Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rosario Bazan, Lessons From a Leader

For the last week I have been in Trujillo, Peru.  I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to accompany the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business students from Utah State University on a SEED project that has been in the works since 2007.  The university has teamed up with the company Danper to work with some of the local Peruvians on helping design, fund, and grow small business'.  Danper is a giant among companies in Peru, focusing their efforts on growing and exporting many different agricultural products to different countries.  They became involved with this project as a way to give back to the community.  The students, faculty and businessman from Logan and Utah State are all first class.  I've been lucky to get to associate with them this week.

Tonight I had a special experience.  We went to Danper and met with their founder and President, Rosario Bazan.  I have heard much about Rosario since becoming involved in the SEED program at Utah State.  Tonight was my first time visiting with her in person.  I now know first hand why she is successful.

As I listened to Rosario talk, I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite business books, Good to Great.  A part of this book analyzes the characteristics of the CEO's of the most successful companies in the U.S. They refer to these leaders as level 5 leaders.  What may be surprising is these leaders are not "larger than life" personalities.  These are very humble, but driven leaders.  They are filled with an overriding desire to do what is right, and to do that 100% of the time.  Their focus is on the well being of not just their company, but the people who they employ, and the community as a whole.  Rosario Bazan encompasses all of these characteristics. 

She shared with us a recent experience she had.  She just finished a successful campaign to become the first woman president in the 110 year history of the Chamber of Commerce here in Trujillo.  Trujillo is the 3rd largest city in all of Peru.  There was much adversity in her campaign, including some harsh criticism from previous presidents.  The criticism didn't just come as a result of Rosario being the first woman president, but more so because they knew that she wouldn't allow the ever present corruption that has filled the chamber over the previous years.  Everyone knows where she stands in regard to adhering to ethical business practices. 

Throughout the campaign, she wondered if this was worth the effort.  Besides, she was the president of a major company.  In one of the darkest moments, she found herself visiting with her 16 year old daughter one evening.  Her daughter gave her some very wise counsel.  She said that this was something that she had to do.  She had to stand up for what is right and not allow the harsh criticism of those not wanting Rosario as president to overcome her.  This wasn't easy, but she had to do it because it was the right thing to do!  It was the needed words of encouragement to help Rosario push forward.  She ended up receiving 80% of the votes when the election was all said and done!

This reminded me of many experiences I have been reading about from those affiliated with Reece's Rainbow.  Their efforts to help save a child with Down syndrome that otherwise doesn't have a chance are noble and courageous.  Yet their efforts at times are confronted with criticism and harsh adversity.  I know that no one takes more criticism than Reece's Rainbow founder Andrea Roberts.  However, just like Rosario, we all push forward together.  We know the work must be done because we know in our hearts that it is the right thing to do. 

Upon leaving Danper I saw this sign that all 6,000 of their employees see each and every day.  It reads, "Where a problem exists..., there is an opportunity to become better."  What wonderful counsel.  Anything that is worth doing is worth doing right.  Anything that is good will always be confronted by evil.  It is a law.  It has been this way since the beginning of time.  Our fight to protect the orphan, especially those children with special needs, is a noble endeavor but be prepared for adversity.  Use the adversity as an opportunity to become better.  It is a wonderful way to refine yourself and allow for personal growth as you fight for those who have no voice to their circumstances.  The result of children growing up in loving homes is well worth the battle.  And of course remember, that in the end, good always prevails over evil! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Our Journey to Kona

As many of you are well aware, we have been actively spreading the word and searching for votes for our Kona Inspired video.  When I use the word "we", I'm referring to the literally hundreds, and quite possibly, thousands or supporters from around the world! 

But first, a quick recap.  In March, Ironman announced a contest called Kona Inspired.  They gave the general public the opportunity to submit a 90 second video following the Ironman mantra, "Anything is Possible".  Winners receive a coveted slot to race in the Ironman World Championship in Kona on October 13th, but most importantly, they will race as a media athlete, getting the opportunity to share their story to a national audience.

When I first read this announcement, I immediately thought of all the good exposure and awareness this could create for the many children with down syndrome living in orphanages and mental institutions throughout the world.  I wasn't exactly sure how we were going to do this, but it felt right, so I proceeded.

My history with Kona actually started last year.  Andrea and I flew into Kona the week of the Ironman World Championship to visit her parents who were living on the Big Island at the time.  It worked out perfectly to spend some quality time with her parents who we missed dearly, as well as participate as spectators of the Ironman. 

Waiting at the finish line.

This is Chris McCormack, 2010 Ironman World Champion.  I highly recommend his book, "I'm here to Win."  In it, he talks about racing for a cause.

