Friday, September 27, 2013

Dogg Day Afternoon

We all know giving is good. But I must admit that sometimes giving back can be a daunting task. How do we know that the cause we are giving back to is worth the investment? How can we be certain that the monies will get to those who deserve it? Well, one good way to take the guess work out of the give is to ally yourself with non-profits that do the research, build the bridges, and check up on the charities they give to. When I was pregnant with my first child I started Little Wings Foundation with all of those intentions. I am proud to say that Little Wings is still going strong - and I like to think - making a very purposeful impact on this big wild world within which we live. 

Another fantastic non-profit that is changing lives and giving back is the Andrew K. Dwyer Foundation. They too are building lasting relationships with solid non-profits that deserve their help. To date they have given more than $1 million to worthy charities. The non-profit was born from a heartbreaking tragedy. As we've said on The Sent in the past - when we face adversity we have the choice to crumble or climb up and out. AKDF was created as a family rose from the ashes of a devastating loss. They have worked hard to ensure that the all-too-short life of one special person was not taken in vain. I've seen what they do - and I can assure them that they have created quite a legacy. Well done!

Q&A with Nancy Eaves, Founder, Andrew K. Dwyer Foundation

What is the Andrew K. Dwyer Foundation and why was it established?

The Andrew K. Dwyer Foundation is a public foundation established to honor my brother Andrew’s enthusiasm for life and concern for others by helping less advantaged children. The Foundation provides scholarships and a broad range of extracurricular activities while encouraging young people to volunteer their time in support of the Foundation’s mission. The Foundation is of perpetual duration, and has 501c (3) charitable status.

After Andrew’s tragic death (he was one of four Yale students killed in a car accident on Jan 17th 2003) we wanted to create something good, meaningful and ongoing out of this horrible tragedy. We wanted Andrew’s name to outlast us. We wanted to spread his spirit.

Who was Andrew?

It's interesting to think about this ten years later, as I would have loved to see who Andrew grew up to be. The best way I can define Andrew is to say he was loved. You can read all the testimonials on the website, but Andrew attracted people to him. He was good-natured, happy go lucky, extremely loyal, and determined. He had amazing character and intellect, possessed a legendary dry wit, and a contagious joy for life. In addition to being loved, he appreciated life in return: friends, family, a great prank, creative themed parties, intelligence, golf, sports stats and, of course, his sports teams. As a child, Elly (my sister) and I coined him the “golden child” as the sun seemed to shine down on him and he basked in it. We couldn’t blame him; we adored him too.

Ten years later, we all still see all Andrew’s best friends frequently. A group of Hotchkiss guys (and now wives and babies) come stay with us every year in Fishers Island over Labor Day. This is a testament to Andrew and the friends he attracted. At his memorial service, six friends introduced themselves as Andrew’s best friend. Elly and I have both named our three sons after him – Andrew would have loved that. He used to laugh about George Foreman naming his five sons George and theorize about ways he could do the same. I picture him laughing knowing there is a little Andrew, Knox and Dwyer romping around. Andrew was loved.

Why did your family start Dogg Day?

“Dogg” was Andrew’s high school nickname. (There is a testimonial on the website explaining its origins). After Andrew’s passing, we decided to start the Foundation. I’m not sure who came up with the idea of DoggDay, but we wanted it to be our big fundraiser for the charity. The first year was at our old house in Bedford and had over 300 people. It has since moved to the Bedford Golf and Tennis Club. We want it to be a fun family day, where friends can compete playing tennis and golf (two sports Andrew loved) and then have a great family party at night. Obviously, our goal is to raise as much money as possible to give away to our amazing causes. This year the event takes place on Friday, October 4th. Golf and tennis during the day and a fun party that night! Tickets can be bought on the site here

What kind of a person was Andrew and why do you think he would love this cause?

Above all, Andrew was kind. He loved helping others. I know he would have loved giving kids opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Our value proposition as a Foundation is that our trustees are very involved in the charities we support. We actively work with/volunteer at the charities we support to watch how our money is spent. For example, we founded and maintain the Lacrosse program at East Harlem School. We pay for buses, uniforms, field time, and hired a new coach (one of our trustees found him). We organize an annual trip to Hotchkiss School every year with the EHS kids, our committee members and trustees (former college lacrosse players). We  volunteer at the school, and one of our trustees has been elected to the EHS board. My Mom has worked at Waterside School (and also a board member) for the last ten years, and we started their swimming program. I know Andrew would be so proud of all we’ve accomplished. I know he would be so touched by how many of his friends have taken active leadership roles and made a huge difference in children’s lives.

Can you share with us one or two of the most rewarding things AKDF has done in the last 10 years? What is your hope for the non-profit's future?

AKDF currently support 14 scholarships, 2 internships, 2 athletic programs, and has donated over one million dollars to children-in-need. I’m so proud of every child we've supported and what they’ve gone on to accomplish. We’ve made a difference in so many young people’s lives.

We hope that AKDF can continue to grow, identify amazing causes and to help children who wouldn’t otherwise have these opportunities. Its incredibly rewarding and I’m floored by the ongoing generosity of family and friends. The core of our inspiration has always been and will forever be Andrew and the impact he had on all of our lives. Our donors are the heart of our ability to carry on Andrew’s legacy, and we are humbled by the amazing support we have received over the last ten years.

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