Performing life as an act of love

This guy right here is a mixed martial arts fighter named Justin Wren.

This is also him.

Filming with Beyond Creative in Missouri today for a national Anti-bullying campaign in schools :-)

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

And if you need a size comparison, he's the dude in jeans here, picking up that other giant fighter.

He's 28 years old, and is now fighting professionally for the first time in five years. That time off? It wasn't an injury. It wasn't a suspension. It was a time of building a life of love.

Let's look at more pictures. Like one of him tickling pygmy children in the Congo.

It's pretty easy to be the tickle fight champion when it's 2-1 #FightForTheForgotten

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

Or showing the pygmy people photos of themselves for the first time.

Seeing pics of themselves for the FIRST time! #fightfortheforgotten

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

Or having his hair done.

That's fun. Let's see video of that.

Or as long as we're sharing videos, how about the first time the people he's helping saw a white guy?

Wren quit fighting through what probably could have been his strongest years — his mid-20s — to start a nonprofit to help the Mbuti Pygmy people get clean water. Fight for the Forgotten and its partner, Water4, dig wells to draw clean water for a people who are enslaved. Workers go to the fields for oppressors to earn two bananas a day to share among families of four — it's just enough food to keep them healthy enough to work, and it keeps them coming back to work because they need the food.

These are people who are still using army ants to stitch wounds — they have the ants bite the wound, then break off the body, leaving the fangs in to act as staples.

Wren has suffered malaria, parasites and other tropical diseases. His organization employs 17 people full time, but has dismissed more than that to find the right people — people who can survive dense jungle for a month or two at a time, return to the U.S. for a couple of weeks to recover, then go back.

He's back to fighting so that he can raise further awareness, and he's a partner in a documentary on his journeys.

He was on Joe Rogan's podcast this week (he's been on before), and around the one hour, 20 minute mark, he renders Rogan pretty much speechless. It's really amazing listening to Wren talk with such passion and humility, especially while Rogan explains to him that in a few generations, he's going to enter tribal mythology. As a giant, white, hairy myth.


From Wren's Kickstarter campaign.

If you're looking for more love, you should also listen to Kevin Rose's discussion with Scott Harrison of charity:water, which I've mentioned before here.

Now, the question I pose to you is: Could you love anything this much?

Celebrating the Arts with the Future Fund

I know, I know, I haven't posted anywhere in a while. Not here, not 365 walks, not anywhere.

But I have to tell you about this event happening next Thursday, May 17.

Back in September, I let you know why I'm working with the Future Fund. The Future Fund is a giving circle – in more cutting edge terms, it's crowd-sourced funding for local projects.

The group gives a $5,000 grant every year to a local organization. Members, who donate $100 to the fund, pick the focus area in September (this year we picked The Arts), and an open call for letters of intent goes out to non-profits throughout Central New York. The grants committee offers feedback on the letters and lets the applicant organizations know if their project sounds like a potential match. Applicants then send their full proposal to the fund, and members sit around a table and discuss the projects, then vote to get it down to three finalists. Site visits are scheduled for all finalists so members can see the project first-hand, and then votes are tallied for a single grant recipient.

Voting is still open (I'll mention the finalists in a minute), but the event next Thursday is a two-fold thing. We're writing out the award check, and unveiling a new tagline (which was voted upon by members). The event happens at Benjamin's on Franklin (the former Ohm and Styleen's), and is catered by Kitty Hoynes. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for non-members and available here. We're also getting a performance from the Nottingham High Jazz Band, a presentation from the 40 Below Public Arts Task Force, and some sort of presentation from the grant recipient.

The finalists are (and this is the first time I've actually had to think about who I was voting for, because they're all really good projects this year):

- The Media Unit, which gets inner-city youth writing and performing about issues affecting inner-city youth, and they give dozens of performances for inner-city youth every summer.
- The YMCA's Y Arts Program, which is looking to provide scholarships for inner city youth to attend arts camp.
- ARC of Onondaga's Arts Outreach program, in which they'll work with a performing arts organization to have adults with developmental disabilities learn to act and to perform in a professional production locally.

Voting closes tomorrow night, so there is actually still time to join and vote if you want, but even without being a member, you're definitely welcome at the event next week.

Old Newsboys? No, it’s not a sales gimmick

Every year someone has something stupid to say about the Old Newsboys campaign.

In case you're unfamiliar with this, a bunch of people go around "selling" The Post-Standard and asking for extra donations on a two-day campaign.

