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Corporate Giving Program 2017
Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music is that, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” In many ways, that’s also the goal of MusiCorps, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2007 in response to the multitudes of wounded military returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The program describes itself as a “conservatory-level music rehabilitation program” that helps wounded warriors learn how to play an instrument—or in many cases, relearn to play—as part of their ongoing recovery, which helps to inspire and motivate them in a therapeutic way. In addition to lessons on composition and theory, some of the musicians have also been invited to perform in special concerts alongside major headlining acts.
It’s here that Unique Venues Technology Manager Todd Wonders came across MusiCorps, and was so moved by the program, he named them the benefactor of Unique Venues Corporate Giving Program for 2017.
In October of 2015, Todd attended a “Music Heals” concert at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. that raised money for MusiCorps. The lineup included members of the Wounded Warrior Band alongside Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters (who has served as a mentor for many years), Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.
“Many of the [veterans] were not in great shape, but to see them be able to express themselves and their talents through instruments and vocals, it was just phenomenal,” says Todd. “The group does a lot of good for veterans, many of whom have lost limbs or have PTSD, and want to continue doing something productive with their lives.”
Part of the reason that MusiCorps is so meaningful to Todd is that it reminds him of his late grandfather, who was just 17-years-old when he enlisted in the Navy to serve at Iwo Jima during World War II and later received the Purple Heart award. He was also a devoted accordion and banjo player. “I really think he could have benefitted from a program like MusiCorps,” says Todd. “This really is a charity where you can see incredible results from your donations. I witnessed it on stage during the performance I went to, and I’m happy Unique Venues will continue to contribute to this important program.”
Here’s how the donations work: Each year one Unique Venues employee is selected to choose a charity of their choice in an effort to maximize the overall impact of contribution dollars. Past honorees have been the Children’s Global Alliance, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association. Unique Venues starts the year off with a $500 donation to the partner in lieu of sending members holiday cards. Stay tuned to this page for updates on contributions and how they have helped MusiCorps.
Corporate Giving Program 2016
American Diabetes Association
Every year, Unique Venues chooses one employee who names their favorite charity or organization to be the recipient of an annual corporate giving program. Past recipients have included St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the American Heart Association. For 2016, long-time UV employee Ann McKenzie selected the American Diabetes Association.
Her son, Sean, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 15. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but today, Sean manages his disease with the latest technology supported by the ADA and is very active in snowboarding, brewing his own craft beer, and hiking with his new wife Julie and their dog Layla. In lieu of holiday cards, Unique Venues will be making a charitable contribution to the American Diabetes Association on behalf of Ann, Sean and the rest of the McKenzie Family.
Corporate Giving Program 2015
American Heart Association
“I have this vision of him riding off into the sunset.” Unique Venues Sales Manager Lisa Morrell is talking about her father, who passed away unexpectedly in July after suffering a heart attack while on a bike ride with his friend. A 30-mile ride was typical for the avid cyclist and athlete, so there was no reason to expect anything to go wrong on this casual journey.
“There were no warning signs; it was an anomaly he had this heart attack,” says Morrell, who further notes doctors were never able to identify the cause. Her father worked in the health field as a pharmacist and was in great shape and very active. In fact he had just returned from a weeklong trip to the beach with his grandkids the night before his accident.
The unnerving feeling of wondering how it could have been prevented inspired Morrell to look close to home when choosing Unique Venues’ Giving Partner for 2015, the American Heart Association. “Heart disease and heart attacks are the number-one killer in this country, so if any other family can benefit from the education and research the association commits to, what we’d love to support that mission in my dad’s honor.”
The American Heart Association was founded by six cardiologists in 1924 and is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular diseases and stroke with 22.5 million supporters, 144 offices and 2,700 employees. Through contributions and funding, the group drives research, fights for stronger public health policies and provides lifesaving tools and information to the public via cookbooks and certified healthy foods to help save and improve lives.
Their goal is working to improve the cardiovascular health of the entire nation by 20 percent by 2020, while also reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent. To do so they continually promote the “Life’s Simple 7” risk factors: not smoking, being physically active, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet, controlling blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and controlling blood sugar.
“If my dad missed the warning signs, he just didn’t pay attention,” says Morrell. “It’s awareness that is so important.”
