Monday, June 02, 2014

More Heavy Lifters Needed

This photo shows Daniel Cotter, the incoming president of the Chicago Bar Association, doing some “heavy lifting” to raise money to support volunteer based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago.

Dan sent me information about this year’s lifting event over the weekend and I invited him to write an article that I could share on my blog, and that others can share via social media and their own email networks.

Dan wrote:

"Approximately 15 years ago, I started to compete in powerlifting. My good friend from college suggested I consider it so that my training had a focus and I had specific goals in the gym. I played football in college and the 10 years since I had graduated were not exactly kind to my body. At my 10th reunion, some of my teammates suggested I get back in the gym. I did so the following Monday.

Competing did give me a focus and a mission. Early meets were not great in terms of the weights lifted. But I had a plan. In 2002, I was a Vice Chair of the Young Lawyers Section of the Chicago Bar Association. The YLS had a mentoring program with Working in the Schools. The program required that the participants be available one day a week for several hours to tutor and mentor a Chicago student. I wanted to do it, but had a five year old and a two year old at home. I could not directly participate in the mentoring program.

I was competing in meets. I thought that the idea of raising money like a walkathon or marathon while competing in a meet would help mentoring even if I could not directly mentor. I made the proposal and “Lifting to Lend-A-Hand” was born. The idea was simple – I would solicit people I knew for donations and then lift. The first year, in 2002, I raised $2,600. That was a good raise. Since then, the raise has gone up each year and in 2012, the last time I did the event, I raised $45,000.

Every penny that I raise goes to the Sun-Times Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth, which promotes best practice mentoring programs in disadvantaged communities. Since its founding in 1994 by former CBA President Thomas A. Demetrio, Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth has awarded over $1.5 million in grants and positively affected the lives of tens of thousands of youth.

This year will be my 11th and final year of Lifting to Lend-A-Hand. I first publicly announced my goal at the Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth Spring Awards Dinner on April 30. At the dinner, George, a young man mentored through the Urban Life Skills Program of New Life Centers, spoke of how before joining the program he cared little for anyone else. He literally described himself as a “psychopath.” After working with his mentor, he has become a whole new person that “wants to give back.”

With a donation from you, think about how many more young people like George can be guided towards a different path in life.

How does this all work? On July 19, I will compete in a powerlifting meet. The best lift in each of the squat, the bench, and the deadlift will go towards my total “Lift.” You can make a specific pledge, or you can pledge by the pound. Specific pledges can be fulfilled anytime by donating online or by sending in a check with the attached donation form. I expect to lift between 1400 and 1500 pounds total. If you pledge $.10 per pound, and I lift 1500 pounds, you would owe $150. I will notify everyone of the results of my July 19 lifting the following week.”

The question raised to me by Dan Bassill is, “Why do you do this?” The main reason is I have been blessed in my life with the most incredible mentors. My dad was my original mentor and idol. He supported and encouraged me and kept me focused on my education and football, as well as showing what it meant to make sacrifices for family. He and my mom also instilled in me the need to give back. We did not always have a great amount of excess at home, but my parents always made sure to contribute to the betterment of society and support causes.

Other mentors includes teachers, coaches and bosses, as well as people such as Dan Bassill. Dan has a passion for tutoring and mentoring that is seldom matched.

I want to “pay it forward” and give back to the community. Mentoring is a foundation of our nation’s successful future and we need to help ensure the vitality of mentoring programs in Chicago and beyond."

Thank you Dan. We need more people to be like you!

My history with Dan Cotter and the Lawyers Lend A Hand Program goes back to 1994 when I formed a partnership with the Lend A Hand Program, which was then hosted at the Chicago Bar Foundation. This partnership formed with a goal of raising "large amounts" of money from Chicago's legal community to support the on-going operating expenses of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago.

In 1994 we created a November “Tutor/Mentor Week” to build visibility for programs in the six weeks leading into the year end gift giving period. This proclamation was issued by Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Since then more than $2.5 million has been raised to support the operations of tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. The money Dan has raised has contributed to this total.

In 1994 I started publishing a map-based directory showing where tutor/mentor programs are needed, and where existing programs are located. All of the outreach I’ve done since then has intended to recruit leaders like Dan Cotter, who would use their own talents and network to raise money needed by each of these programs to sustain, and constantly improve, the work they are doing to help youth in Chicago area neighborhoods.

This is one of many graphics I’ve created to show that support for tutor/mentor programs needs to come from every industry, business and faith sector, and on an on-going basis so programs can stay connected to youth for multiple years.

I hope you’ll help Dan Cotter reach his goal of raising $100,000 this July. And I hope some of you will make a commitment to duplicate Dan’s effort, or even exceed it.

Here’s a list of Chicago area youth serving organizations. Some are better than others, but most are in areas where kids need help. You can reach out to one or more programs directly, or through your personal or corporate foundation, or in partnership with the Lend A Hand Program.

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