My preteen years were spent as a professional "athoner" -- jumpathons, walkathons, readathons, bakeathons, telethons, you name it, I was in! I truly believed that a day spent on roller-skates, covering maybe 6 miles, and raising maybe $45 dollars for any cause would change the world and was the coolest way to spend the day.
There were hundreds of us "athoning" for various causes every weekend. I loved being a part of that positive energy. We even made fun t-shirts to wear while "athoning." I was raised in a family that embodied the spirit that everyone had the duty to do what they could to help repair the world. And I had great role models, no video games, and parents who convinced me that I had the power to make a difference. I never remember feeling that living my life any other way was an option.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that "athoning" is not the cool preteen activity it once was. It seems that leaning back, crushing candy, clashing clans, judging others and celebrating the spectacular failures of celebrities has replaced this trend.
And along with this shift has come a real breakdown in the moral fabric in every corner of our communities. I am so sad to say that I have learned just how deeply the damage has been done through my work in some of the most dangerous cities in America. I have seen the very disturbing reality that many American children don't believe in themselves. They don't believe in their futures. If they did, why would they put so little value on human life -- theirs and the lives of their peers?
I believe that everyone has a duty to do whatever they can, within their abilities, to help Raise The Caliber of their communities. But in order to be so motivated, you have to believe that you have a future. That your children have a future. And that future needs to be protected. Where are the students? The teachers? The dads? The moms? Why is there so little trust left among anyone? We have to care enough to roll up our sleeves and treat our elected officials like partners rather than sit back and vilify them. We have to bring respect back into everything we do to ourselves and others, and most importantly, we have to have hope.
Long gone are the pigtails that were my signature look while "athoning." Today I am a lawyer, a mother, a wife and the founder of Jewelry for a Cause, a company that is responsible for creating over $450,000 philanthropic dollars for a variety of worthy causes using jewelry as a fundraising tool. Specifically, I proudly funded the only two ever privately funded voluntary gun buyback and amnesty programs in Newark, New Jersey's history. To date, I have bought back 395 illegal guns off the streets of the 6th most dangerous city in the U.S. with some of the proceeds of The Caliber Collection. I have no idea how many senseless tragedies have been prevented now that there are 395 fewer illegal guns on the streets of America. I will never know. But I have hope.
It is time to Raise The Caliber!