All Aboard The Love Train!

We live in a world filled with negativity. Whether it is the television, radio, social media, our families, or our friends, we cannot get away from constant negativity. News from around the world consists of war, corruption, murder, and bigotry.  Social media channels are flooded with people, often our friends and family, who bitch and complain about everything. I mean everything. Some hate their jobs, their friends, and their co-workers. Others constantly banter on about how terrible our president is, how awful our economy is, and how our nation is falling apart. They promote hate, call each other names, create drama, and start fights.  I could go on and on because it never stops. 24 hours a day we are exposed to an onslaught of crap.  Negativity is everywhere. We cannot escape it and if we are not strong we can easily get sucked into the black hole that it exists in.

I refuse to fall victim to negativity. I will not fall in the hole. I have made a decision to have a positive attitude. I am committed to living a life of outstanding. I will think positive. I will speak positive. I will promote positive.  Let’s get something straight before moving forward.  I have my bad days, my bad moments. Not everything in my life is beautiful butterflies and fragrant flowers. I am human. I have issues. I have problems. I have my frustrations.  I am not better than anyone else.  I just choose to live positive.  I do not share and spread the negative things I read, see, and experience.  I will not let it eat me alive like others do. Trust me, I have seen it happen.  I have seen people so engrossed in their problems that they fail to see all of the wonderful things around them.  It hurts to watch so many live their lives that way.  Our society cannot continue down that path.

Words are very powerful. They can speak life or they can speak death. They can uplift and empower or they can destroy and damage.  Positive words can make a difference.  I truly believe it.

We recently learned about an organization that “uses the power of positive words to build, sustain, and empower community through strategic arts partnerships, mentorships, events, and education.” Department of Public Words is an Indianapolis-based organization dedicated to creating positive messages in public spaces through both art and public speaking.  They have produced several positive message murals and installations in the Indianapolis area and in other cities around the state of Indiana.

One of those murals is called The Love Train.  It is a 44 panel,  500 foot mural that runs along the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple, Indiana. It is a mural that features a train and positive, uplifting words. We had the opportunity to help on this project with my brother, his company, and my mother. We scraped, primed, and painted a few panels that will later be transformed into a train that features positive words and life-giving phrases. The space previously featured 15-year-old murals that were faded and falling apart.  The space was drab and boring.  The community of Broad Ripple has seen a lot of violence and crime over the last year. Creating community through this mural is what the city needs.  Positive words can stop someone in their tracks along the trail and change the course of their day.  The Love Train can, and will, positively impact the lives of those who see it.  That is what we loved so much about this volunteer experience.

Impact 52 helps paint The Love Train

Impact 52 paints with DPWordIndy

Impact 52 scraped and painted in Indianapolis

Be outstanding! You have heard me say it a million times if you have followed this blog or our social media accounts. Our attitude can be the difference in our lives and the lives of those around us.  We must choose the positive and avoid the negative.  Don’t fall in the black hole of negativity.  Do not become a WIMP or a Woe Is Me Person.  People do not need to hear about every negative thing that happens in your life.  Refrain from spreading hate and spread love.  Tell others uplifting stories.  Smile.  Encourage.  Empower. Look past the clouds and see the sun.  We can change the world around us if we make the choice to do so.  It starts with our attitude, our actions, and our words.

Are you going to be a WIMP or will you join The Love Train? We have room for you!



Bikes, Bees, and An Amazing Cause

In May of this year, we were introduced to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Indiana.  We were actually introduced by a tweet.  A tweet requesting volunteer help for the upcoming fundraising walk in the eleventh hour.  We jumped at the opportunity to serve and help where help was needed.  In the process, we met an unbelievable staff that was passionate about the cause and the people that they served.  A staff, and board of directors, that openly appreciated our time and valued our service and the service of other volunteers. We learned about an organization that works hard to improve the quality of life for people affected by MS in Indiana and northwestern Kentucky and raise funds for critical MS research. During a normal volunteer experience on a chilly Spring morning, we garnered a respect and a new love for a great organization.

For those that do not know, multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information with the brain, and between the brain and body.  It is a disease that affects more than 400,000 in the United States.  We know individuals and families that have been impacted by MS and we are committed to doing our part to advocate and spread the word.