The day before the race when athletes were checking their bikes into T1

At the time, I had never done a full Ironman.  I had watched a full Ironman live and participated in a few Ironman 70.3 events, but something was different about Kona.  I left that day somewhat frustrated to be honest.  I had felt something during that race, but I couldn't exactly identify what it was or what it meant.  It was something special, but still very unclear.  I felt there was something bigger that I could be a part of, but I didn't have any idea what it was going to be.  Less than 30 days from returning home from Hawaii, Andrea and I were introduced to Reece's Rainbow.  Two months later, Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome was born.  About that time, Ironman announced the Kona Inspired competition.  Coincidence?  Not a chance.  I know with conviction that all things happen for a reason.  I know that if we have a desire to serve our fellow man, that God will give us the opportunity to do so.

The Video

The ideas on how to put the video together came in waves.  For a couple of weeks as I thought about how the video should be done, an idea would come to mind, I'd hurry and write it down, and go back to doing what I was doing.  First the dialogue that we all have come to know so well, "My name is Brady Murray, and this is my son Nash...".  I bet a lot of you can recite that entire video word for word!  Then some of the footage ideas started to come.  Reece's Rainbow helped me with some awesome pictures of the children and a friend took some great still shots in Oceanside when we were down there for the race.  The song on the other hand wasn't as easy.  After a few weeks of searching, I finally sat down at the computer one day and pulled up my entire playlist of songs in ITunes and started listening to every song, one by one.  Nothing seemed to be the right fit, then I played "Don't Stop Believin" by Journey.  I immediately knew this was the one! 

So the video in theory was done!  The only problem was I had no idea how to actually make a video.  That's when another friend came up with a wonderful idea!  He was in the process of negotiating some air time for his company on Channel 2 here in Boise to do a commercial.  He approached Channel 2 and asked them if they would be open to donating some time to put our video together.  They agreed and Nash and I made our way down to the studio!  The video was done and it turned out great! Thanks Jenessa and Channel 2! Time to submit my entry!

The Contest

Our video was submitted on April 18th.  At the time, there were around 25 videos already submitted.  I had no idea how this was going to work out, but it still felt like it was meant to be so we proceeded with faith. 

The next 45 days were pretty hectic.  Each day, more and more great videos were being added to the contest.  When the final day for entry finally arrived, there were 105 videos submitted!  The only life line we had to track whether or not we were a favorite to be chosen for the finals were the amount of views that each of the videos had.  We were #4 out of 105. 

The day after the initial voting period ended, I received an email from Ironman stating that I had been selected as 1 of 15 finalists to compete in a two week finals voting period starting June 4 and running through June 18.  Progress!!  June 4th came and the finals began.  Little did I know just what we were in for the next 2 weeks.

The Finals

We started out good, and really the first week went great!  Our views were either in first or second the entire 1st week.  Out of the 15 videos, we needed to be in the top 2 so things looked good.  Around the end of week 1, that changed.  The 3rd place video began to catch up in a hurry.  Not only did they catch up, but out of nowhere, they passed us in views!!  It was time to dig deep and dig deep we did.  I found myself waking up at 5am each morning and skipping my workout to try and put something together that day to drive our views.  After a full day at work, I'd immediately head back to the computer to work on the campaign until late that night.  This went on for the entire final week and I wasn't alone.  I was amazed at just how many incredible supporters were doing the same.  The first week our views were around 60,000.  The second week we were averaging 30,000- 40,000 views per day!  The bad news is we never could separate ourselves from the other two leading videos.  It was maddening to say the least! 

Andrea was such an incredible support through all of this.  There were lots of meals at the computer and some stressful times, but she always had a smile.  That made it much easier to be able to focus on driving the votes.
Feeling that we needed to continue this push I started to make some calls to see what we could come up with.  The first person I called was Angela Redding.  Angela lives down the street from us and is well known as someone who gets things done!  She didn't disappoint.  Within 48 hours she had planned a community event that turned out to be a huge success because of our volunteers and our sponsors.  She also put me in touch with Michael Nelson who quickly got me on the Kevin Miller show as well as made sure that Channel 7 was well aware of our story along with the many others who sent emails and visited the stations asking them to share our story.

The momentum was building and things were looking good with only a few days to go.  That's when I got an email from Ironman.  The email was addressed to all 1st Round Contestants.  It stated that it appeared that there had been some fraudulent voting taking place that was computer generated.  They believed that the contestant that this was being generated for was unaware of the situation, but that if it didn't stop, they would be disqualified.  Wow, now this was drama! 

