December 17, 2014

Tea with Toan: A Conversation About How Grief Leads to Generosity & Love (VIDEO)

Happy holidays everyone! ’Tis the season to be jolly right? I don’t mean to be a Grinch, but for many, the holidays are anything but merry. For me and many people I know, it’s a time when the hustle and bustle of the holidays — the glistening lights, Christmas cards and holiday parties — force us to reflect on our losses. Loss comes in many forms: loss of loved ones, a break-up, losing a job, etc.

For many years, the holidays were anything but happy for me.

Every October, just before the holidays as the leaves change, so does my spirit. Joy is the antithesis of what I felt going into the holidays. It’s the time of year when families and friends gather for feasts and schedules are packed with celebrations. It also a time when I’m reminded of my loved ones lost.

My father passed away in October of 2001. I was living in Wausau, Wisc., at the time. I remember the phone ringing. On the other end, my brother’s unrecognizable stoic voice muttered, “Toan, sit down. I have some bad news to tell you.

“Dad was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer. He has six months to live.”

The rest of the phone call was a blur. I was a reporter for the ABC local affiliate and I immediately met with my news director and told him I was going home to take care of my dying father.

Six long months ensued. Cold, dark, heavy emotions clouded my existence. Memories still haunt and taunt me, especially this time of year. The images remain fresh in my mind: shoving morphine down Dad’s throat, my Mom busting the door open in the middle of many nights, her face pale as snow, begging me to help her help my father get dressed as he was, yet again, getting rushed to the hospital because of the unbearable pain.

Six months after I got the call from my brother, my father passed away. I would lose three more family members in a year’s time: my aunt and both grandmothers.

Not a single holiday passes by that I don’t think of them.

So what do I do to get through this so called “holly, jolly, happy” time of year, a season that stirs up much of the grief?

I believe that all our experiences are like scattered dots. When we’re going through them, it’s hard to decipher the “Whys?” “How could haves?” and “Why me’s?”

Thirteen years since my personal tragedies, I can finally connect the dots thanks to my dear friend Marianna Cacciatore. She’s the author of “Being There for Someone in Grief: Essential Lessons in Supporting Someone Grieving from Death, Loss and Trauma,” host of the VoiceAmerica show "Ordinary People doing Extraordinary Deeds," and former Chief Inspiration Officer of the nonprofit Bread for the Journey, but I know her as a wise, grounded, kindred spirit and grief expert. She’s someone you want want by your side when grief strikes. None of us are immune.

Again, when I use the word loss, I’m not just talking about grieving the loss of a family member or friend. Rather, it’s the loss of anything you may have experienced; a job, family, friend, sexuality, your preconceived notions of what others wanted you to be or as a parent, it’s losing your freedom when having children.

For the first time, Marianna is sharing her story of loss at a young age — the brutal murder of a best friend. Through this tragic experience, Marianna shares her unique perspective on how grief leads to generosity and love.

Childhood best friend Susan Brady, left, and Marianna Cacciatore. Courtesy: Marianna Cacciatore

With the words, wisdom and voice remnant of Maya Angelou, Marianna eloquently explains the patterns she sees in the space of grief. She believes grief leads generosity and then — get ready for this — feeling a deep love. Now, what do the words “grief,” “generosity” and “love” have to do with one another? You’ll be surprised.

“I have observed that there is a natural relationship between grief and generosity,” she said. “And if the inspired impulse toward generosity is noticed and nurtured, it leads to an experience of belonging, connection and love that is life-changing and transformative.”

If you or anyone you know has or is experiencing grief and loss, please share this video with them, I know you’ll find it as cathartic as I have. This may be the best gift you can give to someone this holiday and all year round.

Grief is as unique as each person it touches. We all process and experience it differently. It gets scary, we lose ourselves in the emotions and there isn’t a clear route for any of us. But I can tell you first hand that Marianna’s observation holds true to my experience.

After letting myself grieve and heal over time, I took action when the time was right. Eight years after losing four family members, I felt a deep generosity that words can’t define. It transformed my life and changed the trajectory of where I’m at today and where I’m headed in the days to come. It sparked a curiosity, generosity and love through my passion work, my life’s work with Go Inspire Go, a multimedia movement to inspire kindness, compassion, generosity and action.

In the words of my wise friend Marianna, “It took time and concentration to learn to be there for someone in grief in a way that is welcomed and respectful. Lucky for me, I had great teachers. My deepest wish is that I have found just the right words to help you become a person who can be there for someone you know, perhaps someone you love, who needs your deep presence as they grieve.”

Marianna, thank you for being one of my greatest teachers and shedding light around a topic so taboo, dark and scary. Your bold words and wisdom, I will cherish in all my living days.

If you feel like this video and/or blog has helped you, please share with those you love, those who have lost and those who are lost in the shadows of grief.

Reflect & Act:

1. We're naturally generous. Notice when the impulse to be generous shows up & ACT on it. Let us know what you did! Tag: @goinspirego

2. Know someone who has experienced LOSS, share this video.

3. Learn More:, subscribe to her email list and share her message.

Marianna is currently writing her second book about grief, generosity and love. It explores the many losses and perceived failures we experience in a lifetime and how, when we do our important and necessary interior work to heal from the wounds of loss and failure, we can choose to have our heart break open instead of apart. Stay tuned to her website,, for news of when the book will be released.

October 31, 2014

Cape Crusaders: Empowering and Honoring Young Superheroes

If you had a superhero power, what would it be? What do you think of when you hear the word “hero”?

A quick search in one dictionary yielded this hilarious definition. Insert the lol, #smh and #omg here…
hero |ˈhi(ə)rō|
noun (pl. heroes)
A person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities: a war hero.
• the chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
• (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legends.
I chuckled at the “typically a man” and “male character” part.

The truth is, heroes are among us. We all possess heroic qualities. They’re the gifts that were given to us and come in many forms — through art, sports, talking, etc.

Heroes are ubiquitous. Many of them — or you — don’t even know one exists inside all of us. I recently spent the weekend with more than 150 heroes from kindergartners to adults at our cape-making extravaganza at Kent Middle School in Kentfield, Calif. Because generosity, kindness and helping others never goes out of fashion (neither do capes), we threw a party to make superhero capes for sick kids in the Bay Area.

Through Go Inspire Go, my non-profit, I was fortunate to have found two lead heroines, Kala Shah (my Community Heroes co-founder who piloted the program at her sons' Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, Calif.) and Melissa Stephens, to plan this big event. Melissa recently joined forces with us to bring the Community Heroes program to Kent Middle School where she teaches. The program helps kids find their inner superhero through service projects. It all starts by inspiring them with Go Inspire Go videos, a splash of excitement, enthusiasm and fun.

Our goal for the cape party was five-fold:

1. Inspire kids to find their power to give back while having fun.
2. Surprise and honor Nico Castro, 8, our Halloween hero.
3. Craft 250 handmade capes in honor of Nico. Capes will go to the two local UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, in San Francisco and Oakland.
4. Inspire viewers to do something nice for others.
5. All of this goodness will be wrapped up in a tester TV/Web pilot show — some networks are interested — stay tuned!