Bike MS: Cruising The Crossroads is NMMS of Indiana’s annual fundraiser that gives cyclist the opportunity to ride 30, 50, 75, and 100 mile routes in honor of MS.  The organization’s website says that it is an event “that is more than a bike ride — it’s anticipation, camaraderie, personal accomplishment, and the knowledge that you’re changing lives… making every mile that much sweeter.”  As volunteers at one of the rest stops along the course, we would agree.

We volunteered at rest stop #3.  We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut bananas, and whipped up some ice-cold Gatorade.  We interacted with riders as they passed through making sure that they were hydrated, nourished, and safe.  Unfortunately, we had to fight off a persistent swarm of bees throughout the day.  It was typical for a late summer day in Indiana. Bees were everyone and they loved the sugary Gatorade.  Thankfully only one rider was stung during the ride (our team didn’t fare so well on that end.)  In addition to the drinks and snacks, we used our vehicle as a shuttle vehicle to get riders to the closest bathroom.  Our toilet (the one at the park) was inoperable that day and cyclists who had completed 50 miles were ready for some relief.

The day was great.  We enjoyed our time as rest stop attendees.  TAKE THAT BEES! You lose.

Impact 52 volunteers at #BikeMS

Impact 52 supports #BikeMS

It is always great to serve together as a family. This week was extra special because my mother and brother joined us.  I have seen the impact that this service project has had on my brother.  He is looking for opportunities to make a difference and moments to share positive words and encouragement.  He, and my mother, have joined us in the decision for a better community.  They understand that we cannot just be human beings on this planet.  We must all be human doings.  We must seek out those opportunities to serve in our community. We must do something. We have to take action.

Impact 52 serves with National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Indiana

Are you ready? Will you make the decision for a better community? Are you willing to sacrifice and give of yourself to positively impact the lives of others around you?  Do not wait.  You have time to give right now.  Just make the decision to do so.  When you do, your life will be changed.  I promise you.

If you are interested in learning more about the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Indiana you can visit their website.  Educate yourself and get involved. You will be glad that you did.


The Ultimate Power Tool

A paintbrush is a power tool. When you think about power tools you probably don’t think about paintbrushes.  You think about nail guns, electric screwdrivers, chainsaws, and drills.  You think about tools that are powered by electricity and rechargeable batteries.  The ultimate power tool doesn’t have a cord or a battery. It cannot shoot nails at the speed of light nor can it chop a tree to pieces.  It can, however, change lives in a few strokes.  You may not believe me, but a paintbrush is the ultimate power tool.  Let me tell you why.

A Paintbrush is a powerful tool

A paintbrush makes things new.  A coat of fresh paint can represent new beginnings.  The scars, the hurts, and the pains of the past are covered up and forgotten. With just a few strokes, a room is transformed. The mood changes. The environment improves. A paintbrush generates smiles and feelings of hope.

A paintbrush creates conversation. Painting with your children gives you the opportunity to talk. In a quiet room, crammed into a corner, conversation takes place.  New boyfriends are discovered. Life goals are uncovered. Life’s challenges are discussed. A father’s pride can be expressed.  With conversation comes laughter.  Painting with your children allows you to be silly, annoying, and weird (all of which are completely okay by the way). A paintbrush creates conversation and moments for a family that would have never existed.

A paintbrush gives perspective.  When you take the time to help a neighbor in need via painting you gain new perspectives on life.  You become grateful for the things you possess, the home you live in, the relationships you have, and the people who you call family.  Painting truly can be life changing for the painter.  We have done many painting projects over the last four years and each one has been an awesome teacher. We have learned a lot about ourselves, our family, and our community through painting. We have new perspective and we can give credit to the paintbrush.

A paintbrush builds new relationships.  We have met many people through painting.  Many have been recipients of our work and have become friends through the process.  They have shared their hearts with us. We have heard their heartbreaking stories, witnessed their challenges firsthand, and heard their voices. We are thankful for these people and our new relationships.

A paintbrush enhances friendships. We have been blessed to have a group of men from our church help us paint the home of our friend Emma. These men are amazing and our relationships with them have grown exponentially during our time together.  We paint, we talk, we laugh. They have been there for us when we have needed help and we are very thankful for their giving hearts.  Through painting, acquaintances have become true friends. We know that they are there for us and we are always there for them.