This spring, Morrell, a former cheerleader and gymnast herself, continues her dad’s journey by participating in the American Heart Association’s 7th Annual Heart Ride, a 27-mile, 59-mile, or 100-mile bike ride through the Hamptons of New York with all proceeds going back to the organization.
“He was the smartest person I know, the most artistic and just a fun person, he was the total package,” says Morrell, remembering her father and knowing that at least his last moments were spent happy. “If you’re going to go out, you might as well be doing something you really enjoy.”
Here’s how the donations work: Each year one Unique Venues employee gets to pick a charity of their choice in an effort to maximize the impact of contribution dollars. Past honorees have been the Children’s Global Alliance and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Unique Venues starts the year off with a $500 donation to the partner in lieu of sending members holiday cards. They also give $5 to the organization for every new member and renewal secured in the calendar year. Stay tuned to this page for updates on how the contributions have helped the American Heart Association.
Corporate Giving Program 2014
Children Come First
When it came time for Unique Venues to choose a new Corporate Giving Partner for 2014, Chuck Salem and Jeanne Feathers were on the same page—they just didn’t know it right away. “We had no idea we selected the same charity of choice until we were casually talking about the program. When we discovered our mutual affinity, we decided to team up in the effort,” says Salem, president of Unique Venues.
The coincidence, he says, is just one more way that he and the director of sales have strangely found themselves inter-connected over the years. Both grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, attended the same high school and college and, 20 years later, find themselves working together at Unique Venues.
Their latest team effort is a different spin on the giving program that was revamped in 2013 to allow one employee to choose one charity partner for 12 months in an effort to make a greater impact with contributed dollars. This year, founder Michele Nichols selected volunteer mission Children’s Global Alliance in a successful collaboration that allowed high school students the opportunity to help people of Nicaragua and Cambodia.
In 2014, Salem and Feathers hope to capitalize on that experience for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a place of solace, treatments and medical breakthroughs in Memphis, Tennessee for families of children facing cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
“I know we both have the same reasons why we chose this organization,” affirms Salem. Feathers agrees, noting she has been a donor to the organization for five years: “We both love children and have a deep compassion for the work they do.”
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was founded in 1962 by the late entertainer Danny Thomas who had prayed to St. Jude (the patron saint of hopelessness) for help in his career and vowed, in return, to build a charity in Jude’s name. Today, the hospital and research center treats nearly 7,800 patients each year, resolute in the fact that no family has to pay for their services. With daily operating costs of $1.8 million, however, public donations are imperative to keep the organization alive.
“They are great at what they do and put every dollar to good use,” acknowledges Salem. In fact, 81 cents of every dollar donated directly supports research and treatment at St. Jude, which has been instrumental in increasing the survival rate of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, from 4 percent to an astounding 94 percent over the past 50 years.
As the father of three children and a cancer survivor himself, Salem says he knows how difficult the experience is emotionally and physically. “When I think of a small child having to face one of the greatest challenges there is, it warms me to know there is a place that they can go to that can help them heal.”
Feathers, too, believes the donations go a long way in paying it forward. “My friends and family have not needed the services at St. Jude and for that we are grateful,” she says. “However, others are not so fortunate and if we can help in some small way to affect the life of a child, we should do so.”
Here’s how the donations work: Unique Venues start the year off with a $500 donation to the partner in lieu of sending members holiday cards. They also give $5 to the organization for every new member and renewal secured in the calendar year. Stay tuned to this page for updates on how the contributions have helped St. Jude.
CGA expands to Tanzania, opens application process for 2014
August 13, 2014 — At Children’s Global Alliance, there is always work to be done and places in need of help. That’s why for 2014, the service trips expand to Tanzania, building on the accomplishments that have helped needy children and families in Cambodia and Nicaragua. In addition to this big announcement, CGA has now opened the application process for next year’s missions.
Founded in 2010, this Vail, Colorado-based nonprofit seeks to provide U.S. students age 12-16 with large-scale volunteer opportunities. After completing an essay, participating in interviews and spearheading individual community service projects and fundraising for their trips, accepted students embark on a two- to three-week journey to one of the three destinations. Here they work hand-in-hand with needy families and children living in orphanages to provide them with school supplies, medical treatment and teaching courses on sustainability.
