All posts by Toan Lam

About Toan Lam

Toan Lam, the creator of www.GoInspireGo.com is living proof that inspiration and hope trumps the unfortunate situations many of us face today. After nearly 10 years of television industry experience, both in-front and behind-the camera reporting in San Francisco as well as ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates around the country and California Heartland, a statewide, syndicated PBS magazine show, he was laid off from his major market news gig. Toan decided to stop his job search and combine his journalism chops and gift of connecting with people, to help his community. That experience led him to create a website featuring inspirational videos via a YouTube channel. At the end of the videos, there are resource links where viewers can go to help the featured people. His goal: To help everyone discover their power and inspire them to use their power (their resources and talents) to help others. When Toan is not on TV, he is blogging about his website content for the Huffington Post's Living and Impact Sections. Additionally, he is sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience as an adjunct professor, teaching on-camera talent and production classes at the University of San Francisco (his alma mater) and the Academy of Art. Toan is also a member of the Asian American Journalists' Association.

Arizona Teen Believes Positive Peer Pressure Could End Bullying

Drum roll please… What started out as a crazy idea has manifested. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We’re so excited to unveil our first hero to you!

The Be O.N.E. Project

Who: Matthew Kaplan, 16-years-old

What: Peer-to-Peer Anti-Bullying Program Targeting Middle Schools

Where: Phoenix

Why: It’s cool to be kind!

The Catalyst: Bullying is a topic of concern in schools across America. With convenient access to digital devices and social media, hurtful messages are multiplied and spread like chicken pox. Adding to the angst, kids can post harmful messages with anonymity, ease and without a real-time reaction from the victim.

Two years ago, when Matthew Kaplan’s kid brother Josh was bullied in middle school, he decided he had to do something. “One day, he came home from school and his self-confidence was shaken,” Matthew said. “He started to withdraw and wasn’t himself anymore.”

Josh said he received dozens of hurtful text messages, like “you suck”. What made things worse — he discovered that his friends, disguised behind blocked phone numbers, were sending the messages. It may sound benign, but at that age, friends are your world, so when you get several messages, you start to think there really is something wrong with you. “It felt horrible,” Josh said. “I probably cried every day in the 4th and 5th grade.”

Big brother Matthew took advocacy to a heroic level by creating the anti-bullying peer experiential program, The Be O.N.E. (Open to New Experiences) Project.

The Act: Through this journey, Matthew discovered his passion: Building community and fostering a positive school culture.

But how? He researched anti-bullying programs targeting middle schoolers, but could only find high school programs and believes that “the damage” is done by that age. “It’s been ingrained, become habit. You have to get them in middle school — that’s when they’re figuring out their sense of self,” Matthew said.

Without an example, Matthew decided to create a middle school anti-bullying program using peer pressure in a positive way. “What if it were cool to be kind?” he preaches enthusiastically. “What if peer pressure could be used as inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness? When they have this tool, they could either be supportive or disruptive. I want them to recognize that they have the power.”

The Be O.N.E. Project is a “positive peer pressure” program. It starts with fun exercises, like holding hands in a big circle and passing a hula hoop around without letting go of hands. There’s joy and lots of laughing. Kids get to know each other and make connections.

The day progresses with focused, serious exercises when kids are asked to sit in a circle and have 90 seconds each to finish the following sentence: “When others see me, they think _____. But if they really knew who I am _____.”

“The Be O.N.E.” challenge is the last activity. When Matthew, who delivers self-defining statements with the passion of an older brother and conviction of a minister, describes a situation, kids are instructed to stand in a line and “Be One” to cross an imaginary line, if the description resonates with them.

At the end of the program, there is a noticeable change of enlightenment and compassion in the kids. Many have tears.

Grab a tissue and watch how every single kid has “crossed a line.” Be inspired to take action — you will discover that you have the power to BE ONE person that is the change-maker in your community:

The Ripples: Matthew has inspired more than 150 Arizona teachers and high school students to be team leaders during the day-long middle school program.

We spoke to students who participated and asked them how it changed their lives. Their answers were mature, candid and give me hope.

“If I was going to send a text that would hurt their feelings, I would think about it
and delete it and say something nice.”
-Sam, 14, 8th grader

“A group of 6th graders that didn’t go through the program, they’re like the popular
kids, now they’re bullying a bunch of the 5th graders. But all the kids that did (go through the program) are trying to stop it. Really helps to go through the program. It changes your ways.”
-Kayla, 11, 6th grader

“I look for people who are eating alone (at lunch) and I talk to them. I made many new
friends this way.”
-Anonymous

Matthew’s goal is to get “The Be O.N.E” program in every Arizona middle school. We believe he will reach this goal. Join in on the fun and be the one who inspires kindness in your community. After all, it is cool to be kind.

What can YOU do?!

Take Action:

1. Support The Be O.N.E. Project

2. Be the O.N.E. to change your school culture. Invite Matthew Kaplan to come present at your school: thebeoneproject@gmail.com

3. Learn more about what YOU can do!

For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.

Join us & Go Inspire Go…

Go Inspire Go Wants to Hook Up YOUR Thanksgiving Hero

Portrait of a family saying grace before eating dinnerBravery and courage come from not dwelling on what there is to fear.

Had I known what I know today or had a glimpse into how my life has unfolded, I would have been scared of change — afraid to step up to my calling.

My dream was to be a TV reporter in a large market, report/host a show on PBS (that’s what sparked my imagination and how I learned to speak English) and the end goal… to teach at the university level.

