17. Andrew Gates says:

    Kirstan – See you there!
    Elise – Thank you so much. If you want to donate a picture for auction I am sure we would love it! Just email the details to Erin
    Lauren – Thanks! I will check that out…

  18. snooze says:

    Anroo – what a fabulous blog. You know I’m behind it and it looks like the blog worked. Congratulations. Love – Mom

  19. pam says:

    Erin and Andrew,

    I have followed your blog for a few years, enjoyed it immensely. You are an adorable, down to earth, loving couple, who are not afraid to share the bad with the good.(Added bonus, you cuss, makes me feel better..) After reading this post, I went to the website. What an amazing organization, it simply reiterates how valuable an education is for these kids to survive, and maybe even thrive. How can anyone consider cutting funding for student loans, grants, scholarships, etc. My son was able to enter college this fall due to federal loans. I am so grateful, as I went to college on loans as well. Thank you both for this post, and for caring. I will definitely donate for these precious children, we have no idea the burdens they carry. (Sorry for the “oh so long” comment.