Next year’s inaugural trip to Tanzania will work closely with the Naserian school and orphanage in Arusha. Of the 150 students enrolled in the school, 32 live in the orphanage. Student volunteers will assist teachers in the classroom, provide supplies and help improve living conditions. Each student will also complete lesson plans and a research assignment on the history and culture of this special country.
As Unique Venues’ corporate giving partner for 2013, we are proud of the wonderful accomplishments of this group and look forward to continuing to help fund their service trips and activities that not only help those in need, but give the students a rewarding, life-changing experience in return.
cga completes their mission in Cambodia with smiles all around
July 29, 2013 — It’s hard to imagine a child building a house, but never underestimate a person on a mission. In just five weeks, the teenage volunteers of Children’s Global Alliance built not one, but two homes that now provide shelter for 27 deserving orphans in Cambodia.
As Unique Venues’ corporate giving partner for 2013, we’ve been watching the efforts of CGA in awe. Their blogs have recounted the trials and triumphs of helping the children of the Cooperation Peach Organization Orphanage in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia’s capital city, who lead a very different life from what the students were used to in Vail, Colorado.
Many of the orphans had never slept in their own beds before or used their own individual drinking cups. Now the children get to enjoy their own houses—one for the girls and one for the boys—both of which have shelves where there are 27 cups, each bearing a different name.
The CGA students built the homes by hand—and have the calluses, sores and cuts to prove it! Using only manual tools like axes, handsaws and hammers, they cleared the field, poured cement, framed the houses, constructed the walls, windows and roofs and then furnished each room with new bunk beds, pillows and sheets. Each child also received new clothes, toiletries and medical supplies. The pictures showing the looks on the children’s faces as their belongings were moved into each home says just how much it meant to them.
But the special treatment didn’t stop there. Each child was de-liced and given manicures and haircuts so they could feel their best, too. The volunteers also spent time delivering school supplies and teaching classes to all the children in the community. After the day’s work was done, the groups celebrated together with games of volleyball, theatre skits and reading time where they got to learn words in English.
It was an incredible journey for both parties who were sad to see it end after growing so close in a few short weeks. But in their hearts and minds, the CGA volunteers hold close all the memories and take comfort in knowing how much good they did and how much they changed lives forever.
Read more about the experience at Kevin Nichols’ blog, http://kevynichols.blogspot.com, including the last entry “Letting Go.” How amazing it is to see children helping children!
CGA volunteers pack for Cambodia trips
May 20, 2013 — Student volunteers gathered at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards, Colorado, to sort, organize and pack donated supplies for their service trips to the Cooperation Peace Organization Orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with Children's Global Alliance, Unique Venues 2013 corporate giving partner.
The donations were overwhelming: clothing, toys, books, art supplies, medical supplies, soccer balls, shampoo, tooth brushes, diapers, etc. After student volunteers sorted and organized the donations, they each filled one suitcase with 50 pounds of items that they will personally carry to Cambodia this summer!
Thank you to everyone who donated items and to the student volunteers who carefully and thoughtfully put together their suitcases. It will be fun to see photos of the children in Cambodia playing with the toys, reading the books and wearing the beautiful clothing that was packed with such love and care.
We're proud of our corporate giving partner and the work that they do!
An Update on Children’s Global Alliance
May 15, 2013 — Children’s Global Alliance is Unique Venues’ sole corporate giving partner in 2013 in an effort to maximize contributions—and the difference they make. CGA is an organization that hits close to home for Unique Venues founder Michele Nichols. Her 14-year-old son, Kevin, is a student representative and has so far raised $2,000 for a service trip to Cambodia in the summer. Like Kevin, the teenage students in the Vail, Colorado-based program must commit to a fundraising and community service plan, submit an essay and have an in-person interview with founder Lisa Marie Howell before taking part in the service trips. Several missions are planned throughout the year to an orphanage in Cambodia and a school for children with special needs in Rivas, Nicaragua.
Although students raise their own funds for the trip itself, the money that organizations like Unique Venues donates are used for the projects in these countries. “In Cambodia, we’ve built pig tents, planted crops, built clotheslines, repaired fences and provided families with running water for the first time in their entire lives. In Nicaragua, we were able to get school supplies, repair structures, clean, and teach sustainable classes on gardening and woodshop,” says Howell.