Little did I know, my goals would be fast-tracked and met before age 30. After eight years of reporting the news, I gave it all up and through a series of “mistakes” led me to a unique career path.

When I started Go Inspire Go five years ago, I was disillusioned by my TV news reporting job and took a huge leap of faith and quit what I thought was my dream job. I wanted to use my power of storytelling and connecting people to inspire others to discover and use their power to help others.

I am humbled that one by one, an amazing global team of more than 80 volunteers has joined our movement… and the impact has rippled out from the U.S. and beyond the pond.

This past summer, Go Inspire Go successfully launched its 50/50 campaign to profile 50 everyday heroes in 50 states and we are scouring America to uncover a real life hero in your state.

We’re inviting you to join us on this next leg of our journey, to uncover 50 inspiring heroes in 50 states.

Along the way, we found The Pollination Project on Twitter. We just knew we had to cross-pollinate the amazing energy – so we joined forces to kick off our 50/50 journey to hook up a deserving everyday street-corner style hero with a supersized grant and shower him/her with lots of social media love. #WonderTwinOrgsActivate

We plan to unveil the first hero this Thanksgiving holiday so we need your help!

That’s what the true spirit of Thanksgiving is all about. We are looking for an everyday hero (or group of heroes) whose social change work is rooted in gratitude, generosity and love.

We’re excited to announce that our friends at The Pollination Project have stepped up and will give a $1,000 grant to our first Hero. The Pollination Project has had a banner first year of funding a grant each day to individual social change-makers.

Will that hero be YOU? Will it be someone you know? HELP! Here’s what we’re looking for … apply now… time is running out.

Are you our Thanksgiving Hero?

50/50 Hero perks:
• A $1,000 grant from The Pollination Project to use for your social change project
• A local and national media push to promote your grant
• A three to five minute video that highlights the person or organization and their project.
This video can be used for future grant applications or promotion on your
website for crowdfunding campaigns and other creative uses
• Widespread video distribution via The Pollination Project and Go Inspire Go’s blogs and
social media platforms
• Home page placement on The Pollination Project’s and Go Inspire Go’s websites.

We look forward to meeting you and/or your hero, sharing your story and inspiring other heroes to use their power to uplift you and your cause. We are grateful for you! #ThankYou

Take action:
1. Learn more & Apply here
2. Share your story
3. Get your friends and supporters involved: Email, tweet, Facebook away. Remember to use #SeedTheChange and #gig5050

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Girls Inc.: Changing the World Through Girl Power!

Go Inspire Go is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight to raise awareness of organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. For more information and to read past Social Good Spotlights, click here.

Compiled by Toan Lam and Koshi Sandrasagra

What is Girls Incorporated (Girls Inc.)?

Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire all girls to be strong (through healthy living), smart (through education) and bold (through independence). Founded in 1958, Girls Inc. offers academic enrichment activities, skill-building programs and counseling services to girls and their families.

girls+powGirls Inc. of Alameda County provides year-round academic achievement and skills-building programs, as well as counseling services to more than 7,500 girls and families.

Girls Inc. believes that generations are transformed when girls are equipped with knowledge, information and confidence. Girls ages 5-18 are engaged in a continuum of award-winning programs, developing the essential skills and tools they need for college, career and life success.

How does it work?

The process: Girls Inc. begins with teaching the foundations of literacy and they support girls developmentally with each milestone along the way. This includes focus on academic achievement, positive risk taking, health and fitness, advocacy, leadership and more. The organization is unique in that they focus on serving the whole girl and her family as well, by providing on-site mental health counseling among all of the other programs offered. Their nationally-developed programs are the result of studies conducted by the Girls Incorporated National Resource Center – the largest and most comprehensive research center on girls in the country.

Spotlight on Major Accomplishments (to name just a few!):

  • 100 percent of Girls Inc. seniors graduate from high school (compared to less than 60 percent of their peers) and in the last five years, 98.2 percent of seniors have enrolled in college (most of whom are the first in their families to do so).
  • More than 1,500 girls across the country have participated in technology and literacy curricula initially developed by Girls Inc. of Alameda County.
  • Named by the Clinton Global Initiative as one of the 13 programs that “will improve the lives of girls and women around the world.”
  • Received the United Nation’s East Bay’s 6th Annual Global Citizen Award

Personal Victories:

  • In Spring 2012, Arooj Haq, who was an active participant in Girls Inc. programs from early elementary school though high school graduation, was inducted into Alameda County’s Women’s Hall of Fame for her work in public health and advocating for human rights. In Girls Inc. Arooj, at 17, promoted nutrition, smart choices and healthy relationships to her high school peers, and helped run her school’s annual blood drive. The daughter of two Pakistani immigrants, Arooj has long aspired to be a nurse. A recent trip to the Middle East caused her to expand her aspirations, however. Her goal now is to one day open a charity helping women in her parents’ native country. As a young Muslim woman, Arooj has had some negative experiences due to others’ ignorance and stereotyping. The experiences only bolster her determination to be a positive role model and to redefine cultural assumptions. She now attends U.C. Santa Barbara!
  • Two Eureka! Teen Achievement Program high school participants were invited to the 2012 White House Science Fair based on their solar bus design and met President Barack Obama.

