Thursday, October 11, 2018

Lifeline for Assistance

We’re not one hundred percent sure what was first, and quite honestly we didn’t want to do the in-depth research, so we did the type of analysis we often touch on in these blog posts – by asking people in the airport and/or on the trian. The topic in question was, “What was the first ever Reality TV Show?” We were in the four passenger seat on an Amtrak train, and at first we asked two young ladies what their first recollection was. One said Amazing Race while the other said America’s Next Top Model. Then we checked with another gentleman on board and he responded with MTV’s Real World. We didn’t fact check their answers, but we’re assuming those were all pretty early!

Then again, what about trivia or game shows? Are those considered Reality TV? Those are unscripted, right? If so, you have to date back to Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Seeing how nowadays unscripted television is booming in popularity, we’re going to relate Cardz for Kidz! to a combination of those kinds of shows.

First, for some background, Cardz for Kidz! is what happens when you put an interest in impacting disheartened children and a passion for handmade artwork together. People stop simply being polite and/or courteous, but truly become compassionate and work together to make a difference in children’s lives across the globe. What originally started as just an activity for one group of young adults and children has grown into global corporations, groups of children, and families around the world joining in to make a difference. It’s hard to believe, but there are no scripts. This is happening in the Real World, around the world!

Also, as we always say, #everycardcounts. Therefore, every card is important AND we keep track of where every card is coming from. Still, there’s always a bit of intrigue at the end of the quarter since people are interested to see the Next Top 10. Originally, the role of the judge was much easier and there was less to choose from, but now that we’ve grown from the hundreds to the thousands of cards, we’ve had to work with creative directors to make that selection. What adds to the pressure even more so is that currently if the judges select their cards, these panelists will be invited to a special Cardz WITH Kidz event at one of our partner Children’s Hospitals. Thankfully, just like we hear Tyra is, our judges are qualified to pick America’s Next Top Artists.

Although it may seem like it’s “happily ever after” for our organization, there have been some difficulties along the road. For example, since this is one hundred percent free for everyone involved, Cardz for Kidz! isn’t able to do paid advertising. And because of personal preferences, we don’t like to constantly flood our contributors with email reminders and/or requests asking for donations and increased participations. One may say it’s not as difficult as climbing mountains, skydiving or other extreme events, but the participation influxes have been a challenge to deal with. That was the reason we made such a big deal about Arrowstream and Huron Consulting Group when they decided to join in since they’ve consistently made cards each quarter. Although we’ve been primarily targeting groups to make cards, Independent Artists, or people simply making cards in their free time, have been our top contributors. They have made at least twice as many cards as any group that’s joined in. Thankfully, with everyone joining in we’ve been able to reach all the check points and reach kids all around the world. We’re thankful that we’ve been able to hang in there and have also been doing a pretty good job at keeping up with this Amazing Race.

We did mention it on our social sites before, but we would love to consistently grow in many ways. We know there’s a looooong way to go, but we mentioned before that our dream would be to do more for the kids while they’re in the hospital (#perfectpair) and after they get out to help them in the long run in life (#whenwegrowup). While we feel blessed that we do have a partnership in each continent, we’d love to be able to cover all 50 states and have the majority of these cities covered.

If we achieved all of that, just like Wheel of Fortune, that’d be like hitting the jackpot! We know we’ve recently been adding on a couple more board members to the team to help contribute to answering some of the tougher questions (e.g. consistent way to get more cards in French). We understand that, similar to Jeopardy, it’s more of a team sport. One thing we know for sure is that we’ll need some help if we continue to grow. We’ll need more volunteers similar to the ones we currently have and also need more people to reach out to their contacts at hospitals/homes to see if we can start sending those kids our handmade cards. We just know that with our average quarter over quarter growth rate being 31%, who knows, maybe one of these days we’ll get what we want and we’ll be a millionaire in terms of the amount of cards we receive each quarter. But before we get to those stages, we’re reaching out to YOU, one of our LIFELINES FOR ASSISTANCE, so we can be prepared for expansion. Please help us connect to more hospitals/homes.

#lifelinesforassistance #upliftingspirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Love Her More

We’re not sure if you recall, but a couple years ago we set up a poll to get your input on what we should name our logo.

We wanted to name the child in our logo so that we could strictly use that name rather than saying “it” or the dreaded “him” or “her.” People often look at our logo and assume it’s a him based on the hair, but based on our experience and the kids we work with we know all genders can be hairless due to the conditions they’re overcoming.

We set up this poll (link here - please don’t vote till you finish this blog) to get your input on some potential names for our logo, but unfortunately we weren’t able to get many votes. Based on the lack of votes and the story below, we think we’ll have to make an executive decision! We’re naming our logo, at least for now, Taylor - and this blog post will explain why.