You may remember we featured Nico two years ago when he was a very ill 6-year-old. He was recovering from a brain tumor measuring a little more than four inches in diameter. In the throes of his illness, in true superhero fashion, Nico wanted to help others. At the time, Nico was undergoing five days of cancer treatment. His wish was to be Batman for Halloween and go trick-or-treating. But things got tricky and bittersweet when doctors granted him a day off from treatment to enjoy his favorite holiday.

He told his Mom and Dad he was sad because the other kids in the hospital didn’t get to dress up and go trick-or-treating. We got the bat signal and helped him bring Halloween to those kids. Grab a tissue, here’s what happened when we told his story and produced this story.

Back to the cape party… people came out of the woodwork to cut, glue and design capes. Others wrote cards with encouraging messages and packaged them for delivery. Some brought their talents to entertain the cape-making crusaders.

My friend Michael Ocampo sang a pop version of John Legend’s “All of You,” while Michael Pritchard, local comedian, healer and actor, made the audience laugh and shared the message of how being a true hero means serving others. His message: compassion, love and action — be good to one another.

After three hours of setup and an hour-and-a-half of cape-making, it was time to surprise our little superhero. Nico and his family had been waiting in a holding room and were now being escorted to the cape-making party.

It is said that the energy you put out is the energy that comes back to you. In this case, the energy in the room was vibrating at a frequency that could lift any hero — caped or not — to soaring heights.

As a quick hurrah, I told the kids that it was almost time to surprise Nico. “Everyone in this room is a hero,” I explained, and that as heroes, I asked them to do the following:

1. I signaled them to hold up a peace sign and said, “All heroes bring peace to our community.”
2. I asked them to put their hands over their heart because all heroes love and care and share with others.
3. Finally a fist in the air, because we all have the power — a gift — to do something to help others.

As I finished saying, “Are you ready to meet our little superhero?” the crowd cheered like the audience in an Oprah favorite things episode. “Nico! Nico! Nico!” they chanted.

Pow. Wow. The energy was explosive.

The doors busted open. I gave Nico a big hug. People crowded around us.

“Nico, you know why people are all here?” I asked.
He was dressed as Batman. I could see his little eyes through his mask, taking it all in.

“They’re here because you inspired the superhero in them. They came here today to make capes to honor you and what you did for the kids in the hospital. When you care and share with others, they care and share with you.”

I told him that he was the hardest hero to hook up because in true superhero fashion, everything he wished for was for others instead of for himself.

“So I did some investigating and found out that the cancer and treatment made it harder for you to learn. That’s OK, because when you listen to your heart, it will guide you and you will do the right thing. So, thanks to our friends at LeapFrog, they wanted you to have the LeapPad3, fully loaded with the latest games to make learning easier for you.”

“Wow,” said Nico.

“And, I heard you wanted a puppy, but not for yourself?”

“Yeah,” agreed Nico.

“I heard you wanted a puppy for your dog Willy, so he could have a friend, right? Julian Wolff from The Peninsula Humane Society is here to introduce you to your new puppy, Lucky!”

At this point, we were on cuteness overload! Tears from kids and adults alike rushed down their faces. Tears of joy. Healing, loving, compassionate energy gave us the courage and tingly feeling I imagine superheroes get when they use their power to help.

The thing is, we don’t need a cape or any other materials to make a difference. A hero and everything that comes along with the true definition of the word is already within you. You were born with it.

When you exercise that heart muscle, you too will be guided.

My hope is that in doing so — discovering that hero in you — like Nico, you will give others the permission to see and feel and be the hero you were brought here to be.

Peace. Love. Power to you all!

What will YOU do?

* Special Thanks: Castro family, Peninsula Humane Society, Leap Frog, Kala Shah, Melissa Stephens, Sean Stephens, Kacy Brod, Frank Siebenlist, Peter Shaplen, Chris Hill, Julian Wolff, Paul Miller, Michael Pritchard, Lisa Sandberg, Skip Kniesche, Liz Schott, Priya Patel, Jennifer Schumacher, Jamie Ybarra, Luis Pena-Philippides, Lee Tran, Andrew Sundling, Hoa Tran, Kevin Lee, Barbara Grandvoinet, Mike Ocampo, Rico Corona, Debbi Spungen, Melissa Ament, Rahul Kannan, Dora Wong, Gina Pell, Dave Pell, Gary Tellalian & every superhero who was a part of this event.

* Big shout out to the Salesforce Foundation, which sent employee reinforcements to participate in the event and donated cape materials as well as to the Coca-Cola Foundation, which supplied in-kind donations for the event.

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September 17, 2014

When the Student Becomes the Teacher

I believe we are all students. In the words of the great poet Maya Angelou, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” I hope what we learn, we teach.

After all, disguised in our everyday day-to-day, we are all seekers. Everyone is put on earth to discover our highest calling and everyone deserves to live the biggest, most fulfilling life possible. But some of us get lost along the way. Some bury themselves with work, others consume uncontrollably and amass debt, while others don’t sit still and listen to the intelligence in the quiet during challenging times.

When I was a hyper-busy TV reporter, I had to quiet my mind by running through the wooded Presidio area here in San Francisco. This quiet time allowed me process what was going right and what wasn’t right (trust me, there was more of the latter at the time).

A series of miracles occurred which led me to my life’s work, my calling, which I call Go Inspire Go. It started with a thought: I want to use my power -- storytelling and connecting with people on a purposeful, deeper level to spark action and do good -- for a helpful cause. Then one volunteer came along. Fast forward five years, we have more than 100 volunteers and this lovely program we call “Community Heroes,” a lesson on compassion for the youth co-created with a Marin Mom and soul sister, Kala Shah.

We recently met Melissa Stephens, a teacher at Kent Middle School in Marin County. Melissa is the definition of Maya Angelou’s “Get, give. Learn, teach” message.

After meeting Melissa and feeling her energy, Kala and I knew that she would be the perfect person to expand our message and chose her school to become the flagship middle school for our Community Heroes program.

Melissa is all about “being the person you needed when you were younger.” Her classroom is a fortress fun of goodness, an environment that allows kids to connect on an authentic level, show their gratitude and just be. It’s filled with fun things such as a “Gratitude Tree” where you would “leaf” a message of gratitude, and a full length “Check Yourself Mirror” where students who look in the mirror have to follow through with a set of action items, such as telling Mrs. Stephens something awesome about themselves.

After our meeting, Melissa texted Kala and me to tell us about an amazing experience that unfolded in her classroom as we said our goodbyes. A student, whom we will call “Bobby,” brought Melissa lunch. We thought it was sweet, but didn’t realize the deeper meaning -- Bobby is on the free lunch program.

I asked Melissa to blog and share her sentiments about it. Sparking compassion and action is what the Community Heroes program is all about. It touched me deeply, and in a way healed me also.

Kala, Melissa & Toan

I was on the free lunch program from Kindergarten to 12th grade. I was embarrassed and would hide my little blue ticket that fed me daily. Now that shame has dissipated.

