Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for September, 2015

Keeping It “100 For Koka”

This birthday marks the first one that I will ever have without either of my parents being alive to celebrate it with me. It’s a sobering thought and one that leaves me a little sad. I can’t lie. Every time my Dad said Happy Birthday, especially over the last few years, I got chills down my spine with the gratitude of the guy that was there from Day 1. I would always respond “Thank You”, which he assumed was for his acknowledgement of my big day, but was really for another year of his patience, wisdom, and love. 

This year,  I’ll have to settle for finally completing the handling of his personal affairs. Closing accounts, rounding up random obligations, and basically making sure that all loose ends are tied up are a thorn in the side of the whole grieving process. In fact, I think the final piece should be done today. That said, I should consider myself one of the lucky ones. Some people pass away with large debts that they leave to their loved ones. My father was always very careful with money and made sure that he left no debt. In fact, he had some money left over that he left to us. Certainly not life changing money for myself or my brother, but enough that I could potentially do something special with it. And that’s where this gets interesting…

When I was looking over the calendar of days, I came to realize something that I never noticed in my previous birthdays: my birthday is day 1 of the 100 day countdown to Christmas Day. I’m not narcissistic enough to think that that is anything more than a coincidence, but it did give me an idea. Could I do something with my Dad’s money that would be in the spirit of the man who left it to us as well as teach a valuable lesson to the girls of whom he was so fond and he would expect to carry on his legacy? While their “Koka” was frugal with money, few were more generous with time in empathizing with the needs of others and encouraging others to do good things. So, at the intersection of my Dad’s modest bequest, my 44th birthday, my original plan of doing something generous at Christmas as an homage to my Dad, and my never-ending quest to make the girls better people than me, I knew what I had to do–and it started with my birthday present from my family. At dinner Tuesday, I told the girls and Cherise that I didn’t need any material gifts for my birthday. Instead, I wanted their time and commitment. 

For the next 100 days, starting with my birthday and ending with Christmas, we, as a family, will give money away to a new cause every single day. 

Some of these causes will be ones that we’ve done before (we’ve got a group of 15-20 we always give to annually), but it leaves room for a lot of new causes. For my father, it’s an opportunity for him to help people one last time. For me, it’s a sense of duty and reminder that he taught me right, not to mention bringing more meaning to a profound loss that I suffered. And most importantly, for the girls, it’s a lesson in thinking of others and understanding that not everyone is as fortunate as they are (Cherise doesn’t need this lesson—she helped reinforce it in me years ago). I’m not only asking to give away the money, but each family member that chooses a cause has to write a few sentences about it and post it online. I want us to think about why we decided to give that money as well as who we are impacting–and share that with others. To be clear, the amounts won’t be earth-shattering (no buildings will be donated in the filming of this lesson), but that’s not the point. Getting into the act of giving and thinking of others is critical and something we’ve preached to the girls, but rarely practice in their presence. It’s usually a couple of conversations that Cherise and I have towards the end of the year, long after the kids have gone to bed. With this family activity, they have to get involved. Originally, Cherise and I were a little concerned that there might not be enough time for the girls to do this with their busy schedules. Then, we realized that when they reach our age, busy lives are exactly what keeps most people from caring about other people’s plights (until some graphic photo or hashtag hits social media and we are up in arms). We all need to make time for this. We’ll take turns on selecting the causes (though I imagine I’ll be responsible for getting the ball rolling early) and every single one will be documented—though there are some we might choose to not publish for personal reasons as they could be construed as controversial and the goal here is not to make a political statement. I’ll post them all on this blog ( and try not to annoy Facebook and Twitter friends by batching the donations and post them every week or two (#100ForKoka).

This is where I need your help. Consider this your present to me. There are causes we’ve helped for years, but some great ones we don’t know about. Share with us. Let us know some of your favorite organizations and why you gave to them or volunteered with them. Comment here or on the blog. Direct message me on Facebook or Twiter. E-mail me. SMS me. Whatever.  Iris and Robyn are particularly new at this and I want them to see every single example of people who need our help and the fact that we won’t be able to help every one, but it’s important that we do our part. I can’t promise that we’ll give to your suggested organization, but just by making us aware of it, I think you’re helping all of us learn more about your cause and awareness is so valuable. And if one of the causes we share inspires you to give, let us know that too—especially if it’s a cause selected by Iris or Robyn. 

