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Memories That Last A Lifetime

20 Jan

The holidays are over, friends and family from miles away have all returned home, and we have a little time to rest. What better time, then, to reflect on all the things that make those people as special as they are to us? This season was among the most meaningful for us at Be a Number. After all the holiday parties, after the friends and the family were gone, and even before they arrived, we had a chance to share the joy of the Season of Giving with children in downtown Detroit, Michigan.

On December 24, 2010, we handed out 100 shirts to children at I Am My Brother’s Keeper Ministries, a ministry that had just suffered the sudden death of its leader, Pastor Henry Convington. His inspirational story is beautifully depicted in the book Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom, and it is a story which absolutely inspired us to visit the ministry. This year, we learned the true meaning of the holiday season: to love, to give, and to cherish.

We saw the love the Pastor Covington had for those who only passed through the ministry, and also for more permanent members. We saw the love he had for the building itself, which has suffered many expensive damages over the years. Most of all, however, we saw the love he had for the children in the area. He set up family nights for children and their families to play games, enjoy a meal, and congregate. He made many sacrifices to help them, and took many under his wing.

We gave one hundred children a Be A Number t-shirt through the organization, but more importantly, we gave them our constant support and our hope for them to succeed in whatever vocation or goals they set for themselves. We gave them a few words that they can carry with them through good times and bad: keep working, never give up, and dreams really can (and do!) come true.

Finally, we learned to cherish. While each child we have seen over the course of the shirt drops has left an impression on us, with this particular one, we saw what it is like for us to make an impression on the children. We conducted the shirt drop within about two weeks of spending the night there, but only some of us were able to return. The kids, without missing a beat, immediately asked where the others were. Without hesitation, we called Matt, and put the kids on the phone with him so they could hear his voice and tell them what they had been up to since they saw him.

The smiles on their faces were some of the biggest we’ve seen. This was proof for them that we cherish the memories we have of them and we will always care for them. Matt instantly recognized their names and asked enthusiastic questions and was excited to hear from them. Just this simple phone call gave them the sound knowledge that they would never be forgotten. Not only do we cherish and truly care about the kids, they can cherish the message we shared because they had real, powerful proof that we would always remember them.

Below is the video of the shirt drop, we know you’ll enjoy watching it :)

Giving Thanks, Celebrating Big

4 Dec

A word from Liz, our Representative Coordinator and Promotions Director:

Our new holiday announcements came out recently!

During the Thanksgiving break this year, it was impossible for us here at Be A Number to think about not having such an inspiring mission to call our own. In just a year, we have seen nearly 800 children receive our shirts, all due to an idea that started in the wee hours of the morning merely 12 months ago.

At the Thanksgiving Day dinner table, it was obvious to me what I was most thankful for: the opportunity to be involved with such a well-grounded, motivational company. To have the opportunity to devote a few hours a day to helping children that I may never have met, to meeting people from around the world who are world changers in their own right, is an honor for which I am eternally grateful.

Our set-up was perfect for greeting Be A Number newcomers :)

Just yesterday, we celebrated the official 1st birthday of Be A Number, and the time spent doing so will be a memory I will always treasure. After traveling to Kevin‘s hometown, we set up a humble table stand at a local shop which sells our shirts.

We greeted those who stopped in to wish us luck and other customers who wandered in by coincidence and had the opportunity to share with them what we are all about. Watching them then turn to another new customer in order to share our mission in a hushed tone was among the most gratifying sights I have yet experienced. Afterword, while walking downtown, enjoying the thousands of twinkling lights and cheery faces of holiday shoppers, hot chocolate in hand, we passed several people who recognized Be A Number and seemed excited to share it.

As the holiday season draws near, my enthusiasm for Be A Number only continues to grow. We are gearing up for a holiday shirt drop in Detroit, Michigan (details soon!), and we couldn’t be more excited. The Season of Giving seems the perfect time to spread a little extra hope, and remind children all over the world that no matter where they find themselves this time of year, it is always possible to dream and it is always possible to smile.

Happy holidays, everyone :)

Nature’s Humility

28 Jul

Beautiful skies were just a small part of Mananagua's charm

The cruel irony of life often strikes when we least expect it. Mother Nature seems to have no regard for our plans, and whether we like it or not rain will come as quickly as sunshine and storms as easily as clear skies. Unpredictable in her beauty as equally as her wrath, Mother Nature will be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of time.

While in the Dominican Republic, sun was abundant and provided a brilliant contrast to rusted corrugated tin  roofs and dusty streets around the Mananagua area, which was the location of our biggest shirt drop yet. An artist’s dream, the scenery was beautiful in its own right, and the smiles of children and adults alike added a shining light to the sun’s rays that only pure happiness can.