Thanks for sharing your story, your classroom and your light Mrs. Stephens. You’ve inspired and rewired me to extend myself more to the youth and be the person I needed when I was younger.

-- Toan Lam

By Melissa Stephens

I have been gifted with the opportunity to write this guest blog for the incomparable Toan, and the gratitude I feel to share this particular story is overwhelming. It is a story of love, service and the ultimate gift of self.

This is my 20th year of teaching, but I must say that the passion I feel and the inspiration I am filled with is more representative of a new teacher’s optimism and zest for the profession than one who has been at it for a score.

It is easy to get burnt out in education. Long hours, short budgets and challenging situations test even the hardiest of educators. But I work at a school with incredible colleagues, extremely supportive administrators and beautiful kids who have so much spirit and joy that I wake up each day excited to go to work.

While I have taught several grade levels over my two-decade span, I have worn a variety of hats the past two years with a delicious combo platter of roles at our middle school. I teach fifth grade Language Arts, English Language Development (ELD) for fifth through eighth grade, and am the Student Activities Director for the entire school. While I love every position, I believe it is the last one that has afforded me the biggest opportunity to serve my life’s purpose.

Melissa as the "Fierce Falcon" Mascot

We are often asked as teachers to explain our philosophy of teaching. For 20 years, I have tried to do just that but could never quite nail it down to encompass what my style is all about. My colleagues could rattle off Ed Code and different education gurus’ methods, while I would be frantically trying to say, “I just want to create an environment for my kids that makes them want to come to school” in a way that sounded intelligent and “teacherly.” Because honestly, that is my whole philosophy: make it fun, and the rest will follow.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when my brother sent me a quote he found that perfectly summed up why I teach. It read, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” Gut punch. Took my breath away. That was it. This is exactly why I teach and precisely what drives me to create a space for my kids (and yes…my students are my kids) where they feel safe, loved, and supported.

It is this exact passion that spurred the Student Activities room and all it offers the student body. It is a place where kids can come during lunch and recess to relax, chat and take a break from the struggle that can be middle school. So it is extremely fitting that Toan happened to be in my room for a Go Inspire Go meeting with Kala and me when the lunch bell rang and kids began streaming in.

The first one in the room was a boy I will call “Bobby.” He was in my ELD class a few years ago, but has since tested out. Still, he comes to my room every day to hang out and catch me up on the latest middle school happenings for him.

A quick side note: normally when I recount stories from teaching, they are riddled with humor and sass. See, I have also done stand up comedy for some time, and even took a leave from teaching a few years ago to write, produce and star in an original one woman comedy show about teaching in an affluent area. However, to retell this story of Bobby with anything but total reverence would be a sin, so I will treat it, and him, with the utmost respect. Now back to the story.

When Bobby came in, I introduced him to Toan and Kala and said, “These are the people who are going to skyrocket our [student body’s] community service!” Then I told Toan and Kala, “And this is my pal who keeps me company at lunch.” Bobby just smiled, said hello then dropped something on my desk. When Toan and Kala left, I had a chance to see what it was. And what it was brought tears to my eyes.

See, Bobby does not come from money like most of the students in our school. He also does not have the same skin color as the majority of his classmates. Life is not easy for him, but I swear his smile is one of the brightest you’ll ever find. This year, something must have changed at home for him because his mom used to drop off his lunch, or I would share mine with him. But now he is on our free lunch program, and what he dropped on my desk was just that. When I looked at him questioningly, he whispered in my ear, “They said I could take two today if I wanted to. Dunno why, but I felt like you needed one.”

And in fact, I did.

See, I hadn’t had time to pack a lunch that morning, so my husband was going to drop one off for me. But his day got crazy, so he was unable to. My stomach was growling by the time lunch rolled around, so this unexpected gift could not have come at a better time.

It was so beautiful, so selfless, so giving that it not only filled my belly but it flooded my heart and soul. He who has so little gave me what he could. This is the spirit of true service. This is what I know in my heart Go Inspire Go is all about.

And so we sat together, eating our matching sandwiches, content in the knowing that we would always be there for each other to lift each other up when we needed it and to give what we could of ourselves.

Twenty years later and I know this above all else: my students are my greatest teachers.

Take Action:

1. Share this blog with your community/kids.

2. Do one kind thing for someone and use #goinspirego to let us know what you did.

3. Start your own Community Heroes Club:

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Join our movement & Go Inspire Go…

August 21, 2014

First Day of School Inspiration: Blossoming Community Heroes

There’s one word to describe how parents, guardians and heck, aunties and uncles (since I don’t have any kiddos myself) are feeling as another school year gets underway: "Nervouscited."

"Nervous" + "Excited" = "Nervouscited" nerves of yours. That’s how my sister Lynn Billett says my adorably sassy niece Serena describes this feeling as she started her first day of kindergarten this week.

As you wipe your tears and drop off your kids, I ask you one question. It’s a challenge and invitation. It seems this question is ubiquitous among my mommy and daddy friends: How do I raise GOOD, value-oriented kids? I’m sure you’re busy and bustling, but isn’t this the goal of all parentals?

That’s why Kala Shah, Marin Super Momma of three, and I created the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes program. Here’s a lovely blog she wrote about her experience as we embark on the third year of Community Heroes and a video about how one of the lessons on generosity blossomed!

--Toan Lam, Chief Inspirator

By Kala Shah

On Mondays when I host the Community Heroes lunch club at Sun Valley School in San Rafael, California, I usually get a tad nervous. As I open the library door and await the lunch bell, I hold my breath. Will anyone show up? If they do, can I continue to keep these kids interested? Am I indeed sowing the seeds of compassion or is this all just going in one ear and out the other?

To this point -- keeping fingers crossed this will continue -- my fears have been laid to rest when I see waves of adorable little people tearing across the school yard, clutching their lunch boxes, clamoring for the best seat in the room. Their smiles and enthusiasm melt my anxieties, give me courage and boost my energy. The 45 minutes seem to fly by.

Imagine having 25-45 kids sit on the floor in a crowded room, eat lunch, ask questions and have meaningful discussions and activities about serious community issues (and yes, while the parent facilitator concurrently helps open yogurts and tight Tupperware lids, directs crumb and spill clean-up, grants permission to go to the bathroom and breaks up little skirmishes over who gets to sit on the coveted Panda pillow/chair.)

One of my challenges is that the kids are so eager to DO something. Like right then and there. Around Valentine’s Day last year, I decided we needed to take some immediate real action during club hours, rather than just ponder the problems of the world and what we COULD (and plan to) do. The theme I chose? Small, random acts of kindness.

I had planned to pick up a couple of flower bouquets to demonstrate how little gestures can make a difference. When I stopped by Trader Joe’s, it occurred to me that they may be willing to help out a little. The store manager Sheila told me they normally donate their flowers to another organization, but that day she decided to help our cause. She came out of the back storeroom with a huge bag full of more than 30 beautiful bouquets. Ask and ye shall receive. I was completely overwhelmed by her generosity and utterly excited to show the kids this mountain of gorgeous and fragrant flowers!

