Please allow me to get deeply personal with today’s post. My life’s purpose is to “Connect, Inspire and Empower Community.” That is the mantra I live by – not just in business, but in everything that I do. If we seek to come together as united citizens of the world, there is no telling the heights we can reach. And, yet, from time to time, someone tries to prove me wrong. To challenge the assumption that none of us is as strong as all of us.
That was true on April 13, 2014 when a tragedy befell my community in Overland Park, Kansas. A lone shooter pulled into the parking lot of the Jewish Community Campus and murdered Dr. William Corporon and his 14-year old grandson, Reat Underwood, as the young man was preparing to audition for a high school singing competition being sponsored by the Jewish Community Center. From there, this madman turned south and drove about a mile more to Village Shalom, where he shot and killed Teresa LaManno who had been visiting her mother at the senior living community. Hatred had a devastating impact on my town that Sunday afternoon… but the perpetrator of this hate crime did not win… instead of instilling fear, as he had hoped, the broad community banded together, propped up one another and unified to show its mettle and support for our diverse city.
Sadly, similar scenarios played themselves out on other days, too. On December 4, 2014, 15-year old Somali immigrant, Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein, was purposely struck by a vehicle outside of his mosque in Kansas City; the perpetrator had been waging anti-Islamist threats to the Muslim community for months. Then, most recently, on February 22, 2017, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot and killed by a bigoted individual who accosted the Garmin engineer and his colleague with anti-immigrant verbal threats and, ultimately, brandished a gun.
Who would have thought that these acts of violence could happen in my town? Such ugliness is enough to drive one to stay indoors and hide away from the world. However, that simply won’t do. We cannot allow this type of evil to rule our minds, feelings or actions.
One way that I have personally sought to work through all of this hatred and stay true to my mission statement of Connecting, Inspiring and Empowering Community is to immerse myself headlong into a very special organization called SevenDays®.
SevenDays® promotes interfaith dialogue by engaging all people to discover commonalities and overcome evil with acts of kindness. Specifically, for one heavily programmed, highly concentrated week in April of each year, and supported by other activities and by a youth movement at other times of the year, SevenDays® seeks to bring together the community.
In my belief system, to save one human life means to save the world. To that end, I believe the work that SevenDays® is doing to eliminate hate crimes by bringing together people of different backgrounds is life-saving work. Each program and activity hosted by the organization helps to educate, inform and unite those who attend. I feel it is my personal responsibility as a citizen of the world to engage in these initiatives with SevenDays®.
For anyone in the Kansas City Metropolitan area interested in connecting with community to prove the power of love, faith, community and determination, I invite you to join me for SevenDays® 2017 from Tuesday, April 18th – Monday, April 24th. Once again this year, in an act of community-wide solidarity, support and love for one another, with the partnership of several organizations, the families of the victims of the April 13, 2014 shooting have spearheaded a week-long series of events and activities. Together, we will embrace diversity across races, religions and cultures to promote understanding and encourage kindness to “Make a Ripple to Change the World.”
Below is a listing of the SevenDays® 2017 events with registration links. Most events are free; all others are very economical to attend. All events require advance registration. Volunteers are also needed! Be sure to visit www.GiveSevenDays®.org for more information.
Friday, April 7th: SevenDays® First Fridays Art Show. 5-8pm; 1707 Locust in The Crossroads. Join SevenDays® for a fun-filled, art-inspired evening to celebrate kindness, faith and community! This special open house will feature a variety of pieces from local artists, delicious snacks, signature drinks, information booths from area not-for-profit and faith organizations and other special surprises. Guests are invited to purchase raffle tickets benefitting SevenDays®: Make a Ripple, Change the World (need not be present to win). Registration: http://evite.me/sMcx4Mv7ae
Monday, April 17th: Kendra Scott Gives Back Party in Honor of SevenDays®. 5-7pm; Kendra Scott Town Center Crossing. In anticipation of SevenDays 2017, enjoy sips, sweets and jewels at Kendra Scott in Town Center Crossing! 20% of the proceeds from all purchases benefit SevenDays®.
