Giving back has always been important to me. My parents were in the education and medical fields, which we all know are made up of people with slightly larger than average hearts. Mom and Dad were always working on projects to help students, patients, friends and neighbors. All of us kids loved helping out in any way we could.
Their tireless service inspired me to give back whenever possible. Attending college, giving blood was about all I could afford to donate. The United Blood Service has probably drained about eight gallons of my blood over the years. The vampires! But by pursuing a career in design and marketing, there just weren’t as many opportunities to give back at first. Then, I started at Flint Group and boy, did Roger Reierson prove that wrong!
Through Flint, I’ve connected with so many unique and inspiring organizations like the Cullen Children’s Foundation, Hope Inc. and the United Way. Using my time and talents to design posters, logos, newsletters and other materials has given me a purpose far beyond myself. It has also brought some amazing individuals into my life.
The Cullen Children’s Foundation celebrates 20 years next year, and I’m proud to have been a part of it since the beginning. I’d been at Flint a few years when Roger stopped by my desk. He wanted me to create a logo for a new children’s foundation the son of a close friend was starting. I knew who Matt Cullen was; what area hockey fan didn’t in those days? But I couldn’t imagine the journey that request would take me on.
Helping children has always been important to me. Maybe I get it from my dad, the teacher, or maybe it’s being a parent myself. Either way, the opportunity to help a foundation providing financial resources to organizations that support children’s healthcare needs, with an emphasis on cancer, definitely excited me.
From that initial logo to finishing out my 17th year on the board, being a part of the Cullen Children’s Foundation has been a truly rewarding experience. We’ve raised over $9 million, gifting over $5 million in grants from 2005-2022 to various groups in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
But I have to say, the best part, by far, has been watching Cully’s kids grow up and pay it forward as strong members of our community. We used to hold an annual kids picnic for all of Cully’s kids. We held it at the Newman Outdoor Field, home of the FM Redhawks. I always wanted to run the snow cone machine (it could get hot out there). “Do you want cherry or red,” I’d ask. Or “grape or purple?” We didn’t have a lot of flavors, but that never stopped the kids – or the fun.
We’re bringing back the Kid’s Picnic in 2023 to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I’m looking forward to seeing all of Cully’s kids again. Maybe we’ll have a choice between lime or green snow cones.
A hopeful future
My work with the Cullen Children’s Foundation put me in the position to rub elbows with some truly deserving organizations. We average six to eight grants a year, totaling between $125,000 and $185,000. Over the lifetime of the organization, that comes out to over 100 grants! We’ve supported everything from “Make-A-Wish” type encounters to specialized equipment and so much more. Hope Inc. was one of the groups we worked with early on, and it stole my heart.
Hope Inc. provides family-friendly recreational and sporting opportunities for those with mobility challenges. I’ve always been an avid sports fan, specifically hockey and football. But it’s more than just an appreciation of athletic excellence. Team sports are such an important part of development. Learning to work together, finding strength under pressure and, of course, good sportsmanship when things don’t go your way – these are life skills, not just what you need to excel on the court, field or rink.
Sports take hard work and dedication. Even more for those with mobility challenges who don’t have access to sports through the regular channels. Communities our size usually just don’t have the resources. But Hope Inc. makes these opportunities available to families in Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Grand Forks and further afield. Some athletes travel 75 miles, one-way, multiple times a week for practice and games. It’s an incredible commitment on the part of the athletes and their families.
Today, Hope Inc. serves about 200 families in the Fargo-Moorhead area, providing sports, arts and other collaborative experiences for those with mobility challenges. There are about 25 sports available throughout the year, including track and basketball, but my favorite has always been sled hockey. What can I say, I like the cold.
It’s amazing. I’ve watched some of these athletes take their first turn on the ice when they had to have a pusher because they were too small to propel themselves. Now, they are playing at a national level in sled hocky, mono-ski and many other sports.
Moral of the story
Giving back was always going to be an important part of my adult life. That’s just how I was raised. What I didn’t expect was the support, and frankly the initial push from my boss, to get the ball rolling.
Accountability is an important part of sports and charity work. You have to follow through or you can let the whole team down. Flint definitely does that and more importantly, gives its employees the tools, support and time to do the same. From our extensive pro bono work to personal projects like Cullen Children’s Foundation, Special Olympics North Dakota, Hope Inc. and the United Way, leadership clears a path for our staff to help the community do better, be better and find acceptance.
A company’s stance on volunteering says a lot about its respect for the community it serves. I’m proud to be a Flintster, and all that entails. I’ve been able to meet amazing people, provide my special set of skills to deserving organizations and give back in a way that was personally rewarding.
And for those non-profits out there looking for help, give us a call! A recent initiative gives our employees 24 volunteer hours annually. We’re always looking for new ways to provide our time and talents to truly deserving organizations.