I posted to my Facebook the email from Ironman and then replied to the email letting Ironman know that I was unaware of anyone doing this for me.  They quickly replied back and said that our video was not one that was suspected of this.  Very good news!!  They also made a note that views didn't necessarily equate to votes.  Votes were only counted 1 vote per computer every 24 hours.  We had 48 hours left before the contest ended and we all went to work getting as many votes from as many different computers as possible.

The magic hour of 10 pm on the final day finally arrived.  I have a whole new respect for any politician on the campaign trail.  I had no idea what goes into this and the emotion that is felt.  The highs and lows are dramatic to say the least!  I also know that it takes a team to make this happen.  It is impossible for one person to go win something like this alone. 

I didn't think we would hear back from Ironman until Tuesday so I was prepared to be patient.  Luckily within 30 minutes of the contest ending, I received an email stating that we had won!  Upon reading the email, Andrea and I hugged a huge hug!  The emotions came quickly as I knew that the entire collective efforts of so many had paid off.  Flashbacks of Kona no more than 9 months ago came rushing into my mind.  I remembered those feelings that came that day because they were back.  There IS something bigger out there.  Something that is not about me.  This is ALL about these kids!  They need our help and we are so lucky to get to be a small part of this incredible blessing for them!   We did it!  We are going to Race for Orphans with Down Syndrome in Kona!

Our Team

As I've stated, this happened because of the collective efforts of so many coming together to become caught up in something bigger than any one person.  This was a group of people getting caught up in a cause!

The support has come from so many!  I'd like to mention the ladies at Reece's Rainbow who have quickly become like family.  Can you say AWESOME!  I knew that advocates for Reece's Rainbow were passionate, but I had no idea just how passionate they really are.  All I can say is WOW and THANK YOU!  You are all amazing!

Another avenue of incredible support came from my always supportive family.  I know that I'll really never know just how much time and effort each of you put into this contest.  Actually, I do know that my Mom dedicated her entire life to making this happen during the finals and I bet there were many of you who weren't that far off!  Thank you Mom, and thank you my wonderful family!

One of the wonderful byproducts of this contest that I didn't fully expect was the support that came from dear friends.  Friends who I talk to regularly and my dear friends who we've lost track with each other over the years, but through the miracle of social media, we were able to reconnect.  This reconnection with my friends of old was something I didn't expect, but has become among my most cherished parts of this contest.  I'm proud to be able to continue to call you my friend.  A special thanks to each of you.

The media has also been a very powerful tool to share our story with many people we never would have been able to reach otherwise.  It's wonderful to see that power put to such good use these last few weeks.  You can read the many stories from the last few months HERE.  I'd also like to recognize my employer, Allegis Financial Partners and One America who also played a big part in making this possible.

And of course all the support that came from people who I may never meet, but that answered the call to help.  I can only hope that our path's will cross again in the future and that I can return the favor for all your support.

By The Numbers

Total Views During the Semi Finals  24,671
Total Views During the Finals  214,588
Total Donations earned by our followers during the finals $2,565
Total Children/Families donated to during the finals 34
Total RODS Racing T Shirts given away 24

I want to end by saying that I believe this is only the beginning!  We have learned that together we can move mountains for these kids.  I believe we have only seen a glimpse of what will be done by this group for these kids in the future.  For now, enjoy the victory.  You deserve it!  As for me, I better not relax too much.  I have an Ironman to train for!!! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Our 10th Anniversary!!

Today marks a very special day!  10 years ago today I was married to my sweetheart, Andrea Allen!  It's fun to think back over the last 10 years and count the many blessings we have been given.  Three of which are our 3 beautiful children! 

I thought I might share how Andrea and I met in honor of the special day.  In 2002, I had recently returned home from serving a 2 year mission for my church to Peru.  I was just getting ready to start college and was ready to take on the world!  I was over at a good friends house one evening and he asked me when I was going to go on my first date after returning from my mission.  During my 2 years as a missionary, we focused 100% on our missionary work and did not date.  I told him that I was excited to start dating again, but I was looking for a certain type of girl to date and I proceeded to repeat a long list of attributes that I was looking for.  He gave me a funny look and shook his head.  It was obvious that with my missionary "zeal", I had gotten a little carried away with my hope for the "perfect" date!

A few minutes later, he proclaimed, "I do have someone in my class that is an awesome girl.  How about I set you up with her."  Excited, I began asking him questions about this mystery girl in my friends Biology class.  He told me about this girl who he had gotten to know over the last semester that was cute, funny, and an all around good person.  I started to ask more questions and he continued to answer them.  This was going to be great!