Iris is excited, not only to give (the Malala book seems to have opened her eyes already—leave it to a teenage Nobel Prize winner to outdo me) but to write about her donations as she seems to have caught the writing bug. Robyn is a little nervous about writing about her giving, but I think she’ll warm up to it. As for me, just thinking about the people we can affect (especially the two that live under my roof) makes me feel like I’m doing something my Dad would be proud of and that alone makes this the best birthday present I will have ever received. 

Thanks for listening.


#100ForKoka List Of Causes (1-50)

The explanation for this list… link

Day 1: September 17, 2015: American Heart Association

For the first day, it seems appropriate that I give to the organization that was the first charity I ever gave to and then coincidentally came around to being more important than I ever imagined. After my Mom passed away in 1996, I wanted to recognize her after having died of a heart attack. While there were several charities that reflected the numerous ailments that made her so ill for so many years, the American Heart Association still stood out for the great work they do to promote healthier lives and reduce the destruction done by heart disease and stroke. Of course, 12 years later, I’d personally go through an open heart surgery for a fluke infection that created a mitral valve prolapse and I became a beneficiary of their work. While that wasn’t the intent of my original donation, it was a stark reminder that we never know what’s going to happen to us and when we’ll be in need. And that’s why I give.

– Sandy

Day 2: September 18, 2015: Southern Poverty Law Center

I was introduced to the SPLC about 14 years ago and was stunned by the selfless work of Morris Dees. Stamping out social injustice armed with the law, Dees (along with Joseph Levin) started the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971 (same year I was born) focused on discrimination laws and defending the defenseless. They even brought on Julian Bond as a president of the board during the 1970s. He’s endured death threats, violence, bombings, and intimidation in his pursuit of justice–pretty much the closest thing to a superhero I can imagine. Given my father’s life as a brown man with little money in British India and pre-Civil Rights Texas, I’ve always felt the SPLC was the kind of organization that would’ve had his back through those difficult times. And that’s why I give.

– Sandy

Day 3: September 19, 2015: Habit For Humanity

I will debut with Habitat for Humanity.  Their vision: a world where everyone has a decent place to live.  This is close to my heart for many reasons.  First of all, I appreciate every day that my family has a safe, warm, space in which to live.  Secondly, I volunteered for and worked for Rural California Housing Corporation, who provided affordable rental housing for low-income families and had a similar program to Habitat, in helping people build their own homes to own.  And it seems to be becoming a family tradition, as my mom also was a VISTA Volunteer helping people build their own homes to own, in Arizona, before I was born.  Having worked as a community organizer, I think of the residents I met then, at kitchen tables and in community rooms late into the night…how hard they worked for their families and communities, and how having safe, affordable housing gave them the important base from which to care for an ill family member, start their own business, or learn English as a refugee far from home.  UnknownIt’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, first provide housing and then build a supportive community from which everything else can connect.  Residents come together then and find their own best solutions for food, clothing, childcare, and neighborhood safety.  It’s one of the best investments we can make.


Day 4: September 20, 2015: The Malala Fund

I chose to donate to the Malala Fund. The Malala Fund enables girls to have 12 years of education. I chose this because I think all girls should have the right to learn at a school. Also, I read I Am Malala, so I know Malala’s story. For example, she was shot in the head on the way home from school. The bullet went close to her brain.


 Day 5: September 21, 2015: NorCal Poodle Rescue

I wanted to give to NorCal Poodle Rescue because they helped us find a cute and playful puppy and I want the other cute and playful puppies to find homes. They were also very nice when we adopted Tiger Lily.

-Robyn, as told to Sandy

Day 6: September 22, 2015: UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency 

The images of refugees have been devastating. While worldwide attention has been placed on this crisis in recent weeks, this has been an issue for years without much help. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is the assists people forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict and persecution. They provide shelter, food, water, and medical care to refugees around the world. The families who feel helpless with no sense of home deserve a chance to survive and thrive. To quote U2, “where you live should not decide whether you live and whether you die”. And that’s why I give.