Impact 52 and friends paint for a neighbor in need

A paintbrush changes lives. There isn’t much to say here.  We know that we have positively impacted the lives of people in our community by painting. We have painted fire hydrants for the city, the entire exterior of a home and garage, bedrooms, kitchens, dining halls, and community spaces. In the process, our lives have been changed forever.  We are not the same family that we were the first time we picked up a paintbrush.

See, I told you that a paintbrush is a power tool.  We encourage you to experience the power of a paintbrush. Grab your kids and some friends and paint for a neighbor. There is great need in our community, and all communities, for painting.  If you are in the Fort Wayne area, check out our friends at Neighborlink. They have a lot of painting projects that need volunteers. If you aren’t in our area, find an organization close to you that needs help.  Take action. Do something.

Pick up a paintbrush and experience the ultimate power tool!


A World Without Big Bird, Elmo, And Mr. Rogers

It is rare that we pause long enough to think about the impact our actions will have on organizations and other people  We are always in a hurry, scurrying from one place to the next. Jumping from one task to another in a blink of an eye. We volunteer here. We volunteer there. Our lives are go, go, go! There usually isn’t time to pause, think, and reflect.

During a recent conversation I shared with an acquaintance that I was volunteering at our local PBS station answering the phone during the fall pledge drive that night. He looked at me puzzled with a hint of disgust and he said:

“Does answering the phone for PBS really make a difference?”  He went on “I know you want to impact the community, but I don’t see how volunteering at PBS makes a difference. Do you think it really makes an impact?”

My moment to pause and think had arrived. It wasn’t planned. It was forced. For the next few seconds I started questioning everything that we have done over the last 3+ years. Does the work that we do make a difference?  Are we checking off the box and serving just to say that we did?  Is there meaning in what we do each and every week?  Although only a few seconds had passed, it seemed that I was deep in thought for minutes, maybe even hours.  I then responded with a question:

“Can you imagine a world without Big Bird, Elmo, and Mr. Rogers?”

The gentleman I was talking with was around my age (late thirties). That means he grew up in the late 70s/early 80s and he was probably a child of Sesame Street.  He smiled, as if he was reminiscing, and said, “No, I can’t.”

Photo Credit: Richard Termine

Photo Credit: Richard Termine

You see, Big Bird and all of the great characters of Sesame Street (Cookie Monster was my favorite) played huge roles in our development as children.  They taught us how to count, the alphabet, how to be good friends, how to get along with others, and so many other things. Sesame Street was a home away from home for me, my acquaintance, and children all over the world.

Elmo was introduced in 1985 and became very popular in the 90s.  As a parent, I owe a lot to my friend Elmo.  Kelsi fell in love with him, his toys, and his movies. More than 30 years after its creation, Sesame Street was positively impacting my daughter. The lessons she learned were important, real, and relevant.

Mr. Rogers was one of my heroes as a child. He taught me how to be a good neighbor, how to care for others, and how to give.  He was the epitome of kindness. He impacted the lives of millions of children during his 33 years on television. It was truly a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

PBS television made all of this possible.  These shows, the amazing characters, and the life-changing lessons would not have existed without public television.  So yes, answering the phone for PBS makes a difference. It makes an impact on our community. Without pledges and donations, PBS could not provide educational and entertaining programming. Without volunteers, PBS could not manage the amount the incoming calls. That is how I helped. I answered the phone during the late night shift of the Fall pledge drive.  Each call only took a few minutes, but each resulted in a pledge that is extremely important to the success and survival of PBS 39 in our area.


"Thanks for calling PBS 39!"

“Thanks for calling PBS 39!”

I would encourage you to see how you can support your local PBS station.  Make a pledge. Volunteer some time. Become a member.  Just get involved. Help ensure that future generations get to experience the life-altering programming of PBS.  Can you imagine a world without Big Bird, Elmo, and Mr. Rogers?



Volunteering With One Of Our Favorites

We love the Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry. It is one of the organizations that we serve with every year.  We love their mission. We love the cause. We love pets. We love the people. For the second year in a row, we volunteered at the annual Summer Pup-nic and Ice Cream Social.

The Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry’s mission is to keep pets at home with their families. They provide pet food at no cost to pet owners who are struggling to feed their pets. The inability to provide food leads individuals and families to surrender their beloved animals to local shelters. Over the course of time, shelters become overcrowded and many animals are euthanized. Not only does the FWPFP save the lives of animals, but they also reduce the stresses of not being able to provide for your pet while preserving the loving relationships that exist.