And here’s how our kindness experiment went…love the reactions of the unsuspecting recipients!

We found that small, random acts of kindness can completely shift someone’s day. Doing something unexpected and nice for someone else is a simple gift we could all give. The kids discovered they felt so much joy in return and it's something they begged to do again for Valentine's Day this year. We should all try to do a little something kind and spontaneous more often! It’s so easy and you never know what you may inspire in others.

Take Action:

1. Share this blog & video with your community/kids.

2. Do one kind thing for someone today and use #goinspirego to let us know what you did.

3. Start your own Community Heroes Club:

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Join our movement & Go Inspire Go…

August 13, 2014

Robin Williams: A Legacy of Laughter and Lament

By Toan Lam

I was leaving my CrossFit Box after a harder-than-normal workout and checked my cell phone to see a news alert that Robin Williams passed away. My heart sank in disbelief and I was overcome with sadness. I viscerally felt a shock, the jolt of a familiar friend who was now gone. I thought, “Say it ain’t so.”

Truth is, I never met Robin Williams. The only encounter I had was seeing him at a sushi bar in the Richmond District of San Francisco. I vividly remember people around him laughing out loud and enjoying themselves. Maybe through his humor, through “Mork & Mindy,” “Mrs. Doubtfire, “Birdcage” and other movies and interviews, I felt a deeper connection to him. It seems everyone I have spoken to since his passing had a story of when the comic genius brought light into their lives. I may not have known him personally, but I will always remember how he made me feel.

A quote by the late author and poet Maya Angelou comes to mind. “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I’ve been obsessed with the reports that ensued. Comments flooded my social media accounts. People recounted their memories with him. Pictures, short stories and links to articles of depression filter in. I try to think of something positive -- perhaps this is opening up a dialogue about mental illness and depression. But my heart remains heavy.

It seemed that he was not only a funny man in public, he lived this out in his interactions with others. My friend Michelle Kennedy wrote about her encounter with him on her Facebook feed:

"Is it weird if I ask you to take a picture with us?" she asked.

"Only if you don’t have a camera," he said. Robin Williams R.I.P.

Robin Williams shares a moment with Julia Stuart, left, and
Michelle Kennedy. Photo courtesy of Michelle Kennedy.

Jim Norton wrote this poignant article about his encounter with Williams — how he made him feel in the crazy competitive world of comedy.

It seems like there are more questions than answers. Maybe the answers won’t all be answered.

It seems that Robin Williams has publicly talked about his addiction to drugs and alcohol, but didn’t talk much about his depression.

I immediately thought, “How does such a happy-go-lucky person so beloved and adored by fans do the unfathomable and end his own life?”

It seemed he didn’t know how much people loved him. Perhaps he didn’t know how much joy he brought to people’s lives. Perhaps that wasn’t enough.

It’s been a difficult month for me. My close family friend’s mother passed away from cancer, other friends of friends lost loved ones from suicide, sudden death during sleep and other accidents. Having lost four family members in about a year’s time, I know that unfortunately (and fortunately) death brings people together.

It’s inspiring to have witnessed people mobilize in person and online to make donations, help family and friends cope, and set up funds for surviving children. Likewise, it's moving to see the outpouring of support, people sharing stories about Williams' warmth, charm and pizzaz. While we don’t know what happens when our spirit leaves our bodies, I know that what connects us all are the stories that people keep in their hearts. This is their legacy. What do you want your legacy to be?

I invite you to share how you're healing and how you're honoring his life.

This made me think — life is too short and I too, need to make a concerted effort with the following:

1. I wonder if Robin Williams ever knew the magnitude of the impact he had on others. Did he know and FEEL the love that loved ones, colleagues and strangers had for him? I realize I need to tell more people I love that I love them and better yet, share stories with people about how they make me feel. (Why wait till someone is gone to share?) We'd love to hear, just #GoInspireGo so we can share.

2. We as humans need to do a better job at understanding and helping those with mental illnesses. Write a check, donate your time and talents and/or share information about mental illness and depression. To start, here’s an interesting article from Time.

3. We should laugh more. Tell a joke, rent a funny movie, don’t take life too seriously. Life is too short!

* Please share this blog and tag a friend, telling them a quick story about how and why they make you feel good/happy/joyful.

To Robin Williams, rest in peace amongst the stars. You were a star, a spark and class act. #oneofakind #depression #suicide #mentalillness

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July 16, 2014

Shedding My 'Ugly Truth' Through CrossFit — One Pain, One Pound at a Time

By Toan Lam

For most of my life, I hated my body. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Ugh. Imagine not liking the only body you've got  for 35 years. It wasn't until one year ago, after I enrolled at the San Francisco CrossFit box (that's lingo for gym) and faced my mental and physical fears, that I can really say I LOVE my whole body. Walking past windows, I would catch a glimpse of my reflection. I saw an awkward, chubby boy with bad posture. I was the kid who would always keep his shirt on at the beach and wear oversized T-shirts to disguise my belly fat.

Two family members told me early on that I was "ugly" and "fat." "Your face is flat." "Look at your big belly, it's gross." They even made up a song pointing out why they thought I was ugly. I pretended to ignore it and acted like it didn't bother me. It hurt deep inside.

The truth is, looking back at old pictures, I was never overweight or ugly. But I felt like it.

I think all of us have a little boy or girl inside us who comes into our consciousness as adults. That child visits us and is the bridge to our childhood insecurities. The "little boy" inside me is about 10 years old… that awkward age just before puberty. This boy was believed the lies and felt fat and ugly.

Fortunately, the lies and low self-esteem never manifested into deadly disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.

There were a few key factors to working past this part of my life:

1. Surrounding myself with people who aren’t toxic  people who lift me, inspire me and love me. People like Lynn Billett, my sister who inspired me to love myself from the inside out. She was a shining example of getting fit the right way and incorporating healthy eating and exercise as a kid, so it’s habitual when you’re an adult. All you adults know that after 30, your metabolism and energy aren’t as rockstar-ish as your 20s. She now inspires others through her words and stories at her website,

2. I didn't go to a psychologist to help me get through this mental torture. Instead, I talked to many trusted people in my life. I realized what those family members said wasn't about me. It was about them and their own insecurities.

3. CrossFit. This week marks the end of Year 1 of this lifestyle change. I started with the basics, training with coach John Post at the San Francisco CrossFit.
I know some of you may think it’s a #cult. Don't believe the myths! These other words and hashtags also come to mind:


Sure, it’s good to see a physician and read up on the possible dangers of a workout routine. But it’s also important to find something that works for you.

Visiting CrossFit 5th Ave., New York City

In the past year, I’ve seen social media posts that would scare even the strongest of Olympic athletes.

One article that went viral was about a CrossFit clown, a.k.a. "Uncle Rhabdo," an unofficial mascot who is commonly referred to within the CrossFit community. Rhabdo sounds like a cool new dance trend right? According to WebMD, Rhabdo (or Rhabdomyolysis) is defined as "a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from a breakdown of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as kidney failure and in rare cases, even death." One of my most physically fit friends shared this message on Facebook after reading the article: "This is why I will never do CrossFit." I had a visceral reaction to this post  which is huge  because I don't generally let things alter my mood that quickly. #namaste.”