All Week: Community Blood Center Blood Drive. Various hours and locations (see below). Individuals are encouraged to “Make a Ripple, Change the World” by donating blood any day during SevenDays® at participating CBC mobile blood drives or donor centers:
• Kansas City, MO – 4040 Main Street (M 9am-8pm; Tu-Th 7am-6pm; F 7am-4pm; Sa-Su 7am-1pm)
• Overland Park, KS – 10568 Metcalf Ave (M-Tu 7:30am-6pm; W 9am-8pm; Th 7:30am-6pm; F 7am-4pm; Sa 7am-1pm; Su 7am-4pm)
• Blue Springs, MO – 1124 West 40 Highway (M-Th 7am-6pm; F 7am-4pm; Sa-Su 7am-1pm)
• Gladstone, MO – 7265 N. Oak Trafficway (M-Th 7:30am-6pm; F 7am-4pm; Sa-Su 7am-1pm)
• Topeka, KS – 6220 Southwest 29th Street (M-Th 7am-6pm; F 7am-4pm; Sa-Su 7am-1pm)
• St. Joseph, MO – 3122 Frederick Avenue (M-Th 7:30am-6pm; F 7am-4pm; Sa-Su 7am-1pm)
Day 1: Love. Tuesday, April 18th: Kickoff Celebration. 6:30-8:30pm; The Temple Congregation B’nai Jehudah. Join us as we kick off a week of SevenDays® activities with a celebration of faith! We will announce the winners of the SevenDays® songwriting, essay writing and button design competitions, enjoy a panel discussion, “Commonalities Within Our Faiths,” featuring Rev. Scott Chrostek (Church of the Resurrection), Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff (The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah) and Imam Sulaiman Zahir Salaam (Al Haqq Islamic Center), and listen to beautiful songs performed by our songwriting competition finalists. Attendees are invited to a dessert reception immediately following the program. Registration: http://ow.ly/agP630ajNBZ
Day 2: Discover. Wednesday, April 19th: American Public Square Dinner. 5:30-8:30pm; UMKC – Atterbury Student Success Center. Join American Public Square for a SevenDays®-focused Dinner at the Square during which an esteemed panel of experts will address the issue of “Violence, Community and Faith: Connecting the Dots.” We will explore ways in which coming together with an eye toward community and faith can help us to achieve peace and collegiality in an often divisive world. The evening will be moderated by KCPT’s Nick Haines. Panelists include: Barry Grissom, Former U.S. Attorney for Kansas; David Haley, Senator, Kansas District 4; James Jacobs, Law Professor, New York University; Jolie Justus, Councilwoman, Kansas City, MO District 4; Mark Levin, Founding Rabbi, Congregation Beth Torah; and Rosilyn Temple, Founder/Director, KC Mothers in Charge. Registration: http://americanpublicsquare.org/event/faith-violence/ (Tickets for this event are as follows: $15 student, $25 single, $45 couple. American Public Square Members are entitled to complimentary tickets.)