Last year’s Pup-nic was a huge success.  We managed the children’s area where we hosted games for the children.  This year, we participated in a different way.  First, we acted as greeters at the main entrance of the event.  We welcomed each person who attended and handed out goodie bags filled with dog toys and coupons.  It was a simple task. Anyone can smile and make others feel welcome.  That is really all it takes.  A warm greeting goes a long way with people.

Impact 52 volunteers at the Pupnic

We also set up a table and sold copies of our first children’s book LINNIE MAE’S NEW FRIENDS.  We donated 100% of the proceeds from each book sold during the event to the Pet Food Pantry. We didn’t set the world on fire so the donation was not a large sum of money. We do know, however, that it will buy a few bags of pet food and/or treats.

Volunteering is always an awesome experience. It is even better when you serve with an organization that values you, your family, and your time.  We have served with over 130 organizations since we began this journey.  The Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry is near the top of our list of favorites.

What is your favorite organization and what makes them great?

Put A Smile On The Face Of A Child

There are few things greater in this world than the smile of a child.  Whether it is your son, daughter, niece, neighbor, or the child of a complete stranger, the smiles of children are precious.  As a father, I look forward to seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter of my two beautiful girls each and every day. No day is complete without the sight of those pearly whites that give me such joy. I will do whatever (yes, I mean whatever) it takes to get that smile. I will be as silly as I need to be to get it. I will annoy them as long as it takes to make it happen. Some days it is hard work, other days it is very simple. Those smiles are important to me and nothing will change that.

For many children, showing that we care is enough to make them smile.  They crave our attention. They want our time.  They thirst for our love.  They just want someone to take interest. This week we had the opportunity to brighten the faces of many children in our community. Children who do not have it easy. Children who live in an area where violence is a reality. A neighborhood where it isn’t safe to go outside after dark. Children whose parents work hard to make it through each day in an attempt to survive.  Children who sacrifice the joys of childhood because they lack abundance.  This week we showed these children that we care.

For the last three years Elevate City Church has hosted a Back To School Bash at Weisser Park in the heart of our city. The event is an expression of love for those that may need it.  This year, more than 500 children were given backpacks filled with school supplies.  They ate hotdogs, popcorn, and popsicles. They jumped around inside inflatable bouncy houses and they had their faces painted.  They received free books and bookmarks.  They smiled, smiled, and smiled. For a few hours on sunny Saturday afternoon, the stresses and challenges of life seemed to vanish.  Yes, we helped them with much-needed school supply assistance, but that was not all. We gave them an opportunity to enjoy being kids. Children worry about the issues that mom and dad struggle with.  They do. And we need to understand that. They are very observant to the world around them and we must work to free them from that worry.

Impact 52 paints faces at the Back To School Bash

As for us, we volunteered in a multitude of capacities.  The girls painted faces. Erica helped with backpack registration and disbursement. I helped in whatever way needed.  Most of all, we invested time in the kids.  We high-fived them, held them, hugged them, and helped them. We even participated in a few sprint races with them (this old man was undefeated).  Mainly, we invested time in them.  We, along with the entire ECC Serve Team, showed them that they are loved.

The children of our communities around the world need to know that we care.  Our OWN children need to know this too.  This, I have to work on. You see, I am not a great parent. I make a lot of mistakes and miss so many opportunities. I get so focused on positively impacting the world around me that I forget to ensure that my own children are happy.  I am not perfect. Actually, I am no where close to it. My girls are teenagers who have their own challenges and I at times am not present.  That has to change. I must be a light in my own children’s world of darkness.  I must be present when they need me. They must be my priority. They must always know that I care.

I challenge you to do the same. Pause a moment and look around. If you have children, are you there for them? Are you present when you really need to be? I want to be a better parent and I hope that you do too.  Invest time in YOUR children.  Invest time in ALL children.  They need us more than we know.  Don’t fall victim to excuses and busy schedules. Focus on putting a smile on the face of a child this week!

Beautiful Hanging Rock

Eye-opening.  That is one of the phrases we use to explain our work in the community. If you follow this blog, heard us speak, or know us at all, you have heard use say these words over and over again. Our eyes have been opened to our own stereotypes, insecurities and shortcomings, the desperate needs of families in our area, the unbelievable organizations and individuals who work daily to rid our world of social injustices and heal the hurts of people, and how easy it is to make a difference in the lives of others.  The blinders have been removed. Our contact lenses have been cleaned.  We now see the world with 20/20 vision.  It is so crystal clear.  Serving our community has opened our eyes to so many new and exciting things.  This week, they were opened to something beautiful.