Then I received an email from a friend who attached that article and wrote, "Hey hon, I saw this and read it and made me a little concerned, so sending it your way." This prompted me to share my story about CrossFit and address these concerns.

Dat, John & Me

I was inspired to try CrossFit because my brother Dat is a CrossFit athlete. Likewise, my friends Doreen Hess and Rob Mayeda's Facebook status updates and photos on social media amplified my interest. But I was still SCARED! I Googled local boxes and watched many videos and got even more scared. I passed by the San Francisco CrossFit box and heard weights slamming, people grunting and athletes climbing rope. The scene was out of a Hunger Games trailer. The little boy visited my thoughts and I became embarrassed of my belly.

After a lot of thought, conversations and sweaty palms, I thought, maybe I could face my CrossFit fears and at least give it a try. My eagerness to face my fears and challenge myself mentally and physically overpowered that little voice.

Before signing up for regular Level 1 classes, S.F. CrossFit requires that you enroll in Basics  a two-week introductory course to train aspiring athletes correct form, safety and how the movements apply to your life (such as minding your posture while driving and sitting at your desk and how to lift things in awkward positions).

After the first class, I started getting addicted in a good way. Finally, I felt like I was learning how to exercise efficiently and properly. This whole time, I’ve been doing pull-ups, push-ups and squats all incorrectly.

I was sore for two straight months, but it was a good kind of sore.

Within two weeks, I noticed a huge difference physically, mentally and spiritually.

Just a few months later, I could confidently climb rope, (sort of) do a handstand, pull-up, snatch, clean, jerk, etc. I surprised myself because one class I was doing assisted pull-ups with a band and the next, I was doing three kipping pull-ups. Woot! Little milestones like this keep me inspired to come back. There is also a sense of community that comes along with being a CrossFitter. Each class at my box starts with handshakes, greetings and meeting new people. Then the coach goes over the Workout of the Day (WOD). Many times you're paired with a partner to keep you motivated. During the workout, the coach walks around correcting form and teaching proper technique.

I can go on forever about how exercise has physically challenged and changed me. But above all, spiritually, this has been a lesson of evolving, facing my fears and feeling deserving to (as my sister says) be proud of and own the body that houses my soul, that takes you to the next day, the next dimension. My brother explained it best: “CrossFit is like the software for your body, which is the computer.” Gotta love computer programmers.

Kelly Starrett, founder MobilityWOD/Crossfit S.F.

I noticed that a year later, I’m still ever more present and aware of my form and posture. I eat better and more regularly. I felt my body composition change. My body is more toned, tummy is trimmer and of course, one of the best outcomes (aside from being healthy) is a new wardrobe. All my clothes that were tight are now so loose!

I not only shed the weight and fear of going in the box and becoming a part of this vibrant, energetic community, the training taught me to face my fears and confront (my two family members) and verbalize how much the words hurt me. The fear turned into forgiveness. It wasn't about me afterall. It was their insecurities pushed upon me. Once heavy words that no longer weigh me down.

It took many years for me to work past the mental struggle of being teased and taunted from those two family members. I think somehow CrossFit was the final leg of the journey to a new me. The "I love me inside and out" person that I have grown to love.

This is the first summer that I’m OK with ditching the shirt (on the beach) and saying goodbye to the little boy who once believed the lies.

Take Action:

1. Be careful with your words. They can be used for good or evil. They have impact on you and those you touch.

2. #CrossFit is the lifestyle that works for me, it involves community, is sustainable because everyday is different and it challenges my physical and mental self. If you're interested, check out a box near you and if it isn't for you, find something that will help you move your body efficiently and have FUN!

3. Try not to react when you face negative teachers in life. Usually it's about them  their insecurities  not you. Identify them, learn not to be like them. You know you're awesome!

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Join our movement & Go Inspire Go…

June 14, 2014

Happy Father's Day: Rest in Peace Dad, I'm Now at Peace

By Toan Lam

Toan, age 5, in #12 shirt with family
If you've ever lost a parent, you probably dread Mother's Day and Father's Day and any other holiday that reminds you of your loved ones.

I lost my Dad to stomach cancer in 2001. That year was a blur to me as I lost Dad, Auntie and both grandmothers all in about a year's time. I'm surprised I survived that experience. I hardly remember anything from that time. I can only recollect moving to L.A. to live on a friend's couch and losing my voice for two months (that's a big deal, if you know me, I LOVE to talk).

I can't believe it's been 13 years since the sadness and sorrow. The only thing worse is the burden of unfinished business with Dad that I too will have to take to my grave one day.

But this Father's Day, I can finally say that I am at peace with Dad. Thanks to two friends -- angels on Earth really -- one of whom was a complete stranger who helped me let go of the unsettled business I had with pops.

I met Fiona "Love" Pattison at a castle during my friends Cathy Hue and Julian Shah-Tayler's wedding in Durham, England. Yes, a real castle - what a fantastic backdrop for our friendship to develop. Our connection was even more magical. I knew she was an evolved soul. I felt like we've known each other since we were kids. We connected over storytelling, good deeds and our genuine love of all things artsy fartsy.

She said, "The world needs this now, more than ever. There is a shift happening. What you're doing with storytelling and social media is really special." Immediately, she vowed to help with public relations and spread the news of Go Inspire Go in the U.K. She pitched a story, connected me to the talented filmmaker Oli Cohen, and the rest was history. Here's the story we produced about a fabulous couple who created a Compassionate Tea Movement:

That experience was extra special because so many lovely happenings manifested from our meeting. For the first time, I didn't carry a camera with me during my travels. I wanted to produce a story about all the compassion that came out of the 2011 London riots before meeting Fiona, but, ironically, I had an accident where hot tea spilled and burned off the first layer of skin on my foot. There was no way I could carry gear and navigate the Tube. It was pure kismet that she pitched the same story and connected me to the interviewees and Oli!

Since this experience, we've been spirit siblings. No doubt about it. Connected at a higher vibration and level. Fast forward two years… I had a Go Inspire Go social media photo walk to meet some of our biggest supporters in the San Francisco community.

One viewer and fan, Michael Fullam, asked, "Wow, what do your parents think of your success?" I told him, although I created a global multimedia platform to highlight everyday humanitarians and leverage social media to inspire social change and action, teach multimedia and storytelling at two universities, and share my blogs on the Huffington Post and, my mom didn't really fully comprehend what I do. I replied, "I tell my mom I do stories about people helping people." She still asks, in her adorable Chinese accent, "Oh, good. You make money yet?"

Michael asked me about my Dad and what he thought about this. I told him my father passed and doesn't know about what I'm doing. "I'm sure he's proud of you," Michael assured me. This made me sad -- yet another reminder of one of the last conversations I had with Dad replayed like a bad sitcom rerun in my head.