The New Girls Inc. Simpson Center for Girls

Girls Inc. of Alameda County has unveiled new headquarters to become the region’s first and only resource center for girls. The new center is located at 510 16th St in Downtown Oakland, and will effectively allow Girls Inc. to respond to the increasing demand for their critical programs.

The genius of the design for the center is not just that it revitalizes a historic building, but that it began with Girls Inc. participants!

Girls from the Eureka! Teen Achievement Program met with Berkeley-based Anne Phillips Architecture and spearheaded the project – getting regular project updates, providing design input and ideas to create a green, sustainable facility and making key decisions on efficient fixtures and design.

The end result is a flexible design concept that will support expanded programs and services, including:
  • Learning and education – Expanded space for high school girls to build skills in leadership, advocacy and peer education.
  • Physical and mental health – a vibrant health and wellness center and teaching kitchen, with a focus on cooking, nutrition, a yoga center and the Pathways Center for counseling.
  • Academic Achievement and Enrichment – Early learning, tutoring, college prep and career guidance, a library, study areas and Internet café.

Take Action:

In the media era where young women are bombarded with conflicting messages and values (think The Notorious B.I.G. singing about “Nasty Girl” and reality TV stars and pop idols making sex tapes to get famous) – there is a very real need to give young women a sense of pride, self-worth and purpose. Girls Inc. is providing a very real service in communities that need it; giving young girls the building blocks to create their futures, rather than having a future thrust upon them through poverty and a lack of education or opportunity.

Get involved by joining the Girls Inc. strong, smart & bold campaign and help them change the world: one girl, one family, one community at a time.

Become a volunteer, join our Girls Inc. Friends & Family and donate, become a Women of Impact member or partner with Girls Inc.!

There are so many opportunities to help us change the world, one girl at a time. Get involved!

Better Breathing for a Better Life (VIDEO)

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 1.33.10 PMWhen you find yourself in a situation where you get stressed, frightened or caught off guard, what’s the best thing to do?

Scream? Sometimes. : )

But seriously, what did mom or grandma or your loved one tell you to do?

Breathe.

Yes, it’s as simple as that.

But time and time again, while walking around the streets of San Francisco (and while being in the car with certain eh hem, friends with road rage) I witness screaming and feel their blood boiling. What good does that do?

I try to make it a practice to breathe deeply every morning.

Here’s how:

I love filling up my lungs and expunging all the air and imagining my lungs deflating like a balloon. I do this almost every morning with a 20-30 minute yoga routine.

I’m an early riser, so I like to take in the stillness of the morning silence with a meditation practice. People may get freaked out and discouraged about “not knowing how to meditate.” The truth is, there isn’t a “right way” to meditate. Simple focus on your breath, deep breath in…deep breath out.

Other times when I’m running and gunning, I just take three quick deep breaths. If you’re over-programmed like me and have a busy schedule, set a reminder on your phone to go off three times a day to remind you to breathe.

Here’s a video I made for you that will help you focus on your breathing. This is what I usually see on my morning run at Aquatic Park in San Francisco. Breathe in when the waves come toward the shore. Breathe all the way out when the waves recede. It’s only a minute long, but the effects are long lasting.

Enjoy!

Feel better?

According to Men’s Journal, here are some stats about how deep breathing can be aaah-so-good for your health:

Relax: Breathing is an “accurate and honest barometer” of a person’s emotional state. Train your breathing to maintain your calm and lower stress levels.

Maximize Potential: The average person uses just 50 to 60 percent of his lung capacity. Breath training expands the lungs, and better oxygen intake means higher athletic performance.

Improve Health: Research suggests that developing proper breathing habits can play a role in treating conditions like asthma, acute bronchitis, ADHD and sleep apnea.

Don’t we all feel better after taking a few deep breaths? The next time you feel your panties or boxer briefs getting in a bunch, smile and relax (those butt cheeks). Namaste!

What other breathing exercises help you get through your day? If you follow our @goinspirego Instagram feed, you’ll notice that I often post pictures of beautiful cityscapes and snapshots of nature. Surprisingly, many people tell me the pictures remind them to slow down, be present and breathe. I’d love to hear/see what inspires you to breathe. Please share in the comments below.

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The Spiritual Journey of Crowd-funding

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 4.59.02 PMEveryday I wake up and count my blessings. I’m grateful to have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and most importantly, I am breathing. This month there was additional energy swirling around me and Go Inspire Go (GIG).

As many of you know, Go Inspire Go embarked on our 50/50 crowd funding journey 36 days ago. We’re on a quest to uncover 50 everyday heroes in 50 states. We are about 85% of the way to our $25,000 goal with just 4 days to go!

Over a year ago, my board members Marcia and Connie planted the seed about crowd-funding and waited for me to say ‘GO’. We chose Indiegogo for our 50/50 campaign.

With more than 40+ volunteers on this campaign, I confidently assumed, “we got this.” Connie, our campaign cheerleader organized and managed us with spreadsheets galore. We were ready!

IMG_8242Pre-planning meetings included: generating buzz with social media, examining case studies, e-mail outreach to schools, artists nonprofit organizations, design elements which included a handful of technical/design friends who helped with the title animation and logo for our video. And of course, many iterations of our campaign video. This took more than 100 hours to produce.

No one could predict what happened after we launched… One of our volunteer’s grandmother passed away. She rushed to Los Angeles to plan the funeral. Another volunteer spontaneously collapsed in the bathroom, slamming her face into a metal shelf as she became unconscious and another volunteer had two surgeries followed by her apartment flooding.

What was going on?!

