Stanford Thompson: Creating Social Harmony

By his example, he’s helping the under-served through the power of music. Change the Tune For Stanford Thompson, music is more than notes and pitches. He believes, like many others, that music can heal broken communities, uplift downtrodden children, and make Philadelphia a better place. Unlike others, Thompson is a world-renowned trumpet player who uses his musical talent for social justice initiatives. His art is undeniable, he’s performed solos with Ocean City Pops Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the North Springs Philharmonic, and traveled as far China, Czech Republic, Germany, Kenya, and Austria playing his tunes. But to Thompson, the sweetest sound doesn’t come from his trumpet, it comes from helping those in need. His organization, Play On Philly, pairs world-class musicians with students who are struggling academically due to life circumstances. He shares his results about the life-changing effects of music and remains committed to the arts through his many leadership positions on the board of the Marian Anderson Award, American Composers Forum, and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. Due to his commitment to social justice through music,

Jim Ziolkowski: Building the Human Spirit

One brick at a time, his labor of love empowers lives and communities through education. A man with a wonderful soul wrote a book about walking in the shoes of the less fortunate. If you took a walk in Jim Ziolkowski’s shoes not only would they be covered in dust from foreign lands, they’d make your heart swell with love for your fellow man. In his book, Walk in Their Shoes, he poses the question: can one person change the world? In his life he’s already proven it. Heartland Upbringing Ziolkowski grew up like millions of other kind souls in the heartland of America. Raised in Jackson, Michigan, he enjoyed the peaceful life of small town U.S.A. and all the charming trappings associated with it. Attending Church with his parents was a big part of that wonderful childhood. His faith, deeply embedded in his consciousness, would affect not only his life but the fates of thousands. College Grad with a Conscience After graduating from college, Ziolkowski traveled the world, but not like your typical Eurorail backpacker. After hitchhiking around Europe

Bill Magee And His Family: Operation Smile

Giving Disadvantaged Children Worldwide a Reason to Smile. Healthy Self-Esteem, a Process As children, we look in the mirror and carefully inspect just who is looking back, usually with degrees of disappointment or harsh judgment, much of it unfair. Out in public, while most people are friendly and complimentary, a handful of others will be unfriendly, mean-spirited and at times bullying. Maybe we have a bad haircut, an acne breakout, braces that look like steel girders, a head the size of Charlie Brown’s, or some other perceived imperfection. Every time we hear a compliment, we feel good and are drawn to that person. When we are the target of derision, we withdraw and shrink a little. I certainly did. All of it, the good and the bad, is absorbed like a bone-dry sponge for future self-judgment. Our self-esteem, the very fuel for all our potential achievements, is formed in these moments. It can be boosted with a smile and compliment or torn to shreds by mean-spirited ridicule. Most of us learn to brush it off, put it in perspective and

Becca Stevens: on the Healing Power of Love

Thistle Farms offers women a second chance at life, but for many being served, it is their first chance at life. Throomers welcomes Becca Stevens and the amazing work she has done bringing hurting women back to life. We thank her for sharing her story with our readers. I began Thistle Farms in 1997 because women on the streets had few, if any, options for long-term, safe housing to recover from the trauma and abuse they had experienced. We started with one home for five women with criminal records of prostitution and addiction. Even though in the community the women were doing amazing healing work, their early childhood trauma, life on the streets, and felonies on their records made it difficult to find a job. In 2001, I started a business, making natural candles and body balms to provide women income. Our guiding principle that love is the strongest force for change in the world, were formed in these early days. On a Mission to Heal The story of Thistle Farms also began for me in 1968 when my parents moved

Changing the World View on Inclusion

Over 1100 races including marathons, triathlons, and Ironmans later, Dick and Rick Hoyt continue to inspire us in living life to the fullest. Crowds cheered and a slight breeze caressed the triathletes’ faces as they squinted their eyes to make out the finish line. I was one of them. The sun was hot that afternoon. The beads of sweat drips from our foreheads and I hurriedly flicked it aside. My triathlon suit was drenched, my heart was beating out of my chest, my left knee was aching, but I persisted. I thought back to my bag of motivational thoughts, clamoring for a second wind. Before every triathlon I watch a video to get inspired. I always turned to one about a father who runs the races pushing his son in a wheelchair. I recall it when I need hope.  Team Hoyt is well known within the triathlon community and competed for years at the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. When the world seems to be against me, team Hoyt reminds me that anything is possible. Witnessing Extraordinary Greatness My shoes