It looks very much like the newspaper is just trying to expand its reach, but actually, all those newspapers sold are donated. Even if you only give them the cost of the paper (75 cents), it all goes to a fund called the Christmas Bureau, which is a joint operation of the Salvation Army and United Way of Central New York.

Read: It helps people.

So even if you don't want the paper, give something. You don't have to take the newspaper.

The Old Newsboys volunteers will be out and about on Friday and Saturday this week (Dec. 9 and 10). Thank them for volunteering in our community, and give them something to bring back to those in need this holiday season.

Why I’m working with the Future Fund

Most of us will never be philanthropists on the scale of Bill and Melinda Gates. The foundation model – one in which one huge donation gets an endowment together and the interest pays out grants (while the foundation continues to solicit donations to add to the endowment) – is changing, Katherine Fulton explains in her 2007 TED talk.

Enter the Future Fund, an affiliate fund of the Central New York Community Foundation (CNYCF).

One of the things the Community Foundation has done through the years is help people set up personal "funds" – when you see a memorials scholarship fund, or something like that, it starts with a $5,000 check and the CNYCF's 501(c)(3). But who among the young professionals out there – here, in the Syracuse area – is writing a $5,000 check to get something amazing started?

Not many people. So the CNYCF came up with this idea: Let's find 50 young people to donate $100, and that'll be good for a $5,000 grant every year to a local non-profit.

This group of young professionals first nominates a "cause category," such as nutrition or mentoring, then sends out a request for proposals (RFP). A committee narrows the field down to a dozen or so, and then everybody who donated (we call them members) gets to vet the semifinalists, narrowing the field down to three.

Site visits are set up for the three finalists; all members may attend, and then a final vote is held.

For the 2010-2011 grant season, the topic was nutrition, and we awarded Syracuse Grows $5,000 to help them with urban gardening throughout the city.

The Future Fund is an amazing group of people. I'd encourage you to come meet some of them October 13 at the kickoff event at Montage.

Here is the first email of the season, so you can get a feel for what we do.

Greetings, Future Fund Members!

Welcome to the 2011-2012 Future Fund grant-making season. We're extremely proud of what we've done over the past few years and can't wait to get moving on the new year!

Over the past few years, you – our members – have helped make Central New York an amazing place by funding programs that provide, among other things, youth mentoring, financial literacy, workforce development, and, most recently, nutrition and wellness. With that nutrition and wellness grant, we supported Syracuse Grows, which has graciously invited us to their Harvest Dinner, a potluck event, on Sept. 25 from 3:30-5:30pm at the Southwest Community Farm, 100 Bellevue Ave., Syracuse. If you plan to go, RSVP to syracusegrows@gmail.com.

Save the date! Our annual kickoff event is coming up Thursday, October 13 at 5:30pm. This is for members, families, friends, colleagues, and random strangers you think will enjoy a night of free hors d'oeuvres (and a cash bar). Keep an eye on your inbox in the coming weeks for the details.

Worth Watching: TED Fellow Katherine Fulton discusses the future of philanthropy. It's a 12-minute lecture on the changing model of philanthropy – the future will not be the Bill Gateses and George Soroses of the world, it will be people like us. If you come across other interesting stories of philanthropy, send them to us at futurefundcny@gmail.com.

Happy giving!
The Future Fund Steering Committee

--
The Future Fund of Central New York
c/o Central New York Community Foundation
431 East Fayette Street
Suite 100
Syracuse, NY 13202
Tel: 315-422-9538
futurefundcny@gmail.com

[ stability ] + [ passion ]

I'm not one for resolutions. Well, I was last year and year before, but it turns out I didn't look back on them at all, make the goals and track them. So I'm looking at this young calendar year, and figuring out what it's going to be.

2010 was a year of upheaval – and let's make it clear that upheaval isn't all bad. I have found a life partner with whom I share a mutual love, support and respect I've never known. For the first time in my life, I've landed in a job I love at a company whose product I am 100% behind. And for the first time since I moved from my parents' house, I'm in a residence I'm not likely to be leaving anytime soon. So 2011 is going to be a year of stability.

It's also going to be a year of passions renewed.

Baseball memorabilia

Roger Clemens rookie cardMy dad and I were voracious baseball memorabilia collectors when I was a kid. We would go to card shows at least monthly, I would trade cards with the neighborhood kids, and we were involved in a Strat-O-Matic league.

My parents have started their transition to retirement (it'll be a several-year process, likely), and that includes leaving behind my childhood home. I'm inheriting the collection of cards and publications, and I've started doing some inventory. The publications start in the 1950s (with a couple sporadically before then) and continue into the 2000s; while I haven't seen all the cards yet, they appear to end right around 1990, which is when I entered high school.

