Hey everyone! These past couple of days have been an amazing experience!!! One that we will remember forever! You see, we were both named as 2 of the 5 Most Caring Americans…and we’re still overwhelmed! This is an honor that is impossible to describe. There are no words to express how humbled we are. Let us explain…
The Caring Instituteis a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C. that was founded by Val Halamandaris in 1985, which was inspired by a meeting he had with Mother Teresa. The ojective of the Caring Institute is to identify individuals who they feel have gone above an beyond what anyone would ever expect of them, to be of service to others. Some how, they discovered the work the two of us have done with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for the past fourteen years, as we made it our mission to help young diabetics around the world, which included mentoring newly diagnosed diabetics and their families, advocating for medical research, including testifying before Congress, filming a Video Diary for Good Morning America, meeting with the President and Congress, filming PSA’s, writing a booklet entitled the Road to the Cure, speaking at public forms to help raise diabetes awareness, fundraising which is more than $500,000 dollars, and the creation of the Diabetic Angels, which is a Global Outreach and educational program that we founded in 1998.
We met so many amazing people whose work in the states, as well as, around the world is positively affecting so many lives. As a matter of fact, when we heard of the hardships that some of these recipients have experienced, our challenges are pale in comparison. For example, in the case of Constantin Asavoaie, after spending ten years in prison for not giving into communism, he now cares for families in need and has helped thousands of people as the director of Prison Fellowship Romania. Dominic Avellani runs the East Boston Adult Education Center and has provided a wide variety of educations opportunities to over 40,000 immigrants, refugees, and high school dropouts. It is truly inspiring to see him living his dream, thinking positive and helping so many people! Father Greg Boyle founded “Homeboy Industries” to provide employment for street fighters and felons, while giving them a newfound respect and friendship toward others. As a result of seeing more and more gang activity, Rose Espinoza started “Rosie’s Garage” to tutor high school students in her community. Now, there are over 200 children eager to learn and whose test scores are two grade levels higher! Karin Walser was inspired to start “Horton’s Kids” after stopping for gas near a large homeless shelter and found small children manning the pumps. Since 1993, Horton’s Kids has provided medical visits, dental care, food and fun outings to children. Go Karin!!! :]
Lauren Beeder along with her dachshund named Gary, visits nursing homes in the Los Angeles area, making the patients day brighter by bringing a smiling face. She also founded kidsCANCERvive, raised over $35,000 for cancer research, and hosted support groups for kids with cancer and their families. Davin Singleton has overcome many challenges including dyslexia and other learning disabilities. He is dedicated to help young people build their self-esteem in his workshop, “Dreamers: How to Become Your Dream.” Jourdan Urbach, a young violin virtuoso, has been “fiddling for philanthropy” since he was seven. He is the founder of “Children Helping Children” and performs at major benefit concerts, having raised over $1.3 million dollars for medical research. Emily Wemhoff’s big mission is to make fire safety a priority. She has organized “Project S.A.F.E” and raises funds to provide smoke alarms for local homes.
Everyone at The Caring Institute made everyone feel so special, and on Thursday evening there was a cocktail party honoring all of the recipients at the Frederick Douglass Museum and Hall of Fame for Caring Americans.
On Friday, there was a Press Conference that gave all of us the chance to talk a little bit about the work we do, and the opportunity to be interviewed.
In the afternoon, we had an awesome time at the luncheon held at Union Station, and then we all raced back to the Hotel to get ready for the Caring Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner!
Jackie and I hurried up and got ready because Jourdan Urbach and the two of us had to be downstairs early for a sound check, as we all were performing at the dinner. We would be singing one of our favorite and most inspiring songs “Dreams.”
When we finished, Jourdan Urbach, a brilliant violinist who has selflessly given of himself, performing at special concerts, and donating the proceeds to his Foundation, “Children Helping Children,” which has raised over 1.5 million dollars had a sound check too.
After Jourdan, Jackie and I finished rehearsing, we joined the nominees in a reception hosted by Senator Dole - the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Congressmen Mel Levine, and the founder and executive Director of the Caring Institute, Val Halamandaris.
It was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to meet with the Senator and talk to him. Everyone went so far out of their way to make everyone feel so special.
Mom, Grandpa, Mollie, Jackie, Grandma, Aunt Mama, and Uncle B
After the reception, the honorees and guests entered the ballroom for the Caring Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner! As we were seated and to our surprise, Bob Hindle, the past Chair and Board of Directors of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Canada, and someone who we have known since were were 7 years old, traveled all the way from Montreal, Canada - walked through the door and up to our table and gave us a big hug! This was such a lovely surprise, we couldn’t believe somebody would go to that much trouble to be a part of such a special event. We were truly moved by his kindness and consideration.
During the dinner, Val Halamandaris summarized each of the honorees’ projects and accomplishments, and we were all awarded with the Caring Award.
It was such an honor to be a part of the dinner, let alone have the chance to sing one of our favorite inspirational songs to such an amazing audience!
It was a surreal experience, and we are so honored to have been a part of it and to have had the chance to meet so many wonderful giving people! :]