I told Michael that I quit my first TV reporting job to take care of Dad when I found out he had six months to live. I remember seeing him for the first time after moving back home. He was in the hospital bed. "Hi Dad, how are you?" I asked cautiously. A noisy clock's second hand was ticking in slow motion. I expected him to embrace me, hug me, tell me he loved me and say he was proud of my accomplishments as a TV reporter. It felt like a smack in the face when he said, "When are you going to be a doctor?" Really? That is the first thing he was going to say to me? UGH! I realized nothing had changed.

The day after Michael asked me about my Dad, Fiona called. We hadn't talked for about six months. She pinged me on Facebook and said she wanted to tell me something. We jumped on Skype. She told me, "I was putting the kettle on and got a hit. Your Dad wanted me to tell you that he was proud of you." What the? How could this be a coincidence? #Chills

The second person who helped me process my father's death was a complete stranger at the time. I met Gina Pell through my good friend and Community Heroes co-founder, Kala Shah. We met at a cafe/bakery in Ross, Calif. Gina offered to coach me about branding and business development.

She too asked me if my parents were impressed by the work I've been doing. I told her the same story I told Michael. She interrupted me and said, "Wait, did you ever think that your Dad was being sarcastic? I know that he was very proud of you. And he knows that you are a doctor now." I was perplexed. "A Doctor of the Spirit. You have helped so many people reconnect to their spirit and see their power and help people," she continued.

Tears ran down my eyes. We hugged. Instantly, more than three decades of the need to please my Dad and not feeling like I was good enough were lifted from me. I felt light. The tears washed away my sadness. Alas, I finally felt at peace with Dad.

Toan's Dad and family (Toan was only a twinkle in his parents' eyes)

Memories of conversations with the hospice nurse and priest my father befriended resurfaced. When I met them, they instantly knew who I was. They knew that I was a successful TV reporter, the youngest son, the kid whom he loved with every fiber of his being.

Before Dad took his last breath, he gave one last piece of advice: "We were all born with music in our hearts. It's our responsibility to share it with the world before we die."

I discovered that my melody lies in the heart of human communication. What brings me joy is connecting with people through reading, writing and talking. I share it with the world through Go Inspire Go. What music is in your heart and how are you sharing it?

This is one of the biggest spiritual lessons I've learned.

Here are five takeaways:

-I learned to forgive.

-I learned to make time for loved ones (even if you have to schedule them in) because life is fleeting.

-I learned that despite the cultural and generational barriers that got in the way of fully understanding our quirks, we did the best that we could.

-I learned that my father and auntie and both grandmothers will always be with me. Albeit not in the physical form, their values, spirit and goodness will live through me and my actions.

-I learned that I am their legacy... and my legacy will always be passed on through everybody who has been touched by my words, my voice and my story.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I know you're up there, glowing with pride, smiling at me.


Your son,
Toan, "The Soul Doctor"

P.S. Thank you to all my friends, you truly are angels -- the light in my dark times.

Please share your thoughts and memories about "Dad" in the comments section or via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Join our movement & Go Inspire Go…

May 6, 2014

Happy National Teacher Day: 3 Teachers Who Changed My Life

By Toan Lam

I think every day should be World Teacher Day. But today, I'll take this moment to honor all of the teachers on this National Teacher Day. As a university instructor, I know that I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. They too, are my teachers. We'd love to hear stories of how a teacher has impacted your life. But first, here are three teachers who have changed the trajectory of my life. I hope by sharing their stories, you too, will learn a lesson or two from them.

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” —Dr. Maya Angelou

Eloquent, simple, deep. This quote defines the foundation in which I live, both in my personal and professional life. I’ve had a lot of job titles in the past. My first job was selling rattan baskets at a flea market with my uncle. Then there was the movie theater, financial aid officer in college, waiter, retail cashier, instructor at the Academy of Art University and University of San Francisco, host/reporter of a PBS show, TV reporter and currently, "Chief Inspirator" of Go Inspire Go. The list goes on, but there’s an underlying theme to all of the jobs — teacher.

As a child growing up in a lower socio-economic area of South Sacramento, I had three dreams that I kept quietly inside: be a TV reporter in a big city, do anything related to PBS (PBS was a teacher of sorts — I learned English and was entertained by Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood), and be a teacher. Dreams I was embarrassed to share because they weren't the American dreams my parents had for me.

Looking back, I can’t help but get chills writing this blog. Why? Because, despite my sordid start, I achieved all three dreams (and more) by the age of 30. When I was 10, I remember how I had thought that my voice DID NOT matter. Who would want to listen to this Chinese boy’s message? What did I have to say that was of worth anyway? I didn’t think I had a message or a gift to give anyone.

Little did I know that I would manifest my dreams ten-fold. Yes, I am literally a teacher at the university level, but I feel like I'm teaching and learning from every facet of my life as the founder of Go Inspire Go and through our Go Inspire Go "Community Heroes" Youth Lesson on Compassion program.

I believe everyone we meet are our teachers — everybody! The nice, and even not so pleasant folks, teach us something and add value to our lives. I had many teachers along the way. Here are three who impacted my life personally, professionally and spiritually.

1. Ma (my grandmother)

Ah Ma was my father’s mother who helped raised us. She struggled more than anyone I’ve ever met. She lost her husband in her early 20s, fled China and became homeless with three children. She would eventually outlive all five of her children. Throughout all the heartache and challenges, she always seemed to embody a sense of joy. I remember being by her side throughout my childhood soaking in her grandmotherly wisdom. She instilled morals, values and life lessons through her stories, wounds and words. She taught me to be kind, humble and live in balance. She was my first hero.

Toan Lam and his grandmother

2. Carolyn Weber

Carolyn is a tall, beautiful, wickedly intelligent woman who was an assistant professor at my alma mater, the University of San Francisco. She was the first person to validate my obsession with the art of human connection, creative writing and helped me discover my gift for connecting with people through conversation.

Growing up with immigrant Asian parents who wanted me to be a “doctor, lawyer, engineer” was stressful. Secretly, I wanted to do something with words instead. I wanted to become a writer, journalist and teacher. When I was younger, I would often read the words on shampoo bottles aloud in the shower: “Rinse, lather, repeat.” I would read my favorite children’s books aloud, pretending to give each one a unique voice. I would dream that one day, I could tell everyone stories for a living and use the power I knew I had to help people realize their own power.

Carolyn Weber
Taking Carolyn’s class ignited the power inside of me. I remember the first assignment: write a one-page paper about a moment in your life that changed you. I don’t remember what I wrote about — that’s how petrified I was that she would expose me. Scenarios played in my 20-something-year-old head as to how she would react and rip me a new one. I feared that she would tell me that I didn’t belong in her class.

The next week, I sauntered to her class, palms sweaty, heart beating, blurred vision. She handed me the paper and in perfect red penmanship it read, “You are such a gifted and lively writer. What will you do with your talents?”

For the first time in my life, someone validated my passion and my gift, which became an integral part of my life’s work.

