Can you start a charitable organization that fulfills a personal drive to give back?
A continuing theme of being an entrepreneur is knowing we’ll face unexpected challenges; but what happens when those challenges are traumatic soul-wrenching experiences that change the way you look at everything?
For many entrepreneurs, when everything they believe in and rely on suddenly changes, they turn again to the consistency and reliability of business systems.
In this interview, Meighan Ferris-Miles and Jonathan Miles shared their decision to start The Noah John Winston Miles Foundation, a fundraising organization in support of anti-bullying, which came out of their desire to celebrate and honour their son Noah, who passed away suddenly at just 3 1/2 years of age, in January 2015.
From the time he was just a week old, Noah’s life was about bringing light and presence to people around him. Roots of Empathy, a Toronto based anti-bullying organization that teaches school-age kids about empathy by experiencing the bond between a baby and their caregiver, approached Meighan and Noah to participate, which they did with Noah as a ‘Tiny Teacher’ during his first year.
As a personality characteristic, empathy was in Noah’s DNA – stories would come back to Meighan and Jonathan frequently through parents in his daycare, that their child had said “… but Noah M. made my day much better!”
In an effort to actively work through the grieving process with their community, Meighan and Jonathan decided to start something that allowed the whole family and their friends to honor Noah’s personality which was abundant with empathy and connected to anti-bullying activities. This way, they can engage their community in activities that celebrate Noah’s personality and life, instead of actively focusing on the illness that caused Noah’s sudden passing.
Meighan is a lawyer, and Jonathan works in finance, so they’re both skilled and intelligent professionals, but still they report it’s necessary to rely on help from their communities to navigate the restrictions and qualifications of trying to launch a charitable foundation, while adjusting and processing a new normal for their family life.
They share how they found and recruited their event chair a neighbour who lives across the street, the person responsible for ensuring minute details are taken care of (like ensuring garbage bags are available for garbage bins); and how Jonathan’s father, an accountant, has contributed a lot of advice and mentoring to their efforts; and how the local community has helped them personally through their loss as well as welcoming and supporting their foundation activities; and how they are navigating the bureaucracy of Canada Revenue Agency to apply for a NFP/Charitable status for their foundation – at the current time they continue to wait for government approval, so all proceeds from fundraising activities will directly benefit the Roots of Empathy organization.
Their first annual fundraising event is upcoming this week on September 12th, 2015 – it’s a bike-a-thon for kids to fundraise benefitting Roots of Empathy, at the same local Leslieville elementary school where Noah had many friends in daycare. There are many prizes for the children (and families) who fundraise the most and participate in various ways, so don’t be afraid to click the link and DONATE and support a child in participating in fundraising in support of anti-bullying and empathy training.
Toronto-area families are invited to register their toddler to 12yo child to participate in the bike-a-thon fundraiser next weekend; and anyone who would like to participate, sponsor a fundraising child, donate prizes or awards, can reach out to them to contribute or DONATE at: http://www.noahfoundation.ca.