Daniel Giusti: No Challenge Unconquerable

Once head chef at one of the world’s top restaurants, he’s transforming America’s school lunch line. Who would’ve guessed that something as wholesome and Italian as Aunt Zia’s pasta sauce would be the catalyst for a life of challenges met head on, and crushed one by one? Well, that’s where the story of Daniel Giusti’s meteoric rise in the culinary world began, believe it or not. The First Self-Imposed Challenge Giusti began setting goals for himself early on that sprang from his curiosity. He grew up in a big, Italian family that loved eating and no doubt excelled at cooking. One who absolutely did was Aunt Zia Rosa. As the family sat gathered around the table one Sunday eating dinner, Giusti decided to deconstruct his auntie’s recipe. He failed, and it might be the only thing he didn’t nail, culinarily-speaking, his entire life. It was however, that failure that sparked a desire in him not only for cooking but accepting all challenges head-on. From that moment he became the guy who looks at a million hurdles and says “no problemo.”

Dianne Whelan: Adventurer, Storyteller

Her journey takes us on a great adventure, but her message takes us into a better future. Dianne Whelan is making her solo pilgrimage along The Great Trail, the world’s longest recreational trail, stretching 24,000 km across Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic oceans. She has snowshoed dense forests, hiked, biked, skied, and paddled the world’s largest lake during her journey. This incredible undertaking started on Canada Day, July 1st, 2015 from mile 0 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and will end in Victoria, British Columbia. A Journey of Rediscovery Her five-year trek is being documented in the feature film 500 Days in the Wild which tells the stories of the land, people she encounters, and communities along the way. Part documentary, part adventure, the film portrays her journey from dropping out of society to reconnect with the wilds of nature and lost traditions. The film takes us to places that revisit the past, so we might learn how to lead into the future. “I started wondering if maybe everything we needed to know, we had forgotten,”

Patrick Gray & Justin Skeesuck: Pushing to New Heights

Life is short, live it well. The Way of St. James There is a 500-mile trail that runs through the entirety of northern Spain called the El Camino De Santiago, also known as the ‘Way of St. James.’ Every year, thousands of people from all over the world walk the Camino from varying starting points, including across the border in France (i.e. the ‘French Way’). While their reasons for taking on the arduous 35-day walk are as diverse as their nationalities, they commonly purport to be on a pilgrimage of self-discovery. Many are drawn to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the remains of Saint James the Great, apostle of Jesus Christ, are said to rest. Others may be struggling with a serious life issue such as divorce, illness or the death of a loved one. They feel the need to disconnect from our hyperactive world, go into the silence of the natural surroundings and rediscover their purpose for being alive. “The Camino structures your life in simplicity,” explains YouTube filmmaker Hank Leukart. “You wake up, you walk –

Vien Truong: Social & Environmental Warrior

She came from abject poverty, experienced social injustice, witnessed the ravaging of the environment, saw the connection of these issues maintained by a broken system, and became a voice for change. Vietnam was torn and ravaged by war when the Truong family fled to the United States. This era in Vietnamese history was known as the “Rationized Period’,” when the free economy was abolished and private enterprise and property ownership, were forbidden. Vien Truong’s family escaped this dark chapter of the country. The Pursuit to Freedom Her mom was pregnant, carrying Vien in her belly, when she got on that boat to escape war-torn Vietnam. She got in a boat with her husband, 9 children, and grandma. They were to row 500 miles in treacherous waters to get to safety in Macau. The very waters where many had perished in similar attempts. Luckily, their family was rescued by the Red Cross and sent to a refugee camp in Hong Kong – where baby Vien was born and lived her first year of life. The family ultimately made their way to Oregon.

Sherri Franklin: Rescuing the Least Among Us

Muttville: Finding new homes one frosted face at a time. It’s all snuggles, hugs, and love at first sight when a brand new puppy becomes the latest member of a family. As the years pass the furry family member has seen the kids grow up, go to college, and then embark on their careers, while mom and dad contemplate over their new empty nest. Ideally, Fido can live out his days in the loving care he has always known. But for some, they are turned out to pasture, or rather, dumped or sent to a shelter. Imagine in your old day being permanently separated from those you love and the comforts of home. The reasons are plenteous, sometimes a pet outlives its master, or age-related veterinarian bills become unaffordable, or an owner is no longer able to care for their beloved pet. It’s a sad ending for one who brought years of unconditional love, loyalty, and devotion to its human counterpart. But this is not the ending that Sherri Franklin will let happen to those furry seniors that cross her