In our constant search for new experiences, we learned about an organization that exists to protect the last of our natural habitats in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio, and southern Michigan called ACRES Land Trust.  For more than fifty years ACRES has worked to preserve wetlands, prairies, and forests in our area while educating the public on the importance of keeping these natural areas intact.  More than 5400 acres of land in 32 midwestern counties act as living museums that can be enjoyed by all.  We visited one this week that was absolutely beautiful.

We traveled to Wabash County to do some painting at a historic landmark site that had been vandalized with graffiti. We had no idea where we were going and what we were about to see.  We were ready to paint, but we were not prepared to be in awe of the space.  Then we arrived at Hanging Rock.

Impact 52 spends time at Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock National Natural Landmark is located along the banks of the Wabash River in Wabash County, Indiana.  The 3.9 acre site features an awesome natural exposure of fossilized coral reef dating back over 420 million years. The rock rises 65 feet above the river, which undercuts it giving it a “hanging” appearance.  It is an awesome sight and a quiet and serene location.  We had no idea that we had a place like this close by.  We had never heard of Hanging Rock and if it weren’t for volunteerism and service, we would have totally missed out on this national landmark.

Erica and I spent about three hours painting over graffiti.  It was sad to arrive and see the vulgar words that had been spray painted on the rock.  In addition to curse words, we saw a lot of “Mary luvs Charlie 4ever” and “Bobby was here” type of tags.  We are happy that people are in love (and that they were there), but we do not understand the need to vandalize property to share it.  Using “Hanging Rock” gray paint, we made those words disappear.  It was obvious that ACRES has to do this often because we could plainly see where they had painted on previous occasions.  It really is discouraging to know that people have such a lack of respect for a public space, a historic landmark, and a rock that holds special meaning to the local Miami indians.  We were happy to restore its beauty (at least for a while) and enjoy the views from the top of the rock after we finished.

Impact 52 paints over graffiti at Hanging Rock

I had an unbelievable day with my beautiful wife at Hanging Rock.  The girls were out of town so she and I volunteered alone.  I cherish those moments.  There is no better way to spend a day with your spouse than by serving others. Volunteerism and service brings you close with the people you love.  It acts as an adhesive that bonds you together.  You talk. You smile. You laugh. You appreciate.  I appreciate my wife’s giving spirit so much.  So inspires me to be a better man daily.  I would encourage everyone to seek out opportunities to serve with the people you love.  I guarantee that your relationships will improve.  Your bonds will strengthen.  Your love will grow.

When you commit to serving others and giving back to your community, your eyes will be opened to the beauty that exists around you.

Beautiful Hanging Rock via Impact 52

Dear Little Brother

Dear Little Brother,

I am not sure exactly where to start.  There are so many things that I want to say.  As you prepare to move and we say our goodbyes, I first want you to know that it is not goodbye.  Although you will be hundreds of miles away, you need to know that I will always be there for you.  When life is good.  When your day is bad. When you are in trouble. When you need a friend.  It doesn’t matter where life takes you, I will always be there with you.

The last 5 plus years have been awesome.  I remember meeting you for the first time in our initial Big Brother Big Sister match up.  You were 8 years old and full of energy.  I was so excited to meet you, yet concerned that you wouldn’t like me.  We spent those first few months as lunch buddies meeting every Monday at school.  We ate, we read books, we laughed, and we played games.  I kicked your butt many times in Connect Four and I believe that I am still the world champion.  I enjoyed each and every encounter that we had.  You impacted me in a big way during those first few months and I wanted to spend more time with you.

We moved our match to the community program and you started coming to my home every week.  You became a part of my family.  We had so many good times.  We played hours and hours of video games (especially Call of Duty) where you constantly killed me and made me look silly.  We watched a lot movies that made us laugh and giggle uncontrollably.  We visited many car dealerships in town where we looked at hotrods and fancy cars.  We danced and rapped as the hip-hop duo A-Fresh and Double O Ty’ere.  We raced go-karts, played sports, did homework, played with our dogs, and ate a lot of food.  So many memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  It is hard to believe that it has come to an end.

