Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pay It Forward - You Just Never Know When Someone Is Watching

Recently I was in Traverse City for the Michigan Bankers Association's BEST Conference and presented on the topic of Google Analytics and ways to measure the effectiveness of your online efforts. Those of you reading this who know me also know that I love to present and help folks learn new things to be more competitive online. The session went great, there were lots of excellent questions and I received several positive comments after I was done.

However, as much fun as it was presenting, one of the best things I love about conferences is the ability to catch up with old friends (and meet some new ones). It is the former that I want to focus on during this post, as I was able to re-connect with someone from my past "banking days" and he shared a story with me that actually gave me goosebumps. Here's what happened...

While putting the finishing touches on my session Friday morning after breakfast, a former vendor who had moved on shortly before I left banking about four years ago came up to say "hi". Bill said that he saw my name on the speakers list in the conference brochure and since he was going to be attending, wanted to make sure to connect and share a story with me. He's now working for a different company but still connected to the banking sector, so I'm glad that our paths were able to cross again.

Without too much of the back story, just after my second year at the Graduate School of Banking, one of my "banker buddies" returned home to Ohio only to discover his then five-year old daughter was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. Over her four-year long battle against the disease, I proudly assumed the role of "Christi's Webmaster" and the site we developed shared the story of this little girl's battle. While the intent was to keep friends and family members informed of what was going on, Christi's story spread across the Internet and surpassed a million visitors, forever changing the lives of those that read her amazing story. I encourage you to stop by the website and read the blog that Christi's mother still updates on a regular basis.

A "dirty" Eric after my first Lumberjack 100
Pedaling With a Purpose fundraiser effort.
During this journey with the Thomas Team (as they became known to all that followed the story), one of the things I took it upon myself to do was to raise money in support of the CNCF, the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation. As a cyclist, I created Pedaling With a Purpose and started racing my bike and doing triathlons as a fundraiser and am proud to say that PWAP has been responsible for generating over $25,000 over the years, thanks to the generous support of friends, coworkers and Christi's online followers.

This all comes to the point of my story... Bill shared with me that Christi's story and my efforts were so inspiring to him that he decided to train for a marathon and raise money for a cause that he was passionate about, the Children's Miracle Network. He was successful in his race (telling me he was able to cross the finish line with his kids hand-in-hand), plus raised over $4,000 for this great cause. Not only did the charity get some much-needed financial support, but he used this as a learning experience for his children, as they knew their daddy was doing this for more than just himself. They saw him dedicating himself to not only training for the 26+ mile event, but raising money for a worthy cause to help children that he didn't even know.

Unfortunately Christi lost her battle against cancer and earned her wings on September 19, 2006. But in her short time with us here on Earth, Christi not only changed my life, but the lives of countless others that were impacted by her story and bravery. Bill told me that had he not read about my efforts to help Christi and been inspired by my actions, he never would have even thought of doing a marathon. I think of Bill not only getting in great shape for his event, but also the lessons he taught his children. I think of those that were in the crowd who may have been inspired seeing a father and his kids coming across the line together after such an amazing accomplishment. Nobody had a clue the reason he was there was thanks to a little girl who battled cancer so bravely and inspired him (just like me and countless others) to "do more".

One thing is for sure, we never really know when our actions will have an impact on others. If you're thinking about taking that next step and doing something that will go "above and beyond", I say go for it! While you certainly will end up a better person for it in the end, you just never know who will be watching and what they will do as a result of your efforts.
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