After passing out 400 shirts to children in the Dominican, our team returned home tired after a long day of connecting flights, but forever changed. The families that welcomed them into their homes to learn about life in the Dominican demonstrated patience on all levels as Kevin and others did their best to use enough broken Spanish to speak with them. Incomparable friendships and bonds were formed among the people of Mananagua and our team, who helped construct homes and pass out Be A Number shirts to the children.

Kevin's mom pauses for a picture with an adorable little boy

It’s hard to describe, then, the sinking feeling that comes with hearing news that within days of our departure from the Dominican, flooding claimed its power over the town. While those we met were unharmed as far as we could tell, homes were flooded, thousands were evacuated, and water swelled waist-high. Particularly heartbreaking was watching video and images with children in Be A Number shirts in the background.  Though the experience in the Dominican had been such a positive one and our team returned with more confidence in our cause, nature was a step behind us with a reminder that we can never take things for granted and can never stop working for a better world.

Our thoughts and hearts go out to all our friends in the Dominican, as well as those we don’t know, who are working to keep their families safe and healthy, all the while finding shelter and putting their lives back together. We will do our best to update all of you on their progress as new information becomes available, but take a moment to think of them each day, and consider reaching out to them in your own way.

How We Work

15 Jul

It’s no secret that we’re young and full of ideas here at Be A Number, so we often get the question “how do you work so hard when you’re so young?”

Sure, we work hard, but why can’t we have fun at the same time? When we’re not working on our own projects to further Be A Number, we work together to brainstorm, design, and create new programs and publications to reach the masses. Over the years, after completing all the homework, writing all the papers, and studying for all the tests that came with school, we all seemed to come to the same conclusion: if you don’t like what you’re working on, or if you”re not having fun with it, it’s going to take longer to finish and you’ll be bitter about it.

So what can make work fun? Take a couple tips from us: keep the music turned up, laugh (a lot), and explore! We’ve been known to play everything from country to the billboard top 40 playlist, but no matter what it is, we keep it loud so that it doesn’t feel like we’re working in an elevator. Representative Coordinator and Promotions Director Liz has been known to Rickroll people from time to time via email to lighten the mood, and Kevin likes to surprise everyone with the camera on his phone, snapping pictures of us making weird faces or slipping on ice in the winter. We prefer to drive to shirt drops or presentations instead of flying, and road trips are perfect for spur-of-the-moment adventures. If you catch us on the road, you’d probably see us dancing in our seats to the music we’re playing or laughing at our latest wrong turn (we can’t seem to find anyone who’s good with directions!).

We found this beautiful horse when we took a wrong turn down a dirt road in South Dakota

Arguably the best demonstration of a good road trip came on April Fool’s Day 2010 when Kevin and Liz were en route home after the shirt drop in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. They spent hours calling friends and family beginning in the early morning hours with pranks ranging from a broken-down, smoking car to confusing engagement stories. When both phones were almost dead, they turned to a heated argument over which 90s boy band was better: NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys.

In between jokes, impromptu adventures, and loud music, a lot happens: we think of brand new concepts for the future of Be A Number, organize speaking engagements, coordinate with groups who want to spread the Be A Number movement to their followers, and send dozens of emails every day. “What if we…” and “I can’t believe how much we just got done” are some of our most frequently said phrases and we make new to-do lists all the time. See, the way we think is: we work for kids around the world. If we’re going to work for them, we can’t work like we’re in Office Space II.

Try it sometime: find a way to have some fun at work. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish and how many new ideas you’ll think of.

A New Kind of Freedom

6 Jul

As the 4th of July weekend came and went, we celebrated our nation’s birthday with good friends and family, watching fireworks and enjoying some time at the local beaches. Across the United States, families packed up a cooler, sparklers, and the kids and headed to the local fireworks displays. In our 234 year history, Americans have seen war,  peace, and everything in between, but all under a beautiful shroud of freedom. After conquering our own forms of oppression and  inequality, both generations ago and more recently, it would seem we here in America are at the top of our game.

However, even now, some parts of our own country see an oppression that isn’t publicized often: hopelessness. Especially after the recent economic problems, more and more families are forced to choose between food and medicine, education and a small salary, or shelter and clothing.  A quick drive into the nearest inner city neighborhoods makes this point disturbingly clear.

Where does that leave our children? If it takes a village to raise a child, should we not at least give them a little hope? We think so. With every shirt we give to a child, we leave them with a special message: no matter what challenges life hands them, they are to work hard, never give up, and always remember that we care about them. Each shirt we give to a child is a match of a shirt that someone else purchased. To these children, the shirt represents hope for a better tomorrow because they have proof that they are not alone and will never be forgotten. As they continue to change our lives, we will continue to change the world.