Impact 52 and Big Brothers Big Sisters

Aaron and Ty

I am very proud of the young man you are becoming.  You have grown, matured, and learned many lessons over the years.  There are few things I want to say to you today that I hope that you will never forget.

Don’t stop learning.  Remember that you do not have all of the answers.  Listen to others, focus in school, and get the great education that you deserve.  The Lamborghini that you always wanted to see could be yours some day if you work hard.  You are a smart kid with a bright future, but it will not be easy.  Nobody is going to hand it to you.  You will have to earn it.

Be a leader.  Don’t follow others and become friends who will be a bad influence.  Be independent and strong and do not let others take advantage of you.  This is one of the things I have worried about over the years.  You want to fit in.  You want to be cool.  But at what cost?  Do not settle and do not let your peers control you.

Love your family and those around you, Little Brother.  You only have one mama.  Love her.  Obey her.  Help her.  You are old enough to do your part around the house.  Be the man of the house and step up your game.  Do not expect your mother to do everything for you.  Respect her always.  You are now closer to your sisters.  Love them and treat them like they deserved to be treated.  Treat them like your mama.

Lastly, always remember that you are special.  You are unique and there is only one you.  Find your passion and pursue it.  Live life with purpose everyday and never let anyone tell you that you are nothing.  It isn’t true and you cannot fill your mind and your heart with that nonsense.

It doesn’t matter how old you get Little Brother, I will always love you.  You will always be part of my life, my family, and my heart.  I look forward to the phone calls, the Skype sessions, and that day that you and I get to hang out again.  I look forward to your high school graduation, college, your wedding, and the day that you become a parent.  The future is bright and I am ready to experience it with you.  I love ya Little Brother!

Your friend and Big Brother,



Aaron and Ty 2


I encourage you to consider becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. Visit Big Brothers Big Sisters to learn more about becoming a mentor.  Investing time in a child just may change their life.  I guarantee that it will change yours!

Up, Up, Up and Away

There is something magical about a hot air balloon.  Since I was a child, I have been mesmerized by the sight of them gliding through the air.  The beautiful colors of the large-shaped object against a backdrop of blue sky and white clouds is spectacular. I am not sure why I get so much joy in seeing them in flight.  I have never ridden in a balloon so I have not experienced it firsthand.  For some reason I have a love for them and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until now.

Last year we volunteered at the Angola Balloons Aloft festival in northern Indiana. It was our first up-close experience with a hot air balloon.  We worked with the team from Indy Hot Air and their dragon-shaped balloon named Oggy.  We shared that experience in a blog titled “Wrestling a 900 Pound Dragon”.  We had an awesome time and couldn’t wait to do it again.  This week, we had that opportunity.

We signed up to work the early morning shift.  Early meant getting two teenage girls out of bed at 4:30am on a Saturday.  That, my friends, isn’t an easy task.  This is where my girls amaze me.  They got up, didn’t really complain, and were in good spirits as we made the 45 minute drive to the event location.  It makes Erica and I proud that they understand the importance of what we do.  Most weeks they really enjoy it, even if they will not admit it.

Upon arrival we were assigned to a shape balloon named Joey.  He is a bee and just one member of a group of balloons that fly together called the “Little Bees”.  Our job was to assist the flight team as Joey’s chase team and crew.  We helped prep for flight by unfolding the balloon, preparing the basket with the burners, and holding him down as he started to inflate.  I was on the crown of the balloon during inflation.  Thankfully, Joey was easier to wrestle than Oggy from last year due to perfect weather.  I wasn’t dragged around like a rag doll this time.  We stood below the balloon as it lifted off of the ground ascending into the sky.  It was an awesome sight.

Impact 52 works with Joey

Impact 52 volunteers with hot air balloon

As chase team we jumped into our car and followed Joey as he flew through the air.  Watching his every move we navigated down country roads to stay on his tail (or stinger). You never know when a balloon will land so we had to be ready.  He eventually landed in a small field in a residential area.  We trekked through backyards and weeds to the balloon where we deflated him, packed him up, and prepared him for his afternoon flight.

We had a great morning at the Angola Balloons Aloft event for the second straight year.  As we traveled home, I realized that a hot air balloon is great symbolism for our project and the idea of “positively impacting the lives of others.”  Let me tell you why.  Stay with me as I try to get this out of my brain.