3. Oprah

Although I haven’t met Lady O (yet), she has had a huge impact on my young self. As a kid, I didn’t see any Asian male TV hosts and very few Asian males on TV. I remember watching most of her shows, even the ones that didn’t resonate with me (like the “Are you wearing the wrong bra?” episode) so I could study the way she read the prompter and connected to her viewers and audience. It didn’t seem like she was reading, rather, it seemed she was just talking to us.

I realized that she wasn’t in the business of TV. Her show was the vehicle to deliver the stories to her fans. She was in the business of connecting people. It didn’t seem to matter whether she was interviewing celebrities like Julia Roberts or a homeless, transgendered person. She still made you feel their pain and celebrate their triumphs.

She taught me about being my authentic self, having the courage to follow my passion and to use my talents — and platform — to serve humanity. The trajectory of my life changed after hearing her say, “Once you know, you can’t pretend you don’t.” Those words planted the seed for what I do today.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was: If you give yourself permission to dream, dare to follow your passion and set your intentions into action, you manifest what Oprah says is the “fullest expression of yourself.”

I think the highest honor and the biggest gift you can give to others is to teach them something that’s added value to your life. It is then that the gift will be regifted. I learned that you don't have to be rich or famous to make a difference. Although it would be fabulous to say, "You get a car, and you get a car." LOL.

I have the best job in the world through Go Inspire Go. I discover everyday heroes, tell their authentic stories and leverage social media so that my viewers discover and use their true powers to help others. It’s because of these phenomenal teachers in my life that I’ve become my fullest self. I’ve found joy. That’s why I teach and that’s why I give. It doesn't get better than that!

Take Action

We want to hear stories of how a teacher has impacted your life. Share below or tweet using hashtags #GoInspireGo and #NationalTeacherDay.

Hit share if you care, please share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.

Join our movement & Go Inspire Go…

April 24, 2014

Igniting the Power within YOU and YOUR Community

What’s your power?

It’s a loaded question, but if you are brave and present enough to try and answer this question, the trajectory of your whole life could transform.

Like nature, our lives are filled with wonder. The intelligence, connectedness and energy surrounding every cell in our bodies has a purpose. And while there’s beauty in nature, there is also chaos. That’s OK. Become friends with chaos, as it will lead you to the blossoms and fruit you’re intended to bear.

I believe we are all here on Earth for a reason. We are called to something bigger than we could ever imagine.

It took me a lot of struggle and I’ve had more than my fair share of chaos culminating in my life before finding my passion work, @GoInspireGo. I learned that my power is inspiring people to discover their power and sparking them to use it to help others.

One of those people is Kala Shah, whom I met two years ago at a LinkedIn networking event. She, like many parents, felt overwhelmed. With three kids under eight-years-old — two of them, rambunctious twins — who could blame her?

She told me that beyond juggling her daily schedule -- shuttling kids around, running the house, being a good friend, family and community member -- she was looking for that next step in her career that would allow her to keep life in balance. Deep down inside, she was also searching for ways to teach her kids about gratitude, compassion and service.

Be careful what you wish for! Like a flower needs a bee, we found one another. I told her that I was creating a lesson on compassion for the youth through my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go, and wanted to get my message into schools.

She invited me to speak at her kids' school, Sun Valley Elementary in San Rafael, Calif., about being a community hero -- how everyone has the power to use their talents to help others. Of course, we captured it on video. The seeds of an innovative, creative and inspirational program was born. With a lot of planning, elbow grease and organizing, two years later the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes Club has taken root in her community and blossomed into a model program to engage young kids in community service. All the while having a lot of fun!

Kala vowed to meet with the kids every other week during their lunch hour to give them a platform to organize their thoughts and take action:

1. She shows them a Go Inspire Go video.
2. They talk about this problem (the video presents in their community).
3. They brainstorm ways to be the change.
4. They take action -- collecting clothes, toys and household goods and money while partnering with local trusted non-profits.
5. We share their good works on social media.

Words can’t describe the excitement in the kids’ eyes as Kala meets with them. The jubilation in the room as kids brainstorm how they can be of service to others is magical.

My hope is that this video will inspire you to ask yourself two simple, but life altering questions: “What is my power?” and “How can I use it to help others?” The result: JOY. I promise. Dare to click on this video below and own your power.

I know that every one of us has a bee-like mentality. We are searching (and are here) for a purpose. We want to find that purpose, be validated, feel loved and innately, we want to share it. Kala’s light was dim when I met her more than two years ago. As you can see in the Community Heroes videos, her light is powered on a higher voltage now. And while Kala’s, the kids’ and the community’s futures seem bright, they are the ones illuminating it all along.

Thanks to a LinkedIn innovation grant, Kala and I are piloting this youth program (and digital toolkit) at Sun Valley School. We are working on bringing this program to other schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Eventually, we'll expand the program into middle schools and high schools, where the kids will create videos and snap pics of their own to share via social media. Community heroes -- coming soon to your neighborhood! It's easy, it's fun and it's impactful. Come join us!

Take Action:

Whether you're a parent or have a youngster in your life, watch and feel reinvigorated to challenge yourself to be a change agent.

Join our movement. More info:

March 6, 2014

Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero: How Hip-Hop is Saving Lives, Creating Humanitarians

What comes to mind when you hear the term “hip-hop?”

You may think of rap, street music and gangs, but probably not humanity.

Hip-hop's roots started in the 1970s with Kool Herc, who believed the music's beats and lyrics were supposed to set a tone of harmony as an alternative to gang and street life.

As a part of Go Inspire Go's 50 heroes in 50 states initiative, I'd like for you to meet our fourth heroes, Chad Harper and Johwell Saint-Cilien. Their program, Kids Helping Kids (KHK): A Hip Hop Experience, is a collaboration of their passion projects, Hip Hop Saves Lives and Negus World. They reach out to hundreds of at-risk youth from New York City schools, incarcerated youth and homeless teen centers. The goal: teaching humanity through hip-hop and creating humanitarians.

Photo by Toan Lam

Hip Hop Saves Lives

Who: Johwell Saint-Cilien & Chad Harper
What: "We don't just teach humanity through Hip Hop, we create humanitarians."
Where: New York
Why: Reinstate the true meaning of hip-hop, entertain and save lives of youth

The Catalyst

Chad with KHK Students. Courtesy: KHK
In 2006, Chad Harper felt like he was on top of the world. Making music, living in the Big Apple, pursuing what he thought was his dream: to become a hip-hop recording artist. He was headed in that direction until a record deal fell through.

Saddened by his record deal situation, he turned to music, hoping to reach a higher note. Little did he know, this would change the trajectory of his personal, professional and spiritual trajectory and along the way, he would inspire, empower and change the lives of hundreds of kids on the streets near and far.

The Act

Chad was bartending in New York when he heard about Charity Water, a nonprofit with a mission to bring clean drinking water to people in all corners of the world. He wrote "If Everybody Cared," a song about how together we can solve big world problems like hunger and poverty. "I would give print out the lyrics and give them to people who bought the CD," Harper said. "One lady started crying. I really felt that, wow, I am really affecting people."

