Like most other companies, we’ve made the decision to pivot our in-person conference to a virtual event. As we were planning for this new reality, we went back and forth over whether to make the event free or to charge for a portion of it. This was uncharted territory for our team, who have never put on a virtual event longer than a webinar. We knew we still wanted to keep the best elements of our in-person event - to provide a place for our Rhythm family to come together, to share ideas, to get real work done and to learn from each other while enjoying ourselves.
Ultimately, we decided to use the event to do the most good we can at this difficult time—to help our clients, friends and our community. We decided that instead of charging a registration fee for the virtual Breakthrough Conference, we’d make it optional for attendees to donate to our charity partner, Samaritan’s Feet. On top of that, Patrick Thean, our CEO, has decided to personally match all donations up to $12,500.
Why Samaritan’s Feet?
Our CEO, Patrick Thean, has had a personal relationship with Manny Ohonme, founder and CEO of Samaritan’s Feet, for many years. Manny was born in Nigeria to a poor family, and his life was forever changed by receiving a pair of shoes from visiting missionaries. He later earned a basketball scholarship and went to college in the United States. After earning his degree, he met Patrick at a conference in San Diego and eventually moved to Charlotte to work with Patrick. When he returned to Africa after living and working in the US, his eyes were opened to the poverty people were experiencing. His heart was touched by the children playing basketball in the park with no shoes. (If you want to hear Manny sharing his inspiring story, check out the video in this blog article.)
People are dying of footborne diseases because they have no shoes. It’s a solvable problem, and Manny’s ultimate goal is to live in a world with zero shoeless children. It’s not just the shoes—the volunteers with his organization wash the children’s feet and give them words of hope and encouragement.
When I asked Patrick why Samaritan’s Feet is so important to him, here’s what he shared with me:
Samaritan’s Feet provides a very direct way of showing love to children and altering a child’s life significantly. It is hard to imagine that a pair of shoes can have a life or death impact for a child. When Manny explained to me 17 years ago how children get disease through their feet and how schools in Africa don’t allow children to attend without shoes, I realized how important shoes were. A pair of shoes can save a child from a parasitic disease that could ultimately cost them their lives. I committed to helping save children and give them hope 17 years ago and am thankful that I have been a part of this mission since day 1.
Patrick has been helping Samaritan’s Feet develop their strategy over many years, including helping Manny with their first BHAG, which is to put shoes on 10,000,000 children. He also joined the Board of Samaritan’s Feet in January 2020. Last year, our Rhythm Systems family had the opportunity to participate in one of the shoe distribution events here in Charlotte.
It was a hopeful and inspiring day for all of us; we had a chance to give high fives and hugs, wash feet, and share hope with some of our city’s most vulnerable people who were facing eviction. As Patrick shared, "Washing the feet of children and seeing them smile, seeing their parents wiping tears away, made me very thankful that I have the opportunity to be a part of making lives better for children, both in the USA as well as abroad.”
As we were planning for the event with our partners at Samaritan’s Feet, I wanted to get a sense of how things have changed since COVID-19 shut down schools and businesses and left many non-profits uncertain about their future. Here’s what they shared with me:
The conditions now facing the United States have led most non-profit organizations to grapple with how to do more with less. For Samaritan’s Feet, this has meant addressing how to provide both hope and shoes when our generous supporters face uncertain economic realities.
In March of 2020, Samaritan’s Feet was faced with new limitations calling into question how they could, literally and figuratively, touch communities and encourage hope. Not to be defeated in this core value, the organization launched Hope Notes, a program that connects people all over the world through personal words of compassion for one another. Since the program’s launch, they have distributed over 30,000 Hope Notes and anticipate distributing over 80,000 by September of this year.
In July of 2020, Samaritan’s Feet launched its new Hope Tote, expanding distributions to include a tote carrying new shoes, socks, hygiene kits including health information, and a Hope Note. Hope Totes will be distributed through our partnerships with Title I schools, shelters, hospitals, and other non-profit organizations who commune with these underserved populations.
I’d love for you to join us for our virtual conference this year on Wednesday, October 14; it’s going to be a great afternoon of learning, sharing, and maybe a little inspiration. Mostly, I hope you will consider making a donation to Samaritan’s Feet so they can continue to transform lives with health and hope. If you are not in a position to give financially, consider sharing a Hope Note with someone in need.