You know that saying, all things come in 3′s. Not true. I got a call from my cousin in Michigan, who told me her mom passed way from lung cancer. Coincidentally, I got another a call from a close childhood friend, who told me her mom (whom I consider family) was battling the late stage of lung cancer too. Whaaat? I. Need. Time. To. Process…
I had a campaign to run, videos to shoot and blogs push out. Throw into the mix six classes to teach and grading.

You know the saying, “challenges are here to teach you something?” Even though I always try to look for the silver lining, I’ve spent all month wondering what this was supposed to teach me. Just a glimmer, please?

IMG_3474Today, I got it.

For me, the GIG campaign goal was to raise awareness, consciousness and inspire action. It ended up being much more – this has been a spiritual journey. If you look at my gratitude journal, you’ll see that a constant theme or mantra is “I feel supported.”

This platform allowed my team and me to create and organize a movement and to encourage everyone I care for to use their power, in any way, to help make their community a better place. As long as I have the support of my team and viewers like you I can continue supporting the community heroes we feature. I’ve been working tirelessly with a team of 60-80 volunteers for the past 4 years on pieces of the puzzle: production of videos and blogs, design elements, and searching for ways to make this a sustainable long lasting, impactful vessel that serves people like you.

But this is why we do what we do:

 People like Michael Fullam, a 50/50 donor who recently reached out to tell me that GIG has helped him feel hopeful in a time of hopelessness – this on the heels of his mother’s recent death.


 People like Ron Holt, a GIG hero, who is on a crusade to inspire equality around the world through his unique research about the biology of sexuality and his message of authenticity. People have reached out to Ron telling him they’re glad to have come across the video and hear his message because it saved their lives. Another viewer came out to Ron and for the first time came to terms and accepted with an authentic self.

A viewer wrote to Ron:

My name is (removed) I am a young gay male (17), I have not been at any of your conferences, but I did see your video on youtube, and would like to personally thank you! I wish someone like you came and told me that being gay is okay alot sooner then I found out. I told my mother I was gay at 15 and I have been living alone since then working full time all because I was gay something so small can really change the way people view you! So thank you very much for helping and educating other on this problem of gay hate I really do appreciate it!

And people like YOU, who email, comment and share our content.

This is just the tip of the impact we’ve created. I could have never imaged when I started this little idea in 2009. Our videos and blogs show the world that YOU can make a difference both big and small. We just want you to GO … get inspired … and GO do it!


 There’s nothing more gratifying than being able to give someone the gift of awareness of their own power and ability to give back. Simply put JOY. 


Every minute we have in the day is a opportunity for us to share our gift of joy.

It seemed that every time a barrier was presented to us, there was an invisible ladder, a rope, a helping hand. Just like miracles, we don’t always see them, but I know we feel them – if we are present (and focus on our breath).

Miracles during this 50/50 journey:

1. We are more than 85% away from our goal. We have 4 days left. Please donate and share like crazy!

2. More people have joined our campaign, we started with about 10 and now we have 40+ volunteers

3. Wize Commerce will donate $5,000 to our campaign and are developing a Corporate Challenge from local companies to donate and inspire volunteerism amongst their team

4. Pollination Project will give our first hero featured a $1,000 seed grant

5. Despite all that has happened to our team, we are still breathing

For those of you who have donated, reached out to your network to share our message and all the social media followers that have liked us, we wish there was a ‘LOVE’ button for you all.

And to my amazing team, THANK YOU for all the hard work and love and for pushing me to be a better person and leader!

P.S. Want to learn more about our journey leading up to this 50/50 campaign? Check out our special 50/50 blog posts!

Go Inspire Go: Why YOUth Matter

Zararwadi SmileIf I could choose one quote that defines the ethos of our youth today, it would be, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” Simple but sweet words carefully crafted by my favorite poet, Dr. Maya Angelou.

This is a bold statement, I know, but hear me out.

Before I was invited to develop curriculum at the Academy of Art’s (AAU) Multimedia Department and the University of San Francisco, I too believed that many young folks were apathetic, entitled and not in touch with reality.

Boy, was I wrong. Or as my students would say, “You got moded.”

Reality Check #1: A few years ago, I was given the rare opportunity to build and teach a high school summer bridge program at AAU. I thought that my students would be excited to execute the final I had prepared. “You are going to create a short video on ‘hot spots’ in San Francisco. It could be a cool place to hang out, shop or eat.” I instructed in a sure tone of voice. I thought hands down, students would be stoked.

Instead, hands eagerly went up. The questions they asked changed the trajectory of my stereotypes toward the youth.

One student raised her hand and said, “My mom was so excited that you were teaching us because she follows Go Inspire Go (my nonprofit) on social media.” Another student said, “Yeah my friends follow you on Twitter in Sweden.” A third student said her friends who live in the Midwest follow our stories. Their collective wish: “Can we do our video on a story for GIG and if it’s good enough, would you post it?” My heart skipped a beat. Chills ran from head to my feet.

I was taken aback.

Julian Cohen, a high school junior from Jersey City, N.J., saw an article in his local newspaper about a reverend who wanted to build a high school in Grande Saline, Haiti, following the devastating earthquake in 2010. Cohen was sad that there was no high school in Grande Saline and was inspired to make a video to engage action. This led to two youth movements that eventually sent 32 kids to school for one year in Haiti.

This led me to create a GIG program called GIG Spark, Lesson on Compassion. Students think about a problem and how they could be part of the solution. They create a short 90 second video and send it to us to multiply their message.