Chad realized, "Hip Hop Saves Lives" and could be a powerful instrument in orchestrating change in his community, especially with lowering crime and violence. He partnered with Johwell and the rest is history.

Johwell and KHK Students. Courtesy: KHK

Here's how it works:
1. Every week, they meet at a school in Brooklyn, N.Y., to research and learn more about everyday heroes on the Internet.
2. They write and record hip-hop songs and choreograph dances celebrating the hero.
3. Johwell produces the music videos.
4. The result: An entertaining, inspiring and fun music video that is gifted to the hero.
5. Every semester, CDs are sold at a FUNdraising party. All of the profits go to schools in Haiti (and soon Africa) for education and clean drinking water.

The Ripples

  • To date, their program "Kids Helping Kids: A Hip Hop Experience" has touched and changed more than 500 kids from New York, Haiti and Africa. They've raised more than $3,200 for education and school lunches in Port-Au-Prince and St.-Louis-du-Sud, Haiti. Attendance, grades and graduation rates have increased among KHK students.
  • Performed at the United Nations on Oct 17, 2013, for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
  • Invited to do a presentation about KHK at Gandhi's Ashram
  • Authors of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" asked KHK to produce and write a song for their national curriculum titled, "The Leader in Me."

  • But to feel the true impact of how this program changes and saves lives, you have to meet the kids and listen to their harrowing stories. Kids like Teriana Justin and Moise Morancy.

    Courtesy: KHK

    Moise enrolled in the program at a critical point in his life. When I met Moise a few months ago, it was hard to believe that just one year ago, he was an angry, violent, out-of-control teen. "I always used to get into a lot of fights and I thought that was a normal thing," Moise said.

    Throwing fits, fists and chairs was commonplace in his everyday life. Things got so bad, he threatened to hurt his high school principal. That's when a teacher told Moise about Chad and Johwell, who became the mentors and father figures Moise never had. They saw through Moise's tough exterior and sensed something special. "You can see it (passion) in his eyes," Johwell said. "He came into the program already an Internet sensation."

    Moise’s most popular YouTube video had more than 12,000 views. Still, Chad challenged him to go back to the positive roots of hip-hop and inspired him to take a positive spin on his music -- to produce from the heart, not what he hears on the airwaves. "There is a lot of negative language in that song but I thought, I want to challenge (him) to do a true hip-hop song," Chad said. The result was "Mommas Secret,” a story Moise was once was afraid to share with his friends about his mom living with HIV.

    When I asked Chad and Johwell why this unique program of using hip-hop to produce humanitarians works, they said, "Youth, they have so much energy and they have so much power and our formula harnesses that and gives it a platform."

    No matter who we are -- isn't that what every human being wants in life? To be seen, heard and felt.

    What's next for KHK? They just launched the program in Africa in Liberia and Ghana. Their next fundraiser is on April 12, 2014, with the goal of raising $3,500 for clean water.

    What can YOU do?!

    Take Action
    1. Learn more and support

    2. To buy an album, go to:

    3. Collaborate artistically or use your talents to help Kids Helping Kids: A Hip Hop Experience.
    #   #   #

    For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

    Hit share if you care, please share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.

    Join us & Go Inspire Go…

    February 25, 2014

    Super-Sizing Community Heroes with a Day of Giving

    By Kala Shah

    I can barely contain my excitement as I scurry around preparing for our big, upcoming Day of Giving event at Sun Valley School in San Rafael, Calif.

    The dreams I had when I started the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes club a little over a year and a half ago are really starting to manifest in so many amazing and unexpected ways. I had hoped that I could offer a platform to contemplate about how lucky we are and perhaps get a few kids involved in some modest service projects.

    The club has been meeting for 3½ semesters now, every other week over lunch break, during which we watch and discuss Go Inspire Go’s inspirational videos and brainstorm ways in which we can all give back -- no matter what our background or circumstance. These videos are touching, stirring, thought- and action-provoking. It is astounding the stories that Toan Lam has been able to produce with his band of loyal volunteers around the world.

    These videos provide the spark for the Community Hero kids, and then we go out and DO things. And we’ve done a lot! Many successful collection drives for coats, clothes, household supplies, toys, gifts and books support several local non-profits (Canal Alliance, Next Generation Scholars, Adopt a Family, Marin Community Clinic) that are serving those in need here in Marin County (believe me, despite what you think, there are plenty of people in need here).

    Every time I’ve put the word out to our awesome school community (with much help from my very supportive Parent Teacher Organization and school principal Julie Harris), the response has been overwhelming, Overflowing bins, checks, loose change, smiles, hugs and words of encouragement have kept me and the Community Heroes kids fueled and driven to want to do more.

    Well, my hopes and dreams are coming alive. The seeds of compassion and empathy have really started to sprout. These kids are enthusiastic, excited and have monstrous and ever-growing hearts! Their aspirations are so big and broad that they’ve been pushing to do even more -- more bake sales, more fun projects to help others. I was beginning to wonder how we could possible do it all.

    It’s funny how they’ve turned the tables on me -- THEY’RE driving ME to do more. So when I ran into my friend and fellow Sun Valley mom Ilene and she mentioned the Day of Giving a local Jewish Community Center conducts annually, we had an ah-ha moment. We could do this at our school! Take Community Heroes family-wide, school-wide and COMMUNITY-wide!

    Fast forward several months and here we are preparing for five awesome community service activities around our town on Sunday, March 2, for a DAY OF GIVING. We’ll meet on campus to rally the troops over coffee and juice and inspirational videos, and then head out in teams for various projects. Each of these projects was inspired by a Go Inspire Go video:

    * Cooking a hot lunch for Marin homeless families served by Homeward Bound of Marin, inspired by Jorge Munoz, Angel in Queens, N.Y.

    * Gardening work party with Canal Alliance’s Community Garden, inspired by Hands on Bay Area Be the Change

    * Making superhero capes for brave kids with cancer at Children's Hospital of Oakland (Calif.), inspired by Amy Pankratz, Wonder Capes, Sioux Falls, S.D.

    * Tidying and beautifying our campus and local parks, inspired by Go Inspire Go’s blog about helping change the ocean litter problem

    * Running multiple lemonade stands and bake sales around town to raise funds to cover expenses for all these great projects, inspired by Vivienne Harr, Make a Stand Lemonade

    After we complete our projects, we’ll reconvene at school to share experiences over pizza. Doesn’t all that just sound amazing?! So excited!

    Here are some pictures of the posters the kids made for the event. And from our sign-waving extravaganza at morning drop-off.

    Stay tuned for more pictures, videos and for more inspirational stories that will come from what is sure to be a GREAT DAY!!

    Watch out world, thanks to our LinkedIn for Good Social Innovation grant, we’re going to take this Community Heroes show on the road!

    Take action:

    1. Think about how to be the change in our own community. Be inspired by 5-year-old Phoebe Russell’s super-sized canned food drive.

    2. Think twice about how much an impact a young person can make. Be inspired by 12-year-old Thomas Ponce, animal activist.

    3. Start your own Community Heroes club at your child’s school. Stay tuned for more information soon on how or contact