Unique Venues started the year with a $500 donation in lieu of holiday cards; plus an extra $5 is donated to the Alliance for every new member or renewal that comes in throughout 2013. To-date, over $2200 has been donated to CGA. Unique Venues members can help too. Every venue has the opportunity to match Unique Venues’ $5 donation on their membership renewal or contract.
There will be more opportunities for contributions this year, so stay tuned to read how you can help!
Moving forward in giving back
January 14, 2013 — This year, Unique Venues decided to adopt a new plan for our Corporate Giving Program: Choose just one organization to donate to for an entire year to impact the difference we make. Each year an employee’s name will be drawn, and they get to choose the charity to partner with for the next 12 months. This year, it was founder Michele Nichols and she selected Children’s Global Alliance. Here is their story.
“In Nicaragua I saw things that I couldn't believe were happening right in front of my eyes. I gained so much from the trip and have a new perspective on my life. I worked really hard and feel like I made a difference. The service trip to Nicaragua showed me how truly blessed I am to have a caring, loving family that is always there for me, to live in such a great valley and community, and to have the opportunity of a great education. It also taught me that everyone in the world has the same potential, but not the same opportunity.”
Some pretty strong words, especially when you consider Kevin Nichols is only 14 years old. It’s the exact response Lisa Marie Howell was looking to achieve when she started the Children’s Global Alliance in Vail, Colorado three years ago.
“I was engaged in student mentoring at a local middle school and when it came time to do our service projects, I noticed there was a lack of large-scale volunteer experiences for this age group of 12- to 16-year-olds,” recalls Howell who herself has been a passionate volunteer since she was eight years old and cleaning homes for the elderly. “They were capable of so much more then they were ever trusted with so I thought, what could I do to open their eyes to the rest of the world and get them involved in something bigger?”
With the Children’s Global Alliance, Howell has created a breakthrough program that invites teenagers to visit an orphanage in Cambodia and a special needs school in Nicaragua to work alongside less fortunate families in developing countries. Howell emphasizes that her program is hard work, “It’s not a vacation or a tour. We work hard, all day every day, building and creating a better future for someone else.” And the children who attend come back changed forever, many having gone on to more regular volunteer work. “Once they see how little effort it takes to enhance someone’s life so greatly, they become fascinated with the idea that, ‘I can be this young and change someone’s life,’” Howell says proudly. “Our students come back to their community with a new sense of pride, appreciation for their family, and feel fortunate to live in their house and eat their food.
Kevin Nichols, son of Michele, came upon Children’s Global Alliance himself after seeing a presentation from the organization at his school. In order to qualify for the experience, he had to submit an essay and fundraising plan (students have to raise their own money for airfare and hotels) and sit down for an interview with Howell, plus log 10 hours of community service. “We supported him from the very beginning; we felt he needed this experience,” says Michele, recalling a particular experience that impacted Kevin—and her. “He went on a home visit with another student and teacher to a girl's house who’s 22 with Cerebral Palsy. They were checking in on her to see if she was doing okay. Kevin found her locked in a dark closet on the floor, playing with a plastic bag. She went on to have a seizure in front of them. When I heard about this from my own kid, I wanted to do more.”
With the donations from Unique Venues, it’s possible. “The donations go towards the projects we perform while we’re in the countries,” notes Howell. “In Cambodia, we’ve built pig tents, planted crops, built clotheslines, repaired fences and provided families with running water for the first time in their entire lives. In Nicaragua, we were able to get school supplies, repair structures, clean, and teach sustainable classes on gardening and woodshop.”
For Kevin, the experience made all the difference. “I strongly recommend every teenager get involved with some kind of volunteer work whether its local or global. Going to Nicaragua has opened my eyes to volunteering and has made me the person I am today.”
Here’s how the donations work: We start the year off with a $500 donation to our partner in lieu of sending our members holiday cards. We also give $5 to the organization for every new member and renewal we do business with that year; plus we give our members the opportunity to match the $5. We will be creating other opportunities throughout the year as well, so stay tuned to read how you can help! For more information on Children’s Global Alliance, visit: www.childrensglobalalliance.org.