First, if you think about it, that name can go for both males and females. One portion of the millennial age group may hear the name and think of the singer Taylor Swift.

Then, there’s the other portion of that age group who may date a bit farther back and think of the show Home Improvement and of their crush and/or being jealous of JTT – Jonathon Taylor Thomas!

The list goes on with Taylor Cole, Taylor Kitsch, Taylor Schilling, Taylor Kinney, etc. We even did some research and asked a woman at the airport who stated, “Ahhh, it’s both. I know a male named Taylor and a female named Taylor.” Perfect. All set. The name works for both genders!
Also, unlike Quinn, Jordan, Bailey, and some of the others in the poll, it’s closer to the name Tyler. Over the years we’ve learned we need to be pretty Tyler-like and this blog post will explain why!  

Thinking of Taylor and Cardz for Kidz! as a whole, our “ideal mate” would be someone who willfully and consistently volunteered behind the scenes, someone who took Cardz for Kidz! to some of their groups they were a part of, someone who attended Cardz for Kidz! and brought friends, someone who was great with pediatric patients, and last but not least, someone who was an amazing artist. In summary, someone like Alexis Evans. Unfortunately, when we checked with her fiance, Tyler, he confirmed that she was off the market and there was no way our Taylor could win her heart. Now there’s a battle! Taylor vs Tyler.

We’ve written about a couple before,  (#BestofBothWorlds), and they’re both still contributing, but this time it’s a bit different. Alexis, also known as Lex, is perfect for Cardz for Kidz! and we’re assuming our Taylor isn’t as happy about this couple and instead is a bit jealous. 
We interviewed both Tyler (fiance) and Taylor (logo) about their opinions, history, and what makes Alexis so special and here are some of their battle points:

Favorite Aspects:
When we asked Tyler what he liked about her he stated, “She’s very kind, understanding, and has a good sense of humor.“ 

In order to follow up, we think Taylor would respond with the similar comment of, “She’s so nice, always very dedicated to giving back and helps in a variety of ways.” That giving back ranges from bringing Tyler to some of the volunteer shifts and/or parties to launching the only events at Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Chicago. She went above and beyond. Not just the fun stuff of making the cards with the children and other volunteers, but even did the administrative stuff so BBBS Chicago was one of the first logos to go up on our website.

One of the first – down at the bottom – a building block – our foundation

Well Rounded:
When asked how to summarize Lex in one word Tyler said, “Fun.”

Taylor’s response would be, “Impressive.” The reason for that, as mentioned above when listing out Taylor’s dream person, we listed out someone who was great with pediatric patients. Everyone who follows Cardz for Kidz! on social sites had a chance to see how impressive Alexis was with the children and their families during the Cardz WITH Kidz event. Now it’s a debate of was it more impressive seeing her with the kids OR seeing her amazing artwork? In Q3 2017 when we received over five thousand cards, her card was selected into the OVERALL Top 10 and her tree card was in a tie for second place – link to picture and poll.

History of Hours:
When we asked Tyler about how long they had been dating he made it clear it’s been for over 37,230 hours. Wow.

Taylor was shocked with those hours, but was not thinking about the time Lex has particpated in Cardz for Kidz! events, taking it to her other non-profits, and/or making cards in her free-time. Strictly while looking into the time that she’s spent counting cards and doing that behind-the-scenes work, Alexis has been with Taylor for 55.75 hours as of 9/21/2018! That’s still VERY impressive – second most ever. #everyhourcounts

Similar Connections:
While connecting with Tyler he made it clear that he and Alexis were able to get along with the same group of friends. 

Once again, that’s pretty important in a relationship. Taylor would battle back and highlight how, thanks to Alexis, there are similar connections as well. Lex started things off at Big Brother Big Sister Chicago and has spent additional hours volunteering at the Chicago Volunteer Expo. Therefore, there have been a lot of similar connections with Taylor and Lex.

Secure from the Beginning:
Tyler knew early on they had something special, so they got an apartment together less than 9 months after dating! He was even willing to live out of a duffle bag before they officially moved in together.  

Taylor’s response would be that although they never lived together, maybe it could be an option in the future. Taylor loves how Lex is willing to travel across Chicago to the Cardz for Kidz!‘s headquarters (aka our founder’s living room) and donate time. Who knows… maybe when things expand, and Taylor, as well as the organization first grows up (#whenwegrowup), there will be an office.

Special Words:
When we asked Tyler if there was anything else he’d like to mention about Lex, such as an inside joke or something sweet to say, he said, “Mucho forte.” That’s something that Lex would understand.

When we followed up with Taylor to see if there was anything else worth speaking to, the only thing Taylor said was, “Thank you. Hopefully she understands why.”

