Friday, March 15, 2013

The Birth of iHope

I'm more excited than ever to be racing for a great cause in 2013.  The cause is a non-profit foundation called iHope that I helped create in the Pleasant Valley Community School District, the district that I have enjoyed teaching in over the past 11 years.  The story of how iHope was born is here. 
In July of 2009 my grandmother, Evelyn Lehman passed away.  My grandma was an awesome person.  Her and my grandpa gave time, energy, and money to their church, community and to their grandkids who they spoiled.  When my grandma died she left all of her grandchildren some money.  I knew I wanted to use this money in a giving way because that would make my grandma proud.  The first time was when Jen and I were out for dinner at Granite City in the fall of 2010.  This night happened to be the night of Homecoming in my school district.  While we were eating dinner we noticed many of my former 8th grade students enjoying dinner with their friends and classmates.  I remembered reading about a time when former NFL player Kurt Warner was in the Quad Cities eating dinner during a homecoming night and the newspaper wrote a story about how Kurt Warner picked up the tab for a group of students.  How cool is that!  Jen and I decided this was not something that could be done by just an NFL football player but was something we could do as well.  We used some money from "Grandma's Fund" to pick up the tab for a group of 24 students before we left. 
Last spring I had a student that displayed outstanding work habits and character traits.  This particular student came from a low-income family.  They did not let the circumstances affect how they treated people or how hard they worked.  There were no excuses.  This student had been working hard on an extra credit project for my class and when I asked one day if it was finished they pulled it out of their bag fighting back tears telling me how the storm the night before caused it to get all wet in their bedroom.  The project resembled what the student told me.  My heart broke for this student as I realized the situation they were living in.  I went home and told Jen about it and we decided right away we wanted to do something for this student.  We decided to use "Grandma's Fund" to buy the student an iPad along with a heavy duty protective case and some iBook gift cards.  When I presented this gift to the student it was immediately noticable what kind of impact it had.  Along with the gift I gave the student a letter telling why we felt this gift was merited.  I explained that the student's character and work habits were something that made me believe they were going to be successful in life.  I mentioned how I hoped this student would use the iPad to help with school and look to a future beyond high school.  I also encouraged the student to pay it forward some day when the opportunity was there.  The student said it was the best gift they had ever received.  It made a big influence on me as well.  I realized this was something I wanted to be able to do more often...maybe once a year...or more perhaps.  This is when the idea of iHope was born. 
I spoke with our Superintendent and he was very supportive of the iHope idea and helped me set up a foundation through the school district where money would be saved to use for low-income junior high students that display positive work habits and character traits.  We will use the money to purchase technology that will hopefully give these students hope for a bright future.  These are students that statistics would say will not go to college.  They are students that statistics would say will end up living in poverty through the vicious cycle.  They are students that we believe differently about.  They are ones that we believe with a little extra help and hope from us can make it through the cycle of poverty to become whatever they dream of becoming.  We also decided that the iHope fund can be used to provide other things like athletic shoes, school book bags...etc. for students who lack those things.  I started the iHope foundation by donating $500.00 from "Grandma's Fund" today and a pledge to donate any money I win at races in 2013 to the foundation.  I realize keeping this foundation going for the long haul may not happen without outside help.  I would love your help with this investment on the youth in our community.  A donation of ANY amount will help a worthy child.  All children who are presented with iHope gifts will be given a letter telling why they were chosen (by a board set up at our school).  The letter will also encourage the students to set goals and believe in those goals.  Lastly the letter will encourage these students to pay it forward when the opportunity arises.  The students must display positive work habits and character traits...the things we think will help them be successful and things that are very important in our school district.  All donations to iHope are tax deductable.  You may donate a couple different ways.  One way is to click here and you will be able to donate online and will be given an immediate tax deductible receipt.  The other way is to make a check out to iHope Foundation and dropped off or mailed to the Pleasant Valley School District.  Checks should be mailed or dropped off to:
Pleasant Valley Foundation
525 Belmont Road
Bettendorf, IA 52722
Racing in 2013 will be extremely exciting for me.  Knowing I can help make a difference for a child in our community fuels my motivation more than ever.  Even if I can earn just a hundred dollars at a race I know that will make a big difference.  My goal is to earn $1,500 through racing this year.  I'd love to have your support and help.  I cannot stress enough that we'd be thrilled for ANY help you can give...$5.00...$10.00...everything will make a difference.  Together we can help give a student in our community the HOPE to DREAM BIG...the HOPE to change their life...the HOPE to build a better world.  Thanks!!


Phil Pancrazio said...

Jeff you amaze me with how you continue to be such a positive influence in so many peoples lives. Good luck with your fundraising. Hope to see you soon.

Anonymous said...

You blow me away everytime I read your blog. You are the kind of person I am striving to be. Wow! This is great. I know your district will greatly appreciate it and you will continue to make a difference in many peoples lives. God bless! You are in my prayers.

Jeff Paul said...

HUGE THANKS to Bettendorf Hy-Vee on Devils Glen Rd. for contributing to iHope! Jen and I get all of our groceries there mainly because of how much Hy-Vee gives back to the community. They have been huge sponsors of triathlons, road races, and now iHope!