Reality Check #2: I’m exited to announce that Go Inspire Go partnered up with The Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA, YouTube, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation and National Youth Radio to create GIG Sparks with youth at the Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA. They wanted to make videos that inspire compassion, change and a shift in perspective.

If you watch the local media here in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’d think that this area is only known for its crime, violence and destitution. I found that there was so much hope for the youth living in this area of the City.

Photo Courtesy: Oscar Nilsson/ Interview with Betty Sells-Asberry, YMCA Teen Services Director

When I spent an afternoon training six of these young YMCA change makers, I was filled with pride. Kier Wilson, Tajae Hill, and Jonkia Davis were amazingly inspiring. They were so proud to call the Bayview Hunter’s Point their home, but were deeply saddened their neighborhood is viewed as “the ghetto.” They wanted to do something to change the negative perception of their community.

Thank you to YouTube and the Mayor’s office for inviting us to share our “GIG Spark” as an innovative, organized and fun way to inspire the YMCA kids to accomplish this mission.

* This video was created by four of my students at AAU — youth — who asked to come along on the shoot. Thanks Oscar Nilsson, Marcus Pettersson, Eva Broman, and Hugo Albrektsson for your great work!

Reality Check #3: At the University of San Francisco, my alma mater, I was asked to design and teach a Blogging for Social Change course. On the first day, I asked students, “What is your passion?”

With optimism and determination, one student said, “I want people to get out of their bubble and do something to help the people in their community.”

‘Nuff said! Amen to that.

As a kid, I felt insignificant. I thought I didn’t matter. I didn’t feel like I had a voice. What would a Chinese immigrant boy, growing up in a rough South Sacramento neighborhood, say of any importance? Why would anyone care?

I wonder how many youth feel like that today. What if adults took a moment to listen to the youngsters in their lives and hear them out. With a little guidance, support and inspiration, we too could be a part of inspiring a new generation of people who teach what they learn and give what they get!

* * *

Take Action:
* Check out “I LOVE Bayview” on Improve SF!
* Share their stories on social media and by word of mouth.
* Volunteer at your local YMCA

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Photo credit: Flickr

Pilot Inspires Compton Kids to Dream Big (VIDEO)

What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say the words, “Compton, Calif.?”

A hood that’s up to no good? OK, not fair, that’s more than one word. It’s also not a 100 percent fair representation of Compton. I recently met an aeronautical angel in this city, about 16 miles south of Los Angeles, who, for the past 15 years, has helped more than 2,000 kids earn their wings.

Robyn Petgrave, founder of Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM), is using aeronautics to get at-risk youth in Compton off the streets and into the air — educating, inspiring and empowering them to soar high and reach their dreams. Starting at age eight, kids who stay out of trouble, get good grades and have positive attitudes earn the privilege to fly planes.

“I talked to the kids about staying away from drugs and gangs, communicating, using aviation as a real life application of math and science, and working hard in school and life. As I noticed that some of them listened and followed through, I realized that I wanted to help kids succeed using aviation as a magnet to keep kids off the streets for a living,” Petgrave said.

As the founder of Celebrity Helicopters, a flight school and tour company, he still felt empty. He’s rubbed elbows with celebrities, garnered media recognition and even got the attention of Oprah. But what he’s most proud of is the title of “role model” to more than 8,000 kids at more than 21 different schools where he’s been a guest speaker.

Jump in and take a look at our Go Inspire Go video and come along for an inspiring journey. Fasten your seat belts — I promise your spirits will soar when you hit play.

After spending the day with several TAM kids, I was on a high. I was most impressed with the kids’ maturity, their willingness and duty to give back and responsible demeanors. Many TAM alum, like James Knox, are giving museum tours to the public and mentoring newcomers. Way to pay it forward!

It’s interesting to witness how the kids were drawn to TAM because of the planes, but it’s clear that they’re just a vehicle that gets the kids in the door and cockpit. Petgrave says there’s a tremendous amount of responsibility when you fly a plane, life skills that can be transferred from the air and to the streets.

I was lucky enough to be flown by James high above downtown Los Angeles. That’s when it occurred to me — what if we all took time out of our day to spend time with the youth, to tell them “YOU matter.” To what new heights would this child take us in our lives and our society?

Robyn and the kids told me many sordid stories — both heartbreaking and harrowing — of kids who’ve come through the doors with no hope. “Gangs, shootings…” says teen Cinthya Hernandez who found her calling and life’s purpose after meeting Robyn and the other TAM kids.

“One of the kids got shot in the leg right in front of his house for no apparent reason,” Robyn explained.

Courtesy: TAM

What’s next for Robyn and his kids? He’s joining forces with NASA’s SpaceX program. His dream is to send one of his TAM kids to space! Something tells me this out of this world idea will become a reality in the near future. Cinthya shared her favorite quote with me. “Why shoot for the stars, when you can go to the moon?”

High five to Robyn and his crew for taking these amazing kids under his wing and catapulting them past the sky’s limit. What a great way to use his power and fueling the dreams of these bright kids and challenging them to soar to new heights.

Take Action:

1) Learn more about Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum: Tamuseum.org
2) Use your power to support TAM
3. Mentor a Child in Your Community. Inspire them to follow their passion.

What can YOU do?

*Thank you Connie Chan Wang for introducing GIG to TAM!

