Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Joseph Weilgus Speaks to the High Schools

The man who in 2002, at the grand old age of 24 years old, was named Harvard Business School's Not-For-Profit Entrepreneur of the Year visited our high schools yesterday to talk to our students about making a difference in this world.

Joseph Weilgus, who has also been named to Crain's 40 under 40 and the Jewish Week's 36 under 36 amongst many other accolades, spoke to our students about the way in which he transformed his college visits to a local pediatric ward dressed as a clown, into Project Sunshine, an organization with 10,000 volunteers in 100 cities across the globe that provides an array of services to 60,000 children in hospitals.

While our students were mesmerized by Mr. Weilgus's tales of stars and celebrities who have joined the ranks of Project Sunshine volunteers, they also watched intently as he showed them that he always carries two business cards in his pocket "a boring white one and an exciting yellow one." Joe said that whenever he meets people he gives them both and tells them that "the white one is where I make my money and the yellow one is where I give it."

Perhaps even more importantly, Joe spoke about the fact that Project Sunshine came about due to a need he recognized which wasn't being met. As a visiting clown he saw that the children in the pediatric ward needed so much more than a guy in a colorful suit with a painted face and a red curly wig. They needed tutoring and counseling, they needed companions and friends, they needed a little bit of happiness and a whole lot of hope. He cited Pirkei Avot which tells us that in a situation "where there is no man, do your best to be the man" and said that that's all he tried to do. He then encouraged our students to look around their world, find a need that speaks to them, and then do their best to "be the man" who fills it.

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