It takes a team of people to fly a hot air balloon.  The pilot cannot do it alone.  He needs a crew to support him.  A crew that is willing to do the hard work to unfold the 600 pound balloon and get it ready for flight. People need friends, family, and community (or a crew) in order to navigate life.  We need that crew to help us with the heavy things in life.  We cannot do life alone. We need a crew that can help us get ready to take flight.

A balloon uses hot air as it engine.  The balloon fills to its capacity and lifts off of the ground.  The burners are used to continue the flow of air that keeps it in the sky on its flight track.  As people, we can fill people with encouragement that allows them to grow and empowers them to reach for the sky.  Our continual support and encouragement, like the burners, can keep someone uplifted and on the right path in life.

Impact 52 volunteers as balloon chase team

The chase team and crew constantly communicate with the pilot to help him navigate the landscape.  They support decisions that make sense and challenge those that do not.  They follow the balloon while it is in flight just in case that something goes wrong.  They are there when, and if, they are needed.  Do I really need to explain this one?  We need people who are there to support us and challenge us through life.  We need those people who will tell us when we are in the wrong, when we have messed up, and when we are being foolish.  We need that “chase team” that will be right behind us helping to navigate the terrain. We need them close by when we fall.  And we will fall, over and over again.

When the balloon lands, the pilot needs the crew to tear down.  The pilot needs and wants to talk about the flight.  He shares the good, the bad, and the ugly of the journey.  The crew is critical in getting the balloon put away properly in preparation for the next flight.  There will always be a next flight.  People need us when they land.  They want to talk through their experiences.  They need someone to share their successes with.  They need someone who will hear their hurts.  We are there to help them process their “flight” and prepare them for the next one.  There will always be a next one.

I hope that someone can relate to what I am saying.  People need us to love, support, and encourage them so that they can thrive.  When they fail, they need us to listen, show that we care, and prepare them for the next thing.  I enjoy making a difference in the lives of people and I love volunteering and serving others.  I encourage you to be kind, to help, to love, to encourage, to support, to listen, and to care.  Be the “crew” that the people around you need.  By doing so, you can help them go up, up, up and away!

Impact 52 volunteers as hot air balloon chase team

Reaching Out Behind Bars: Take Two

In February of 2103, I wrote a letter to a prison inmate named Dennis. It was an introduction and a note of encouragement for a man who was six years into a life sentence for drug trafficking, gun possession and murder. The letter was short and to the point.  I dropped it in the mail not knowing what would happen.  What would the response be? Days and weeks went by, no response.  Months passed and still nothing.  It has now been 16 months since that letter was sent and I still wonder if it was received, read, processed, and/or appreciated.  Is Dennis’ life being transformed in prison? I will never know.

That letter forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. It was something completely new for me at the time. I had never had a desire to talk to, empathize with, or help someone who was convicted of a crime. I will admit that I have lived most of my life with a “lock them up and throw away the key” attitude. Criminals were criminals regardless of the crime. I wanted them to be put away and suffer all consequences.  That day in February of last year I realized that my attitude was very short-sided and unfair.  People make mistakes.  We must offer grace.  Change can take place and second chance should be granted. I am not perfect. I have made many mistakes in life (too many to be counted).  I have been given second, third, and fourth chances.  I have been forgiven.  I have been helped.  My goal is to pay that forward.  I want to live my life that way. I want to help, and impact, anyone that I can.

This week, I wrote another letter to a prison inmate. His name is Andrew.  He is serving time for drug trafficking, battery, and gun possession in a California prison.  Just like the last one, I introduced myself and shared a short bio. I shared scripture and offered a few words of encouragement.  Now I wait to see if I get a response.  It could take months for that letter to reach his hands and that is okay. I have all of the time in the world.

letter to a prisoner

Our mission to positively impact the lives of other human beings has taken us down many paths. Week after week we volunteer with nonprofits, support special causes, and search for opportunities to help. We have learned to open our eyes and see the opportunities that exist each and every day to make a difference. We know that simple gestures have unlimited potential to change and improve lives.  Can writing a simple letter in an effort to communicate with a felon make a difference?  I believe that it can. I encourage you to look at yourself in the mirror and challenge your beliefs, your attitudes, and your actions.  Are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone in an effort to positively impact the lives of other people?  Are you willing to put yourself on a piece a paper and share it with a complete stranger?  If you are, DO IT!  Visit or and reach out to someone behind bars.



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