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Why It’s Important to Enjoy the Art Around Us

If I were to ask you, “What subject matter in school is deemed most important?” What would your answer be? Math, science or art?

Sunny Blossom (Toan Lam)

Art? Doing this for a living was never even an option in my household — it was a taboo subject. “Be a doctor, lawyer or engineer,” my parents would ingrain in my brain. In my parents’ eyes, the definition of success were those professions, in that order: doctor, lawyer, then engineer. I chose the fourth – failure (in the eyes of my immigrant parents, journalism seemed like failure).

Power Light (Toan Lam)

Reading and writing, my passions, were not as revered as mathematics and science. I would read everything out loud. In the shower, I would read shampoo bottles – “Rinse, lather, repeat.” I remember what brought me joy was acting out the characters while reading my favorite childhood books. It’s no coincidence that I became a journalist, founder of Go Inspire Go (we use the art of storytelling to inspire action) and college instructor.

Rainbow Drops Coit Tower & Telegraph Hill (Toan Lam)

That’s why this GIG Spark, produced by high school student Aaron Long resonated with me on many levels, personally, professionally and even spiritually.

Through Aaron’s GIG Spark, he wants to inspire us to look around and enjoy the art around us in San Francisco. Don’t live there? No problem; Aaron wants you to look around and enjoy a tree, some street art or something that catches your eye.

Water Cloud Reflections/Aquatic Park (Toan Lam)

How did he do this? In a creative way, of course! Find out how he inspired folks in his community to be present and enjoy the art around them through this GIG Spark (Lesson on Compassion) submission. His goal is to inspire you to notice (and enjoy) the art that surrounds you.

Gigster: Aaron Long
Where: San Francisco
Spark: Notice the Art Around You

Like many GIG Spark videos, this seems fun on the surface and it is. But on a deeper level, being creative isn’t nurtured in our society. I recently discovered this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. Specifically, he speaks about the importance of creating an educational system that nurtures creativity. This TED video is full of inspirational gems.

I often wonder what I would be doing had I not pursued my passion work. One thing’s for sure – if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be as fulfilled and full of joy. Special thanks to Aaron for being aware and inspiring presence in this adventure we call life.

City Dew Drops (Toan Lam)

Take action:
1. Stop wherever you are. Look around and take a deep breath. Enjoy one thing around you.
2. Get creative. Like to bake or paint? Do it, then give it away to someone in need. Small things like this make anyone’s day.
3. Nurture the artistic talents in a child’s life.

We hope this video inspires you to be present and enjoy the art around you — and use your power to help others. I’ve been practicing enjoying the art around me by taking pictures on my Go Inspire Go Instagram account. I always snap cool scenes and things that inspire me because I want to share it with our viewers (tagged with an inspirational message).

Be You Naturally (Toan Lam)

Note: Thanks to Mom: who turned over a new leaf and supports endeavors — because she feels my passion for GIG. Also, I know (and feel) that my father, who on his death bed told me, “You’re wasting your life, you need to quit that reporting stuff and become a doctor,” has had a change of heart and is somewhere above, looking down and smiling at me. Smiling because I followed my heart and chose to redefine his definition of “failure.” Thanks to my parents for taking the risk — to uproot their successful lives — so my siblings and I could redefine the American Dream. No. 4 ain’t so bad!

Bay City Chain Scape (Toan Lam)

GIG Spark was developed to create compassion through the exercise of brainstorming, problem solving and experiencing the joy of using your power to help others. Rachel shares her thoughts about what this particular experience meant to her:

“Something GIG Spark taught me? Don’t stop yourself from doing something just because you think it’s not going to change anything. Whether what you do is monumental or small, whether it affects a million people or just one person, what’s important is that you did something. It’s human nature to resist change, but at least you presented a chance to plant a seed of change in someone’s mind.”

Copollalights (Toan Lam)

About Go Inspire Go (GIG):

GIG is about inspiring small actions that ripple out to meaningful changes. As we’ve experienced, the ripples continue to billow out, one story, one person, one act at a time.

FEELING INSPIRED? Make your own GIG Spark and share with us. We may share it with the world.

As part of GIG’s mission to inspire our viewers to discover their power, we developed GIG Spark: A Lesson on Compassion. The goal is to spark action in everyone that witnesses your good deed. We want you to identify a problem in your community and be the change by capturing your action in a short 1-1:30 minute video. Use your passion and creativity to produce a GIG Spark and inspire viewers with your story!

What can YOU do?

Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

One Thing That Changed EVERY DAY of My Life in 2012

Photo: Toan Lam, Journal by: Caroline Harper

I’ve never really made New Year’s resolutions. But last year, I resolved to do one thing that changed me (from the inside out) every day of 2012.

I finally got around to keeping a journal — why did I wait so long?!

It’s not just one of these woo woo journals for the sake of saying you keep a journal. Instead of a sole gratitude journal, I started an evidence/gratitude journal — inspired by two people, one of whom I know, another who I will know or at least meet one day: Devyn Rush and Oprah Winfrey.

I’ve always been a fan of Oprah and have always kept her crusade to inspire folks to keep a gratitude journal in the back of my mind. It sat on the back burner until December 19th of 2011 — that’s when I finally lit the flame.

An inferno of miracles ensued.

I always thought, why keep a journal? I am present now, enjoying the now already. Well, what I realized is that this is where the magic happens — when you actually put them down on paper, effervescence happens… your thoughts manifest into something tangible, something real.

