Do you need some inspiration right now? Do you despair that your voice can’t be heard above the well-funded highly divisive world of social media promotion and politics? Here are just two examples of individuals who have inspired hundreds to take tangible action and made a difference in their respective communities.
Just recently in Bath, Maine, my favorite City of Ships, Fred Hersom pulled a few friends together in what became a celebration of the Mid Coast Hospital’s ALS Clinic. In Fred’s words, “all I wanted to do was raise awareness of the clinic and the devastating disease that ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is.” Because Fred & Sally have touched so many of us (myself included) with their friendship and generosity, a standing room only crowd came together to support the people affected by ALS and to put a stake in the ground supporting the Clinic which began in 2017 “as a joint collaboration of Mid Coast Medical Group–Neurology and Mid Coast Hospital Rehabilitation in partnership with the ALS Association of Northern New England.”
This is the only ALS clinic in Maine. Mid Coast is a not for profit hospital and their commitment to this clinic brings together in one place evaluation and treatment by specialists in neurology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech evaluation, and social work with support from the ALS Association. Everything in one place without having to travel as far away as Boston! Those few friends turned into several hundred people inside and outside the building working together toward a goal and having some fun at the same time. And though sadly Sally passed away on November 16th, we all remember her and that night the community came together.
Boston on the other hand is a big city full of life science organizations and large hospitals. Easy for a small organization to be lost in but just a month ago Dave Bjork accomplished his long held dream of getting a few biotech companies together and they created The FRAXA BioTech Games held on the lawn in front of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here, 40 teams of not yet household names in the life science space brought together more than 150 friends, vendors and employees to celebrate and to raise awareness of this lesser known disease called Fragile X. One gene (FMR1 if you want to know) shuts down and it’s Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common inherited cause of autism and intellectual disabilities. FRAXA, a non-profit organization puts better than 90 cents of every dollar raised directly into research. But these games brought together researchers, marketers and entrepreneurs who got a chance to learn about each other’s work and perhaps scout out the next serendipitous breakthrough.
Dave is a research evangelist who I have had the pleasure of working alongside on several research funding causes over the years and today he is Director of Community Relations at FRAXA. Fred and Sally were among the first people to introduce themselves and welcome me to their community with a pint at our friendly local Byrnes Irish Pub.
What they share in common is a deeply felt sense of gratitude, friendship and concern for their community along with a willingness to reach out and help wherever needed. Each raises the level of awareness to a point where one person’s action gets multiplied by hundreds of others who join in and bring success to a goal.
These folks create relevant conversations opening new pathways to discovery of a clinic, a medical protocol or a research opportunity that can help a person at the time they need this help the most. They raise awareness of devastating diseases that create members of a club nobody wants to belong to.
Big City versus small city, it still comes down to an individual taking action to raise awareness and make the difference. In both these examples, social media amplified both the message and the call to action. Word of Mouth increased the number of friends or colleagues who came out in support. And, most importantly, anyone involved could see the incredible cross-section of generations and cultures coming together in one place at the same time to make a difference.
I started 2018 with this column talking about Business Art and Technology and how getting all three working together can amplify the positive. My #BAT2018 recognition has gone to institutions like Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor and MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in Cambridge Massachusetts. Today I recognize individuals like Fred and Sally & Dave who make that same type of difference every single day. Sláinte – to your good health!