After spending some time talking about this girl, I started to realize that there may be an issue with me asking her out.  Allow me to give some background.  Upon finishing full time missionary service for our church, it is common practice for the returned missionaries to take on multiple speaking assignments in the different congregations throughout the local communities.  When you go on this speaking tour, you are assigned to one of the local leaders as a speaking companion.  These are individuals that I respect very much for their service and Christian attributes.  After spending some time talking to my friend, I put two and two together that this girl I was going to ask out had to be my speaking companion's daughter!  I didn't even know he had a daughter!

I was disappointed because I knew I didn't want to just call up their house and say, "Hello Mike, I know we just met, and I'm very excited to get to speak with you at the different local congregations.  By the way, is your daughter home, I'd like to ask her on a date!"

That night on my way home I knew that I may run into this girl on campus, and that there were plenty of other girls I would be able to go on a date with, but I have to say I was disappointed to say the least.  There was something about this girl that seemed special.  It was weird because I hadn't even met her, but I felt something different.

The next day was Sunday.  That morning I was getting ready to go to church when the phone rang.  To my surprise, it was Mike Allen, my speaking companion.  I figured he was calling to talk about one of our upcoming speaking assignments.  I just about fell off the couch, had a heart attack and dropped over dead, when I heard what he had to say next.  He asked me if I would like to come over to dinner that night.  He knew a family from Peru that didn't speak very good English and he wanted to know if I would help him translate so he could talk with them.  Of course I wanted to go over to dinner that night!

Upon arriving at the Allen's I was as nervous as I've ever been in my life.  I met Mike's wife Kaylene and their son Ryan.  I also met his youngest daughter Amber and the Peruvian family, the Rivera's, that he had told me about, but I didn't see Andrea.  Now remember, Mike had no idea that I was planning on asking his daughter out on a date.  For all he knew, I didn't even know he had another daughter.  So I played it cool.  I asked him, "Mike, how many children do you have?"  He said he had Ryan, and Amber and that Jordan, his oldest son was on a mission.  He then said his oldest daughter Andrea was downstairs and asked Ryan to ask her to come up stairs!  Score!  A few minutes later I saw Andrea for the first time.  Now this may sound a little weird, but I knew I was going to marry her the second I saw her.  She was such a beautiful girl.  As I talked to her, I realized she was not only beautiful on the outside, but she was beautiful on the inside as well.   I knew that she was going to be my wife and the mother of our children.  Our courting and future engagement is a story in and of itself, but I'll save that for another day!  However, I do want to say I love you Andrea Allen and thank you for the best 10 years of my life!  I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you!! 

So you might be saying, hey, this is a blog about orphans with Down syndrome.  Where's the connection?  Let me explain.  As you may already know, we are one week into a two week finals voting campaign for my mine and Nash's "Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome" video.  We are currently in first place, but not by much!  In honor of mine and Andrea's 10th Anniversary, we are shooting for 10,000 views of the video today!  If we can reach 10,000 views, we have a donor who will give $500 to Maggie's (our orphan we are racing for currently) adoption account!  That would bring her account to over $10,000!  That's the connection!

We are currently at 44,292 views.  Last night at 10pm we were at 42,002.  The goal is to reach 52,002 by 10pm tonight for the $500 donation to Maggie!   Along the way, I'm giving away RODS Racing TShirts to whoever is closest to the thousandth view (45,000, 46,000, etc) throughout the day.  You can follow the give away's throughout the day HERE.  If you are close to winning the TShirt, just add to the comments with where you came in! 

As a reminder, you can view and vote multiple times a day by refreshing the browser once you start the video and click vote (lower left corner of the video).  Thanks for all the support!  Let's get to 52,002 today!!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome

My family and I have loved being able to work on behalf of the children on Reece's Rainbow since finding this great organization.  It's for this reason that I had a hard time sleeping because of the excitement after hearing about this announcement!

Two months ago, Ironman announced a contest called Kona Inspired.  How it works is they have given the general public an opportunity to submit a 90 second video based around the theme, "Anything is Possible".  Winners receive a spot to race in the Ironman World Championship in October, but most importantly, they will race as a media athlete and have the opportunity to share their story on NBC's nationally televised broadcast of the championship this year!  THIS COULD BE OUR OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE THESE PRECIOUS CHILDREN'S STORY WITH THE WORLD!!!

After reading Ironman's press release we immediately went to work.  This is an opportunity to help these children in a way that I never imagined possible!  The video came together with the help of many wonderful people and we submitted it.  105 videos were submitted.  After over a month long preliminary public voting, we just received word that we are one of the top 15 videos and will compete in the final round of voting June 4 - June 18!!!