Day 7: September 23, 2015: ShelterBox

We are giving in honor of Cherise’s mother, Mary Kay, who nominated ShelterBox. Below is what she shared with us…

We provide emergency shelter and vital supplies to support communities around the world overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis.

The top priority of many aid organizations is to provide food, water and medical care to help people survive the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Without protection from the elements, survivors are at a higher risk as they await nourishment or medical attention.We recognized that little or no assistance was given in terms of proper shelter to help them through the first few days, weeks and months as they tried to rebuild their lives. Today, ShelterBox assists disaster survivors during the critical period following a disaster but preceding reconstruction.

To help them begin to rebuild their lives and communities, we deliver shelter and lifesaving supplies to the most vulnerable people. Highly trained ShelterBox response teams distribute aid on the ground, working closely with local organizations, international aid agencies and a global network of volunteers.  

Day 8: September 24, 2015

As we mentioned earlier, we’re not trying to make a political statement out of our 100 day experiment. However, there are services that have been incredibly important to us over the years and one in particular has come under fire right now to potentially lose federal funding. We won’t name it as we’re not looking for search engine trolls who seek to vilify those support this cause (the internet is a crazy place), but you may be able to guess what it is.  As a young VISTA volunteer just out of college, I was making a stipend of $600/month and qualified for these services.  I went there for my annual women’s checkup, and was so thankful that they existed.  Sitting in the waiting room, I looked around at a diverse group of women: young and old, single and married, teenagers and moms.  The one thing we all had in common was a need for basic women’s health services, at a low price.  The staff were friendly, professional, and informative, and it gave me peace of mind to know that there exists a place where women can find accurate information and affordable medical help to be able to be in control of their own reproductive health.  I cannot understand why anyone would want to end that.  It’s also smart financial policy to invest in women being able to access healthcare, birth control and STD prevention.  According to the Washington Post, a lack of services would, over the first decade, cost taxpayers an additional $650 million.  It would lead to more unplanned births as patients lost access to birth control. Medicaid would cover some of those births, the report asserts, and some of those children would qualify for Medicaid and other welfare programs.


Day 9: September 25, 2015: GLIDE

Two years ago, our team at Turner took a service day to help out at the GLIDE, a place in San Francisco that serves fresh meals to those down on their luck. Their mission is wonderful: create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization. We were there for only two hours, but it was a truly profound experience for me. Where I typically walked by these faces as I made way across the city every day, on that day, I had to stop to interact with them. Their gratitude and respect was touching, as was the selfless behavior of those who run GLIDE. While my poor time management skills preclude me from spending more time doing what I did that day, my admiration for their efforts leads me to want to help them continue their wonderful work. And that’s why I give.


Day 10: September 26, 2015: Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF)

I chose to donate to ARF: Animal Rescue Foundation because I think dogs and cats should always have nice homes. ARF gives them one if they don’t have a family. Their goal is for every dog or cat to have a home. It’s nice to have a kind family, and dogs and cats deserve one just as much as humans.

– Iris

Day 11: September 27, 2015: Oakland Zoo

I want to give to the Oakland zoo because it’s not just dogs that I like, it’s all the other animals too.  I think that all animals deserve to have homes and have food to eat so they can live with friends.


Day 12: September 28, 2015: Hidden Genius Project

I was introduced to Hidden Genius early on as I am friends with Jason Young, one of the founders. Jason is a remarkable story, making his way from South Central LA to Harvard to Silicon Valley entrepreneur. through his startup as well as Hidden Genius, he has spent much of his career trying to use technology to help bring knowledge and opportunities to underrepresented minorities. Hidden Genius does exactly that, finding high-potential young black men in inner cities like Oakland and teaching them tech entrepreneurial skills.  With the crisis facing black men today on so many levels, a proactive approach is necessary to change things. By opening doors and providing valuable education at such a critical juncture of their lives, Hidden Genius is unlocking the potential of these young men to not only create successful careers, but also change the world. And that’s why I give.


