In honour of their son Jacob, Ellen and her family launched a charity called ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. Together with additional family, friends and community they were able to raise millions of dollars towards research, education and therapy into rare neurodegenerative illnesses.
Like most charities, they held fundraisers that were based on the power of giving. For years, they held an event called, ‘Jake’s Gigantic Give’. They reached out to people they knew in the toy world to help create a Pop-Up Store, just before the holidays. The key here, was that nothing in this store was for sale.
They took a massive donated space and filled it with unbelievable toys. There was a free lounge with treats and entertainment; everything was donated. On entrance to this store, families were greeted by a teenage volunteer who took them around. The goal was to prepare, wrap and give a gift package to someone who might not normally receive a gift, during the holiday season.
As families left, there were seven charities there to receive these gifts on behalf of the children. Then, each child was allowed entrance back into the store to choose something just for themselves. So many of the young guests asked if they could donate that toy as well.
The generosity of people was mind blowing. And this story leads to today’s first guest, Jon Levy, who was one of the masterminds behind all the toys that were donated to Jake’s Gigantic Give. Not just toys, but two massive moving trucks, filled with all the hottest items.
Speaking of mastermind, Jon and his brother, were the founders of ‘Mastermind Toys’, where he was the CEO and Chief Merchant for over 35 years. Today, Jon is the VP of Strategic Transactions and Head of Ventures (Toys) at Spin Master Ltd, where he finds and nurtures the brightest inventors in the world of play.
Jon is also passionate about mental health causes for children and was a founding director of ‘Camp Kirk’, a summer camp that empowers neuro diverse children.
Jon shared his entrepreneurship journey, his views on leading a healthy life and what he calls ‘the ethos of giving’. Jon came from a family of entrepreneurs, so it was only natural for him to be a part of that world. As a youth, he shoveled driveways before leaving for school in the mornings. He quickly learned that in order to increase his margins, he needed to upgrade and get a snowblower, allowing him to clear more driveways in a day. Then, he got into skateboarding, so he set out to sell skateboards in his school yard. And so it began…..
Later, he and his brother started Mastermind as a business to sell computer games, with the intent to make education more fun for families. Here, he learned to respect and honour all the relationships that he formed as an independent business owner. As the business grew, he wanted to help others and become good in other ways. “The practice of doing good”, as he called it.
As his business expanded, Jon wanted to do more giving. He was driven to do good things that people came to know him for, not to be egotistical, but because he found it addictive, and it made him feel good. He said, it is important to show gratitude to your community when running a business and it is a true indication of your success, when you can give back.
It all relates to being healthy as well, as businesses need health too. Businesses don’t always buy the right product and inventory may have to be moved in some other way. So, with Jake’s Giant Give, they were actually ‘exercising’ their business to make it healthier. Giving keeps you and your business healthy and drives how we feel in life.
Jon loved helping to bring Jake’s Gigantic Give together. He said that, when you see the end result of your giving, it gives you a great sense of accomplishment. It just makes everyone better to do good!
Next up, we had the incredible singer/songwriter SAGE, who performed the song,’ Count On Me’, by Bruno Mars. SAGE is the recent winner of Western University’s The Voice Competition. At the age of 13, she was a Mini POP kid. Since then, Sage has been sharing covers on YouTube and TikTok, with almost 100,000 followers. She recently released her original song “Too Good”and we have no doubt we will be seeing more of Sage in the years to come. Check her out on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram as That Singer Sage.
Our Shining Star was Ryann Fineberg. We first met Ryann when she was a student in our Project Give Back Program. This young advocate shows no sign of slowing down. Now at fifteen, she is a Research Assistant at the University of Toronto! She was also one of the youngest delegates to attend the latest United Nations Biodiversity Conference.
Ryann considers herself an animal and climate advocate, who gives presentations on issues that she is passionate about, hoping to inspire more youth to incorporate kindness. Compassion and understanding help make a difference, especially with regards to youth advocacy. She says that behind the scenes there is a lot of hard work, but if kindness and compassion are there, it makes the work more meaningful for all involved.
In light of Holocaust Education month, Lindsay at One2GiveTo wanted to draw our attention to the state of Holocaust survivors currently living in Toronto. Many live well under the poverty line. You can help by donating gift cards or by coming out to see Holocaust survivor and educator, Pinchas Gutter speak at a local event, coming up on May 17th.
And that’s a wrap on Unwrapping Kindness!