While driving to New Jersey to visit the PKS Kids, this seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel

Think about it this way: if one child receives a shirt and clutches it dearly during the hard times, knowing that someone is rooting for them, even though the two have never met, and that child goes on to be the first person in his family to graduate high school, he is automatically given a better chance at a happier life. Next, he goes on to college and becomes a doctor, eventually saving dozens of lives during his career.  Multiply this impact hundreds of times over, and the world will be much different. Just a little hope goes a long way, and it could be the key to a new kind of freedom, the freedom of hope, and thus, the freedom of dreams.

As you go about your busy day, think about this quote we came across from Mitch Albom:

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Giving hope gives us purpose, what drives you?

The Littlest Lessons

28 Jun

We’ve just returned from the latest shirt drop, which took place in Mount Laurel, New Jersey at a conference on Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS). The children we visited there were such beautiful, happy children, even though they experience many day-to-day challenges.

Founder Kevin Hershock posed for pictures with children and their families.

PKS can go undiagnosed, which makes it difficult for many parents to give their children the help they need. The conference was aimed at raising awareness for the condition among medical professionals and community members, and we couldn’t have been more excited to be a part of it. Kevin spoke to the parents and children about living a complete life, regardless of the ability to amass wealth or accomplish record-breaking feats.

Satisfaction in life, he said, comes with finding a way to help others, to build a legacy full of pride, and to have an impact on the world that your great-great-grandchildren will be proud of. Although the children face so many difficulties, they too can have a positive impact on the world. Through organizations like PKS Kids, these children are making others aware of their situations, which inevitably will help form an irreplaceable bond among families affected by the syndrome.

Though a PKS diagnosis may seem sad or even hopeless to many, it was striking how joyful the families were. Even the atmosphere of the conference was positive and inviting. While most conferences feature business casual attire, at least, and often drones of monotonous lectures and statistics, this was much different. Children laughed and played together as they enjoyed a good meal, while the adults chatted and compared stories about their children. Attendees were dressed in everyday outfits, and didn’t worry themselves with the politics of overly-formal introductions.

A touching family moment gives just a taste of the positive outlook the families affected by PKS had.

We had the opportunity to meet an incredible former fashion photographer, Rick Guidotti, whose photos have appeared everywhere from Elle Magazine to Revlon ads. As we enjoyed a delicious dinner, Rick told us about his newly found passion: photographing a new type of beauty.  Beauty that can be found not just in what is considered in the modeling world to be beautiful, but in the every day person. He has dedicated the last 12 years to taking photos of people with genetic disorders all over the world, and was excited to meet and photograph the PKS kids.

His excitement was contagious, and impressed upon us an important lesson: the smallest differences in our DNA or the tiny chromosomes that makes us who we are do not dictate our happiness or beauty. Instead, they are a way for us to learn about and appreciate entirely new aspects of the world. Even the smallest of the children at the conference exuded a passion for life and a feeling not of condemnation, but of potential. They had potential to change lives through spreading awareness of PKS, and they most certainly changed our lives through the opportunity to meet and talk with them.

Blissful Innocence

22 Jun

After spending a few moments taking a mental break from editing, designing, and coordinating various new aspects of Be A Number, being a kid again was the greatest luxury imaginable. Through the window, it was easy to see a group of young children playing tag or holding lap races in the pool. Ah, to be able to run and squeal with excitement.

Kevin joined in on the fun the kids had at our latest photo shoot.


Recently, we had the chance to explain the Be A Number movement to a group of children in elementary school. It was amazing how quickly they picked up the important business model we’re spreading, but also how quickly they jumped on board with the idea.  Not only did they immediately understand our goal, to give a shirt and a dash of hope to as many children as we can, but they understood that the shirt the child receives is not just a shirt, it’s a promise. By giving these shirts to children around the world, we promise them that they will never be forgotten and they will always have a special place in our hearts just for them.

All too often, those of us in the “adult world” seem to forget just how easily children can pick up on new ideas and grasp the importance of them–sometimes even better than adults. Rather than looking at the world as a place that isn’t fair, a fact that most adults seem to believe just can’t be changed, children still enjoy the exhilaration of dreaming.

Perhaps we have a lesson to learn from them, then. The world can be a better place, if we allow ourselves to dream, to reach the limits of our potential, and constantly push the line between possible and impossible just a little farther back. Maybe we should take a moment to sit in the old refrigerator box and pretend it’s a rocket ship, or run through the grass with our arms outstretched, or even allow ourselves to be splashed by the side of the pool, even if we’re clad in clothes rather than swimming gear. Maybe then, we will be able to make this world a place where the phrase “life isn’t fair” will begin to be a thing of the past.

So start dreaming, keep believing in a better world, and keep helping out in your communities. While you’re at it, we’ll be doing the same. The world will be better for it, and as our founder, Kevin, likes to say, “let’s accomplish this together.”