Day 13: September 29, 2015: Donor’s Choose

With September coming to a close, this month has featured two things that started: another school year and Stephen Colbert’s new show. So it’s only fitting that I give at the intersection of those two with Donor’s Choose. Donor’s Choose, which has been championed by Colbert for years, makes it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need. Public school teachers around the country come up with classroom project ideas, and doors can give any amount to the project that they like. Given my reliance on public schools for most of my formative years and the limitations placed on it by tight budgets and lack of resources for my teachers, I love that I can make a difference and create new opportunities for those kids that are in the position I was in years ago. In this case, I have given to a Special Ed Pre-School class in Southern California that is trying to make science accessible to these kids. Science opened many career doors for me, but more importantly, opened my eyes and imagination. I want that gift of these kids (many of whom live in poverty) who face the challenges such as ADHD and autism and are often dismissed and forgotten, which is particularly tragic at a preschool level. Capture their imaginations early and give them a reason to get excited. That’s what they’re doing in this classroom. And that’s why I give.


Day 14: September 30, 2015: PATH

Today I choose PATH, which I first learned about from my friend Claudia. PATH is the leader in global health innovation. An international nonprofit organization, we save lives and improve health, especially among women and children. We accelerate innovation across five platforms—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations—that harness our entrepreneurial insight, scientific and public health expertise, and passion for health equity. By mobilizing partners around the world, we take innovation to scale, working alongside countries primarily in Africa and Asia to tackle their greatest health needs. Together, we deliver measurable results that disrupt the cycle of poor health.


Day 15: October 1, 2015: National Breast Cancer Foundation

Given it’s October and that makes it Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it seems like a great time to recognize the need for regular screenings, especially for those who don’t have easy access to medical care due to finances. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet multiple survivors of breast cancer and the common thread between them has been they were all remarkable women and they each benefited from early detection. National Breast Cancer Foundation provide mammograms for women in need. For each dollar donated, it becomes more likely that a child can still have a mother or a father can still have his daughter. And that’s why I give.


Day 16: October 2, 2015: Umpqua Bank/United Way

The original plan was for Cherise to be able to donate since today was her birthday. But on the day after the stunning tragedy in Oregon, it seems fitting that we take an active step to provide support to the families of the victims and provide financial assistance to help mend their shattered existences. In addition to “doing the right thing”, I offer this donation as an apology. An apology that my outrage for these tragedies subsided to sadness to mere acceptance to one step short of a crass “stuff happens” attitude that treats these events as inevitable (sorry Jeb, I issue a Carly-like challenge to watch the video and listen to yourself speak–you classify not only the Oregon shooting but all of these massacres as “stuff”). The attitude that suggests that it’s been better to bury my head in the sand than be vocal. That I was tired of the news covering it and seeing it on my Facebook page. I already avoided political conversations on Facebook and now I didn’t even want to read the news. Enough reality, show me more cute puppies playing the with chew toys. And so I stood silent. It wasn’t always that way. Three years ago, I was mortified. I wept as I tried to make sense of Sandy Hook so that I could explain it to my kids. I was upset about the Colorado movie theater. I was knocked a little off-balance by the Santa Monica tragedy. But by the time Charleston arrived, I barely flinched. I acted like I did when I heard of the typhoons in Asia. “Oh, how unfortunate.” Unfortunately, while (as REM once quoted Richard Linklater) “withdrawal in disgust is not the same apathy”, it still leaves the situation unsolved–and the status quo wins. And the status quo is not acceptable. And that’s why I give. And that’s why I’ll change.


Day 17: October 3, 2015: iLeap

Today I choose iLEAP, an international nonprofit that inspires social leaders and ignites social change.

Founded by our friends the incredible Britt and Izumi Yamamoto, iLEAP is an investment in humanity. Their vision is extraordinary and their reach extensive. Here’s their vision:

The iLEAP vision is a worldwide community of global citizens and innovative organizations who are connected through a values-based approach to leadership, committed to building strong global partnerships for social change, and working together to realize our fullest potential and celebrate our common humanity.