Day 3: Others. Thursday, April 20th: An Unbroken Bond with Edie Lutnick. 6:30-8:30pm; Church of the Resurrection Leawood. Join us for an inspiring evening featuring Edie Lutnick, President of The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund and Author of the book, An Unbroken Bond: The Untold Story of How the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald Families Faced the Tragedy of 9/11 and Beyond. Registration: http://ow.ly/bxMj30ajO6i
Day 4: Connect. Friday, April 21st: Life: A Good Thing to Give. 6:30-8:30pm; St. Anthony Catholic Church. The community is invited to St. Anthony Catholic Church in celebration of SevenDays® and Donate Life Day. The evening will include singing, spiritual readings and a presentation by Mindy Corporon who will deliver a talk on faith, navigating through grief and the importance of organ and tissue donation – a topic of great meaning to her and her late son, Reat Griffin Underwood. The talk will be simultaneously translated in Spanish by Saúl Cordero Egido, a foreign exchange student from Spain who is living with Mindy and her family. A reception with light refreshments will follow. Registration: http://ow.ly/EThb30ajOeS
Day 5: Go. Saturday, April 22nd:
- Lunch ‘n’ Punch. 10am-1pm; University Academy. Join SevenDays® for the Ali Kemp Educational Foundation’s Critically Acclaimed Self Defense Program, T.A.K.E. Defense Workshop. Bring your mother, daughter, sister and friends! Don’t miss this opportunity to learn skills every woman should know. Girls and women are welcome ages 12 years and older (our oldest participant has been 90!). Registration: http://ow.ly/QTLs30ajOlf
- Youth Therapeutic Improv Workshop, “How Improv Breaks Down Barriers and Infuses Fun into Mental Healthcare: A Hands-On Workshop.” 1-4:45pm; Church of the Latter Day Saints Olathe. (This program is limited to 80 participants and is targeted to teens/young adults aged 14-21 years of age.) Join us in a little silliness for mental health! Leap out of your comfort zone for a few hours to learn about and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of improv — its Ripple Effect is unending. In addition to getting to know your creative side, improv used therapeutically can help develop confidence, self-acceptance and emotional/mental flexibility, as well as the ability to empathize, trust and be comfortable with uncertainty. The main tenets of improv, awareness, acceptance, commitment and “Yes, And…” inherently create an environment where participants can feel free to be themselves in a non-traditional mental health setting. Realizing your capacity to be playful can enhance your connection to yourself and others. Registration: http://ow.ly/WkbB30ajOyc
- Train-the-Trainer: Using Improv as a Therapeutic Tool. “How Improv Breaks Down Barriers and Infuses Fun into Mental Healthcare: A Hands-On Workshop.” 4:45-9pm; Church of the Latter Day Saints Olathe. (This program is limited to 80 participants and is targeted to therapists, school counselors, other behavioral health professionals and any other adult dealing with anxiety issues and/or loss and is interested in exploring alternative mental healthcare modalities.) Join us in a little silliness for mental health! Leap out of your comfort zone for a few hours to learn about and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of improv — its Ripple Effect is unending. In addition to getting to know your creative side, improv used therapeutically can help develop confidence, self-acceptance and emotional/mental flexibility, as well as the ability to empathize, trust and be comfortable with uncertainty. The main tenets of improv, awareness, acceptance, commitment and “Yes, And…” inherently create an environment where participants can feel free to be themselves in a non-traditional mental health setting. Realizing your capacity to be playful can enhance your connection to yourself and others. Registration: http://ow.ly/aiKr30ajPi6
Day 6: Go. Sunday, April 23rd: Youth Interfaith Workshop. 5:30-8pm; Cleveland University. Students aged 14-20 are invited to attend the SevenDays® Youth Interfaith Dinner and Workshop to interact and learn skills for finding common ground around shared values on which to build collaborative efforts of social action. Values such as compassion, hospitality and caring for the Earth become cooperative service opportunities to engage across the boundaries of religious groups. The workshop will provide skills on how to encourage youth to work together through service projects, bringing people of different faiths together to take common action for the common good. Registration: http://ow.ly/boMO30ajOKK
Day 7: Onward. Monday, April 24th: Faith, Love and Walk. 5:30-8:30pm; Union Station. Let’s walk together as a society, embrace our diversity and unite as a community. Join us as we stand against hate. We must gather as ripples of Faith, Love & Kindness and move ONWARD as an unstoppable wave of change. Following the walk, participants are invited to stay to visit with one another. Food truck vendors will be on site and participants may purchase dinner and drinks. Registration: http://ow.ly/xuut30ajOTd (Cost: $10 per walker, includes access to walk and event t-shirt.)