So I'm figuring out what's what, and I'm picking that collection back up. I'll fill any holes in the sets, and start looking at what's up in the community these days (I see Donruss has been bought and Fleer is out of business, but that was a quick couple of minutes of not-quite-research).

Reading

I've always been a reader, but here it is January 5, and I've started my third book of the year. I've finished Kaaron Warren's Slights and read Elmore Leonard's Riding the Rap, and I've started Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room!

I think there will be some re-reading this year, too – Carlos Ruis Zafon's Shadow of the Wind is on my read-again-soon list, and since I'm already reading a dystopic novel (the Harrison), I'm likely to want to re-read any or all of Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.

Exercise

I know exercise, fitness and weight loss are on a lot of people's lists. But I'm working at a gym (which means I really have no excuse not to go), I'm already in the midst of some personal training, and on Saturday, I start an intensive weight loss competition.

I'll still be playing tennis and, as spring and summer approach, softball; I'm just hoping to be in better shape.

I'm also planning to do more volunteer work, more fundraising, and continue to be active in the community. By the way, in case you were wondering, these are the organizations I supported in 2010, in case you're looking for causes this year:

Central New York Community Foundation
WRVO
40 Below
Syracuse First
Alchemical Nursery
St. Baldrick's
St. Jude

Photo Credits:
• 1985 Topps Roger Clemens baseball card by Tommy Duchniki on Flickr
• Books by Phing on Flickr
• Weights by rick on Flickr

Bringing out the big guns

OK, still haven't donated to the Give thanks. Walk.? Watch the video, then read the standard fare below, taking appropriate action. Thanks :-)

Jason has put a ton of effort into organizing a team for this walk, so I'm asking that you donate to his page. If for some reason you'd rather my name be on your donation, here's my page, but I promise they go the same place and Jason should get the credit for the extra work he's put in here.

Walking for Dylan

I'm going to cut the rambling and let the kids do the talking. Watch Dylan's story. It puts a face on why it's all cancer all the time on the blog this week. And now for my standard give 'graph:

Jason has put a ton of effort into organizing a team for this walk, so I'm asking that you donate to his page. If for some reason you'd rather my name be on your donation, here's my page, but I promise they go the same place and Jason should get the credit for the extra work he's put in here.

What are you thankful for?

Fight Childhood Cancer Week continues! Yesterday, we did the what cancer means to you thing. Today, we talk thankfulness. What are you thankful for?

I'm thankful for a lot. I have amazing people around me. I'm employed. I don't have cancer. I have two healthy legs. And I can afford to donate money to charity.

I will be using the healthy legs to walk on Saturday in the Give thanks. Walk. at Carousel Center. I donated $36 to Jason's page (see below). Why $36? Because in the Hebrew language, numbers are represented by letters, and the word meaning "life" represents the number 18. So $36 is a donation to help save two lives.

Jason has put a ton of effort into organizing a team for this walk, so I'm asking that you donate to his page. If for some reason you'd rather my name be on your donation, here's my page, but I promise they go the same place and Jason should get the credit for the extra work he's put in here.

What does cancer mean to you?

Yesterday, we kicked off Fight Childhood Cancer Week with a little bit about the Give thanks. Walk. Today, we're jumping right in and talking about what cancer means to you. And to me.

I've lost relatives close and distant and friends close and distant to cancer. I've seen, up-close, someone go through chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant. I would never wish any of it on anyone.

About 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every year. That number is defeatable. And once we beat cancer in children, we can better understand how to beat cancer in grownups. So start now. And leave your cancer stories in comments either before or after you donate (don't worry, when you click one of those donate links below, it will pop a new window and you won't lose this post).

Jason has put a ton of effort into organizing a team for this walk, so I'm asking that you donate to his page. If for some reason you'd rather my name be on your donation, here's my page, but I promise they go the same place and Jason should get the credit for the extra work he's put in here.

Stepping Off For Hope

It's the fall edition of Fight Childhood Cancer week on JoshShear.com (that beard thing will be back in the late winter/early spring)! This Saturday (which, coincidentally, is my birthday, which means you have to listen to me here) I'll join Team Jason's Disaster and a bunch of other walking a 5K to raise money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The event is called the Give thanks. Walk., and we're stepping off for an organization that picks up the tab for parents if insurance won't cover something.

Jason has put a ton of effort into organizing a team for this walk, so I'm asking that you donate to his page. If for some reason you'd rather my name be on your donation, here's my page, but I promise they go the same place and Jason should get the credit for the extra work he's put in here.