Here’s their reach:

Check out their website at to meet their fellows and hear their stories.  It’ll renew your faith in humanity and our global future!


Day 18: October 4, 2015: Lungevity

 Most people who know me also know I am a huge Baltimore Orioles famon. Of course, this season was disappointing as the Orioles finished with on 81 wins and out of the post-season. Still, despite the mediocre performance on the field, I continued to be impressed with their effort off the field in support of Lungevity. Their previous PR Director passed away from Lung Cancer a year and a half ago and it really moved them. She was a non-smoker and ultra healthy in her early 30s. The Orioles not only supported charities and events to support the cause, but also managed to wear the organization’s T-Shirts (with a Big K to strike out cancer) every opportunity they got. I was touched how the Orioles were so moved by this woman and her cause that they made the extra effort to support it. When they clinched the AL East last year, there was her husband, as much a part of the celebration as she would’ve been and many of them talked of her, even amidst the excitement. That’s a legacy and a cause I want to support. And on this last day of the season, that’s why I give.


Day 19: October 5, 2015: Heifer International

I think all families should have food so they can live. They should also be educated so they can learn things. Chickens lay eggs, goats and cows give milk, and bees make honey. With milk and eggs and honey you can sell them and get more money. And then you can also keep some of it to use for yourself. So I think Heifer International is a good place to donate to.


Day 20: October 6, 2015: Salvation Army Flood Disaster Relief

It’s hard not to be completely moved by the intense devastation that has befallen the people of South Carolina. The frightening images of underwater houses, floating coffins, and destroyed property are haunting reminders that some disasters can completely break entire communities. Money won’t solve the problems, but it can potentially ease their recovery and hopefully help get them back on their feet. And that’s why I give.


Day 21: October 7, 2015: Outdoor Circle

I decided I wanted to donate to the Outdoor Circle. The Outdoor Circle works to keep Hawaii clean. They preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty. I chose this because in my opinion Hawaii is beautiful, and I want it to stay that way. My great aunt Kathleen recommended it. She lives in Hawaii, so she knows about it.


Day 22: October 8, 2015: Downtown Heritage Walk

Today we choose the Walnut Creek Historical Society, in honor of our neighbor and tireless volunteer docent, Phyllis Bolton. Not only are Phyllis and Fred our incredibly generous neighbors, they are also like a part of our family, and Iris and Robyn look to them as a bonus set of grandparents. The Walnut Creek Historical Society runs the Shadelands Ranch House, which local 3rd graders get to experience as a hands-on living history – Docents play characters who lived at the Shadeland’s Fruit Ranch in 1906 and help students do chores, play games, tour the chocolate-colored redwood house, visit the Japanese workers bunkhouse, see the water tower, examine the basement, collect herbs, and plant seeds in the slow food garden.
They come away with a true appreciation for hard work, and how lucky we are to live in the 21st century.


Day 23: October 9, 2015: The Ocean Conservancy

I love snorkeling and it was so exciting to go into the oceans and see all the amazing creatures. If we don’t do something to protect the oceans, all of the animals in the oceans may no longer be there. That’s not good for the environment and that’s not good for when I snorkel. I want to protect those animals.


Day 24: October 10, 2015: The Doula Foundation

Today is the 10th anniversary of the day Iris was supposed to be born. Instead, it was a grueling 50+ hour labor that went from the night of the 10th to the morning of the 13th. It was a harrowing ordeal that resulted in the the most important and profound moment of my life. Amidst it all, we had a doula that helped us through the whole experience. She was kind, helpful, and encouraging without ever usurping my role as the primary support partner. Birth is the greatest miracle of life and it needs to be treated as such. With doulas like the one we had, it made the experience of welcoming Iris to the world so transformational (for us and her). Being able to assist others less fortunate than us to have access to this service is a gift that can affect someone’s life from the very beginning. And that’s why I give.