Please take a moment to WATCH, VOTE, and SHARE our video as much as possible throughout the day from your home computer, work computer, laptop, phone, etc!  We need to be in the top 2 videos at the end of the day on June 18. 


Thank you for your time and willingness to make the dream of these orphans of finding their forever family a reality!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Let Us Remember Our Cause...

This morning I spent some time looking at other blogs of advocates for orphans with Down syndrome.  I took a moment to look at a families blog who are adopting a child from Reece's Rainbow and who happen to live right here in the Boise, Idaho area.  We're excited to have gotten to know the Preece's recently!  You can check out their blog HERE.

It's from the Preece's blog that I found the following pictures.  Let me take a moment to explain exactly what is taking place in many Eastern European countries.  When a child is born with Down syndrome, it is common practice for the parents to place the child in an orphanage.  Some orphanages are better than others, but in the end, they are still orphanages.  It is here where the child stays, parentless and without a family of their own for the first 5-6 years of their life. 

At age 5-6 the child is then sent to an adult mental institution.  Although orphanages are not the best place for these children, they are 100% better than an institution.  It is common for these children to pass away during the first few years of being transferred because of the harsh circumstances they face in the institution.

Before instutionalization                                   After being transferred

In looking at these pictures of Ksenia, I want you to remember one thing, THERE IS HOPE!!!  There are families ready and willing to adopt RIGHT NOW!  The only thing standing in their way is the financial burden of international adoption.  Costs for an international adoption are between $30,000-$40,000.  These families are not asking for us to take on all of the costs.  They just need SOME help.  If a child's adoption grant gets to between $15,000 - $20,000, that is sufficient help to give these families the ability to go save these children.

There is one child in particular that we are desperately working for right now.  Here name is Maggie.  We chose Maggie about 3 months ago.  She had no donations in her adoption account and she had just been transferred.  MAGGIE IS IN AN INSTITUTION!  The good news is we've been able to grow her account to over $9,300, more than halfway to our goal of $15,000.  The sooner we can get her account to $15,000 the sooner she will be adopted! 

As I've discussed, an institution is a horrible place for these children to be.  With that being said, this is the result when a family is able to adopt one of these children.  Images and info are courtesy of www.nogreaterjoymom.com.

"Meet beautiful Kori.  Adopted at almost eight years old and weighing in at a mere 16 pounds!  Lifeless, sad, circles under her eyes, and in very poor condition.  But God could not leave her like that...He knew that her life had purpose and a destiny.  And so He reached down from heaven and gave her a miracle....a family to call her own.

Today...a picture of health!  Healthy, happy and growing in every way.  Adorable!"

"I know that so many of you followed Katie's amazing journey home.  Sweet, little, teeny-tiny Katie.  Rescued just three months ago--hanging on by a thread in a faraway orphanage. God had big plans for this angel! Katie also went straight from the airport to the hospital--weighing a measly 10 pounds 9 ounces at nine years old!

Oh, but just LOOK what a difference family makes!  Today...Katie is doing incredibly well.  She is a healthy weight for her height and is growing before her family's eyes. She now weighs nearly 23 pounds!  What an absolute JOY Katie is to her family!"

"And darling little Belle. Adopted at almost three years old and weighing only 15 pounds.  Belle knew nothing but a life confined to a crib...until her family heard the call and said, "Here we are, Lord!  Send us!"

Today...just 13 months later she is a happy, healthy little toddler who weighs 26 pounds."

"This is Dusty.  Adopted from the same orphanage as our girls just nine months ago--weighing just 20 pounds when he came home and was admitted straight into hospital for malnutrition.  

Today, only ten months later, Dusty weighs over 30 pounds!  I have been so blessed to meet Dusty in person, and to watch him develop and grow.  He is a little miracle boy for sure."

"And beautiful Carrington. Adopted in March 2011 and taken directly from the airport to the hospital.  Carrington was nothing but skin and bones--weighing only ten pounds when she came home. Doctors told the family that Carrington's organs had already started shutting down and she had just 24 hours of life left in her.

But God...!  Just look what He did!  Today, almost one year after coming home, Carrington is healthy and thriving--weighing in at 27 pounds.  Glory to God in the highest!  Another little miracle."

May we each take the time to act on the feelings that come to us individually as we ponder these children's circumstances.  Whether it be to share these children's story with those you love, donate to a child, or take that leap of faith and adopt one of these precious children, it all helps, and it is all so greatly appreciated! 

Because every child deserves a family to call their own...