 

My friend Devyn Rush, a former American Idol contestant who is also a national spokesperson for U.G.L.Y., a bully prevention organization, told me about this journal, “Building the Best You.” If you get the privilege to know Devyn, you will walk away feeling reenergized by her infectious positive energy. At her behest, I decided to finally put pen to paper and took the penning plunge promise. My goal was to write in it everyday — I knew this would be a big feat for me because I get bored easily — but I’m proud to say I did it. Woo hoo. And whoa! Wee. Wow.

This viscerally changed me from the inside out.

What’s the difference between a gratitude journal and an evidence journal? The evidence part is when you log what you did for the day — then the gratitude part is when you write down things that unfolded that you’re grateful for.

Everyday I wrote down what I did that day, then at least five things that I was grateful for. The Building the Best You journal is a two year journal, each page is split in half. The left fold is year one, the right fold, year two.

I remember Oprah saying, “Some days I’d be grateful for seeing a squirrel in the park.” And boy wasn’t that the truth. She’s right, it doesn’t matter how simple something seemed or the lack of things you felt grateful for, it’s the fact that you’ve put this gratitude exercise into practice. And like a muscle that is put into action, I’ve become more aware and conscious of the beauty surrounding my life everyday. My favorite author, Eckhart Tolle, calls this “awareness.”

No matter how bad my day was, I found myself grateful for the lessons that came in different ways, shapes and forms. I started searching for things that I was grateful for during my days: a phone call from a loved one, discovering yet another street-corner style hero to feature in my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go, or a walk with a friend along the pier. It became habit.

I randomly flipped through my journal a couple of nights ago and was happy to see that I was grateful for “being present” and “my breath” and feeling connected to something bigger than myself were constant themes. What a big accomplishment.

Among the highlights of things I’ve logged:

1. Being more present than ever before: to nature, people and my spirit — not the “ego” or “thinking thing” rather, what Tolle calls “the watcher” — my inner compass.
2. Connections to people. I felt like the Universe sent me personal and professional connections that continue to help me grow as a person as well as progress within my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go.
3. Realization that when you become present and surrender to the ebb and flow of life, you are open to receiving more. Gratitude begets more goodness (and things to be grateful for).

What I’ve realized is that the miracles have always been there; I just became aware that they were happening — which in turn created and ignited more miracles. That’s the law of attraction at work. Ever notice how when you start the day by saying, “This is going to be a bad or stressful day” — the universe delivers a “Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?” What about those days when you say, “It’s going to be a great day!”

As a kid, I always woke up thinking, “What will I learn today? Who will I meet? What will happen?” Now I go to sleep logging the days happenings, building awareness and counting my blessings. In a sense, keeping this journal brought back the child within and has taught me to unlearn certain things we’ve learned as adults and to go back to that innocent, creative, awe-filled child’s lens we all had when we were discovering the world as children.

I’m glad I finally took action to count the miracles and enjoy them fully — I’ve evolved physically, mentally and spiritually thanks to the simple five-minute exercise of keeping an evidence/gratitude journal.

Are you aware of the miracles showing up in your life everyday? Write them down and witness them multiply.

My favorite author Eckhart Tolle says that the universe conspires to help us all. “But if the shutters are closed the sunlight can not come in.”

Cheers to a new year of counting your blessings and logging the light that comes through your window.

Happy New Year — Happy New You.

Sincerely,

Toan

P.S. What can YOU do?
Follow us on: Twitter & Facebook

12 Inspiring Stories of 2012 and Beyond (VIDEOS)

Happy Holidays from Go Inspire Go! ‘Tis the season to celebrate, give and inspire those around you as we come to an end of another great year. 2012 has been an eventful year for GIG as we continue to grow, creating three times the amount of original content as last year. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without our 30+ volunteers around the globe, the everyday do-gooders we feature, and folks like YOU! To thank you, we wanted to kick off the holidays with 12 Days of Inspiration!

But before we get to the deets, check out our GIG Virtual Holiday Greeting Card to show our gratitude:

Starting Dec. 13, we started counting down to Christmas by sharing one our original GIG stories each day, followed by an inspiring action item we want you to do right away.

We’re asking you to share what you were inspired to do via social media.

KIND Snacks has partnered with Go Inspire Go to launch our 12 Days of Inspiration. We kicked off our 12 days of inspiration with a GIG Spark video from across the street from the Ferry Building in San Francisco, giving postcards to strangers and asking them to write a message to soliders who can’t spend the holidays with their family. GaiamTV and Volunteer Match are also joining virtual forces with us to share via their social media platforms each of the 12 days.

Thanks for the love — won’t you join us?

Check GoInspireGo.com. We’ve counting down to Christmas by sharing our inspiring videos for 12 consecutive days on GIG’s website and blog.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION:
Our goal is to see how many countries we can get to share our campaign.

1. We need you and your friends/community to download this special 12 days GIG logo and post it as your/their profile pic for 12 days.

2. Share our FB posts/tweets everyday for 12 days.

We want to see how many countries we can reach with our message.

*Day 1* Inspire to write a letter to a soldier:
GIG teams up with Kind Healthy Snacks to wish our soldiers a happy holiday and express appreciation for all that they’ve done for our country.

Call to action: Inspire to create and write a hand-written letter to a solider in the military

(Special thanks to Sirima Sataman, of Ink.Paper.Plate for helping us personalize our KIND GIG cards with her letter press. Loved pressing each
card by hand!)


