My episode of Secret Millionaire aired on ABC a couple of weeks ago. I teamed up with the 3 organization featured on the show to host a charity viewing party in Chicago. The attendance was overwhelming and somewhere around 500 people joined us for a magical night, which raised some serious money for the organizations.
Watching the program was pretty surreal for me. I think that while the show missed a big part of my life in terms of the family and friends I am so lucky to have in my life, the show absolutely did capture the essence of my character, and I feel that I and my experience were represented accurately on film; something I wasn’t necessarily expecting to happen. I had no problem relating to others, and I enjoyed my time with everyone I encountered even those that verbally abused me for being in their neighborhood and voiced their displeasure for me in no uncertain terms. I also had no trouble living on the welfare wages for 1 week. Fruit Loops, Mac N Cheese and SpaghettiOs are just fine with me. Or sleeping in a house that was even more dirty and gross than the tent I recently slept in during my climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. The difficulty is in doing that long-term. I did however have a big problem telling people that I was a millionaire. I never use that as a descriptor and in fact, I go to great lengths to hide the fact that I am lucky enough to be financially well-off, but that was part of the deal that I signed up for, so I just took a breath and went with it.
During the week following the episode, we received over 200,000 website hits and thousands of emails, phone calls, letters and other correspondences from around the world. Many people wrote in that they were inspired, which certainly was nice to hear, but what really moved me were the thousands of comments from people sharing their stories of how they were making a difference in the world. I feel that my Secret Millionaire experience gained me entrance into a wonderful community filled with giving people, which reinforces my belief in humanity and confirms for me that there is real true goodness out there.
Since this show taped (about a year ago), I have been back to Kids Off the Block many times to work with Ms. Diane and some of the kids on producing an album, which is going to be distributed by Universal Music Group, and working to providing job training activities. I also meet regularly with Judson at Bin Donated, who shares office space with me in Chicago, and teamed up with Bruce from H.O.M.E. for some additional fundraising activities. It might sound like I am continuing these relationships to be a good guy and to benefit them, but in actuality it’s a selfish act, because every time I leave them I feel reinvigorated. This was another takeaway I wasn’t expecting. Before this experience my charitable existence consisted of donating money to several organizations. I felt good about that and I figured that I was meeting some type of obligation. But what I didn’t anticipate was the genuine feeling of pride and happiness from seeing first hand the lives I was impacting through giving my time and skills.
The three organizations where I was volunteering couldn’t have been more different from one another. But there was a common thread they all had in common. All of them were — DOING THE LITTLE THINGS. So I urge every person out there to jump in a do something – anything no matter how big or small the effort and do it TODAY! Make a difference in someone’s life, and believe me you will get more out of it than you give.
I’m excited to see where this journey will take me as I continue to push myself to make a bigger difference in the world – I urge all of you to join me. You can watch the episode here. For more information about each charity featured on the show, visit the links below.