Appreciation Drives Charitable Giving

IMG_1987Several weeks ago, I traveled to Minnesota to support fellow Committee of 200 members Vicki Escarra and Angie Bastian at a charity event benefitting three worthy causes: Matter, which helps expand access to healthcare around the world, Opportunity International, which works to eliminate poverty by providing micro loans to start up businesses, and The Committee of 200 Foundation, whose mission is to fund, create and implement programs to inspire, support, foster, celebrate and advance future generations of women business leaders around the world. It’s always inspiring to be in the company of other C200 members, and this event was no different.

Tracy GuarinoThe program featured KISS co-founder, Gene Simmons. While the public is most familiar with Simmons’ alter ego on stage, his wild makeup and long tongue mask someone with a heartrending story and a deep-seated commitment to charitable giving and to veteran causes, which was very moving and emotionally provoking. For example, Gene talked about the best drink he ever had. Knowing his on-stage persona, many audience members likely pictured an alcoholic beverage, or assumed he’d tell a story about a wild night of partying. In fact, Simmons explained he’d never been drunk or high on drugs and he does not smoke; his on-stage character is just that: an alter ego. Instead, he discussed growing up extremely poor in Israel. Someone gave his family a can of peaches. With no can opener, his mother, a Holocaust survivor, beat the can open with a rock. Up to this point, he didn’t know what a peach was. He drank the juice, which he remembers as the best drink he’s ever had. Gene commented on how grateful he was that someone cared enough to donate that can of peaches to his family. That feeling of appreciation still drives his actions today.

Gene and TracyGene and his mother immigrated to the U.S. when he was eight. His childhood experiences as a poor immigrant fuel Gene’s spirit of giving today. He personally sponsors 1,400 children and he provided a strong message about donations. For example, Gene asked the audience, “How many pairs of shoes do you really need?” He reminded all of us how much good we can do by making contributions that most likely will not impact our lives, but will make a life-changing difference for the people we offer a helping hand, and encouraged everyone to give as much as we can.

Gene really “walks the walk” when it comes to charitable giving, often participating in various philanthropic and fundraising events.

Kiss FlagGene Simmons and KISS are especially committed to veteran causes. He mentioned, in many other countries, when you serve your country in the military, you are guaranteed a job when you finish. Disappointed that the U.S. does not do the same, the group hires veterans to work as roadies and stagehands at their concerts around the country. In addition, during the concert, they stop to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and present a $150,000 check to a local veterans organization at each stop.

This was very moving, heartening and an uplifting part of the concert we attended. I was inspired by Gene’s message and appreciated the reminder of how important it is to identify causes we care about and to stretch what we can give to help as many people as possible.

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