Okay, so we understand that Tyler and Lex are getting ready to enjoy their destination wedding later on this year. And there’s obviously a ring involved. So the hours, words, and the types of connections are debatable and some even more trivial, but we all have to admit since Alexis said yes to the ring from Tyler, and not Taylor, we think she made her decision! Although Tyler won, some may still debate that Taylor LOVES HER MORE and/or is a bit more thankful. Then again we… STOP EVERYTHING.

During all those volunteer hours, attending fundraisers, tagging pictures on Facebook and even writing this blog post, we’ve always referred to her as her full name, Alexis or her nickname, Lex. Since she didn’t choose Taylor, maybe we should have considered naming our logo Alex after her. Then again, Alexis could work too.

Now we’re opening up the voting again and let us know what you think (please vote now)-, please write in Alexis if that’s your choice.

#loveshermore #upliftingspirits

p.s. This part of the blog is unedited so there may be some errors. We just wanted to make sure you knew we thought of that Alex idea ourselves rather than Alex our blog post editor! She's the last nice one we mention,

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Take Action

Bitterness. Rivalry. Competition. Warfare. Destruction. All of these terms are consistently expressed these days.

If you want to see where things currently stand in the world, it’s easy. Just pick whichever news source you’d like and you can find some information that completely contradicts other sources and further fuels your passion. People can now actively spread their feelings, which range from simple bitterness to destructive thoughts through a variety of social channels (e.g. Facebook, YouTube, blogs). These views can range from attacks on politicians on both sides of the aisle, teachers’ impact, religious leaders’ views and many other contentious topics. Although we definitely agree in freedom of speech and believe it’s important for people to be knowledgeable, we also believe it’s important for people to give back.

It often seems that people spend so much time and energy on negative posts that they forget to actually help improve the world we live in. As the saying goes, “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
There are many reasons for why/how people hold their views, which oftentimes leads people to express their frustration and complain. Now our question is, what actions are people taking to make a positive impact on the less fortunate? One example of that less fortunate group is disheartened children, primarily pediatric patients across the globe.

In our opinion, it’d be great if people at least opened up a box of markers and card stock paper while they watch CNN/Fox News and while also preparing for their next set of social posts and/or blogs. In summary, we’d love it if all of us, no matter what disagreements we have, would join together and TAKE ACTION to uplift the spirits of innocent children. We certainly CAN all agree on this: They don’t deserve to be in the conditions they’re currently working to overcome.

#takeaction #upliftingspirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Not As Nice

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 #PurplePride stages 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.

Blog Posts
Child Life Visit During Hospital Surgery
Volunteered Hundreds of Hours at Mott
Sit in on Spanish Classes During Testing

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.
  • Competive 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.

  • Competive 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, 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? Currently Eric is 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. Originially 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!

#notasnice #upliftingspirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube! 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Inspirational Service

Do you know the impact you’re having? We promise you we’re trying to show you the best we can, but it’s tough. If you look on our social sites you’ll see they’re flooded with pictures of cards. That’s because we made an official “pinky promise” to post pictures of all the cards that we receive - #solemnlyswear. That way, you know your package has been received, your hardwork is appreciated, and you’ll have an idea of when your cards may be going out. That’s why you’ll see a lot of pictures like the ones below.

We have spoken about it once before, but it’s worth noting that we have to respect the children’s privacy and triple check before we share any of the pictures - #intheroom. Therefore, it’s more likely that we’ll receive pics of the staff than we do pictures of the patients.

Although those pictures and quotes of the kids and staff with your cards is inspiring, we don’t think that’s the best way to measure the difference you’re making.

Let’s think about it - when there’s something that’s amazing for you that you’ve received from someone that touches you deeply, what do you want to do? Share it. That ranges from telling someone to passing it along and doing that same positive thing for others. We’re amazed that so far we’ve had kids in Europe who were going through challenging health conditions ask their parents if they could make cards in return and send us a package of cards. Then we were updated by our Ronald McDonald House in New Zealand that those kids were going to start consistently making cards for our kids here in the states since they LOVED their first package. Here’s a quote from that first email:

One child named Kohen (9-10), was super inspired to make cards after I gave him an excellent card, which was in the shape of a PlayStation controller. He made about 12 cards with his sister Solae (8), and requested that we send the get well cards back to you, in Chicago! I was thinking about getting some more kids to make cards, until we have a good number to send back to you. The only question is, where should we send these cards? Do you often have young people sending cards back to you?

It’s clear that you have some INSPIRATIONAL SERVICE since you’re not only uplifting spirits, but making kids and families so happy that they want to spread that joy on to others across the globe.
Please keep up the good work! We promise we’ll continue to try to find ways to fully express the difference you’re making.

#inspirationalservice #upliftingspirits

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our website; like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our Google+ or LinkedIn pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!