*Day 2* Inspire to create a GIG Spark:
Toan and some GIGSTERS visit the BAYCAT community as the youth speak up about issues they’d like to address and the changes they’d like to see.

Video: GIG SPARK Inspires BAYCAT Youth to Be The Change

Call to action: Inspire to create a GIG Spark. Use your power and multimedia to be the change.


*Day 3* Inspire to create:
Toan sits down to create Thank You cards with founder of InkPaperPlate.com, Sirima Sataman.

Video: The Best Way to Express Gratitude

Call to action: Inspire to DIY – Get crafty and create something hand made and give it to someone: a family member, friend or stranger!


*Day 4* Inspire to smile:
Claire Lemmel goes the extra mile to fulfill her mission of making people, including strangers smile.

Video: “Going the Extra Smile”

Call to action: Inspire to create a ripple of kindness by spreading smiles and holiday cheer! Smile at a stranger.


*Day 5* Inspire to make a stand:
Psychiatrist Dr. Ron Holt travels around the world to share his inspiring and empowering story to give victims of bullying who contemplated suicide hope and inspire compassion in bullies.

Video: LGBT Bullying and Suicide: It Does Get Better

Call to action: Inspire to stand up for the truth. If you’re being bullied or have thoughts of suicide, there is hope: TheTrevorProject.


*Day 6* Inspire to rescue:
Emelinda Narvaez has spent the last 41 years of her life saving the lives of more than 10,000 dogs.

Video: “Woman saves 10,000 Dogs”

Call to action: Inspire to adopt a pet today and give the gift of friendship.


*Day 7* Inspire to be a Superhero:
With GIG’s help, cancer patient, Nico Castro, 6, uses his superhero powers to help his sick friends celebrate Halloween by collecting more than 200 costumes.

Video: “6-year-old Boy with Brain Cancer Brings Halloween to Sick Kids”

Call to action: Brighten someone’s spirit this Christmas season by volunteering at your local hospital, writing a letter to a cancer patient, contributing to Make-A-Wish or sharing this story.


*Day 8* Inspire to embark on your personal journey:
Jordan Bower walked from Canada to Mexico to create personal connections and inspire people to put down their gadgets and engage in the world around them.

Video: “Make the Connection: Why One Man is Walking from Canada to Mexico”

Call to action: Inspire to start off the new year by making plans to embark in your
personal journey in 2013!


*Day 9* Inspire to help the youth create a change:
Through an aluminum can drive and letter writing campaign, Phoebe Russell, then 5, sparked a movement by inspiring her classmates and her community to raise over $3,000 for the San Francisco Food Bank. She enabled the S.F. Food Bank to dole out more than 17,800 meals! Our GIG video helped her multiply her message many times over. More than 150,000 meals served in her San Francisco community so far!

Video: “Kindergartener Inspires 150K + Meals Pt. 1″

Call to action: Inspire to spread the holiday spirit by donating or volunteering at your local food bank.


*Day 10* Inspire education: Student Video + GIG Video creates movement, sends 32 Kids to School in Haiti
Julian Cohen, then a high school student in New Jersey, wanted to help Rev. Lemaire Alerte reach his goal of building the first high school in the reverend’s hometown of Grande Saline, Haiti. Rev. Alerte was $20,000 short of his $80,000 goal to finish construction.

Little did Cohen know, he would start a movement across the nation. The result: 32 kids would be sent to school in Haiti thanks to his video posted by Go Inspire Go.

Watch how high school students in San Jose, Calif., were inspired to orchestrate goodness and be inspired to do a kind thing for a teacher or organization that aims to educate the community.

Video: “Student Video Sends 32 Kids to School in Haiti. Pt. 3″

Call to action: Inspire to give what you can to support an educational cause. Money is good, but if you don’t have the funds, give your time and volunteer.


*Day 11* Inspire to move and be present:
Nationally-renowned yoga instructor Kim Shand was born with a birth defect. The prognosis was grim. See how yoga saved her life and how she is giving back. It’ll make you rethink yoga and rethink what’s going on in your life.

Video: “Rethink Yoga. Rethink You”

Call to action: Inspire to start the New Year re-energized! Start off physically and
mentally strong, by engaging in activities that allows your body to reach its greatest potential. Kim is giving away as much free yoga as possible on her YouTube channel. More info: RethinkYoga.com


*Day 12* Inspire to give:
GIG’s most popular story so far. Meet Jorge Muñoz, school bus driver by day, and Angel in Queens, N.Y., by night. For more than nine years, Jorge has spent half his salary buying groceries and cooking, packaging and delivering home-cooked meals to 150+ people every night. More than 202,800 viewers watched and shared and many used their power to help. You must watch both videos!

Video: A Real Life “Angel” in Queens, New York Pt. 1

Video: “Surprise” Angel In Queens Follow-Up Pt. 2

Call to action: Inspire to lend a helping hand by helping Jorge provide warm meals this Christmas season. Visit www.anangelinqueens.org to see how you can help.


*Go Inspire Go is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), run entirely by Toan Lam and more than 30 volunteers around the world. For more inspiring stories, please check out our YouTube Channel. Here’s just a glimpse of our IMPACT. It’s because of viewers like you and your generous donations that enable us to bring you these original, authentic stories. If you can, please make a donation or if you cannot, there are other ways to help. Share our message and videos.

Bless you and our every day street corner-style heroes and organizations — the true heroes who are helping elevate humanity.

Happy holidays,
Toan Lam and Go Inspire Go Team

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