Day 25: October 11, 2015: Hamilton Family Center

The Executive Director of the Hamilton Family Center is our friend Jeff Kostisky, an incredible visionary leader whose dedication to working in partnership with disadvantaged communities is unparalleled.  Each organization he has led has grown and prospered, creating strong measurable results for the community.  I was fortunate to work for Jeff at Rural California Housing Corporation, where he grew a community organizing team of 2 into a fully staffed department to help residents lead their own communities at 15 different properties across multiple counties.  That was only the beginning.  Now he partners with San Francisco and heavy hitters like Salesforce Foundation towards the goal of truly ending homelessness in the city.  I am certain that every dollar donated to Hamilton Family Center is spent efficiently and effectively, and is a strong investment in the future of San Francisco’s families.


Day 26: October 12, 2015: American Indian Education Foundation

For those who know the story of Christopher Columbus (“sailing the Ocean Blue”) and then the real story about his less-than-noble exploits, Columbus Day is a mixed message. We’re grateful for the discovery of America, but it’s hard to be really happy with the cultures that were destroyed as a result. Native Americans have long since struggled to continue their traditions and create sustainable communities. Education has been a big challenge as only 17% of Native American high school graduates begin college. Of those, only one in five makes it through the academic, emotional, and financial stresses of the first year. The American Indian Education Foundation (AIEF) has given hope to Native American students by providing the tools they need to succeed. They provide scholarships, learning materials, aid, emergency funds, and other resources to help more Native American go to college and then be successful when they reach that destination. Given my father’s love and emphasis on education, this seems appropriate for “100 For Koka”. Given it’s Columbus, it seems appropriate to acknowledge that some deeds of that discovery still impact people today. And that’s why I give.


Day 27: October 13, 2015: Assam Foundation of North America


Day 28: October 14, 2015: NICU Helping Hands

With Iris’ 10th birthday come and gone, it’s an interesting time to reflect on both that day and the 10 years since. The most important thing about that day was that we were given a healthy baby girl with no health problems or concerns, other than a LOT of crying. But for some parents, that’s not case. Premature babies happen far too often and the ordeal of not only the child but also the parents can be life-altering. We saw it with our friends Jana and Christian, who managed to show a tremendous amount of strength, resilience, and (most important of all) love for their child and each other. In addition to gaining a tremendous amount of respect for them, I was also reminded of how fortunate we were and that many are not so lucky. They need support, they need resources, and they need money. That’s what NICU Helping Hands provides. And that’s why I give.


Day 29: October 15, 2015: The Gleason Initiative

With the Saints playing on Thursday night, I was reminded of the story of Steve Gleason, a former Super Bowl hero that was stricken with ALS. To see a strong capable NFL player relegated to a wheelchair has been stunning. His public battle has been inspirational and he has worked hard to bring his cause to the masses through the Gleason Initiative. They help provide individuals with muscular diseases or injuries with leading edge technology, equipment and services, create a global conversation about ALS to ultimately find solutions and an end to the disease, and raise public awareness toward ALS by providing and documenting extraordinary life adventures for individuals with muscular diseases or injuries.


Day 30: October 16, 2015: Ronald McDonald House

I wanted to donate to the Ronald McDonald House because I think people shouldn’t have to drive miles just to see their (sick) kids. I think people should be walking distance from the hospital so they don’t have to waste time.


Day 31: October 17, 2015:  Girls Who Code

Spending the day with 10 girls at a slumber party, I’m reminded of the creativity and capability of these young minds. I’m also reminded that not enough of them go into technical careers–especially software. I’ve spent time with Iris and Robyn, shairng my love of software and daring them to dream big. But there are others that do it far better than me. Girls Who Code works to educate, inspire, and equip high school girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in computing fields. Efforts like this are so valuable, not only to open these fields to girls, but also to influence the products that use in the future by having the female influence.


Day 32: October 18, 2015:  Buena Vista Auxillary of the Assistance League

Today I choose to donate to BVA – Buena Vista Auxiliary of Assistance League of Diablo Valley.  I’ve volunteered with them for the past eight years, in various roles including running the literacy program and chairing the board.

If you want to make a difference here helping children learn to read, this is the way to do it.

BVA members are all unpaid volunteers, and their small group runs the literacy program in 11 local low-income schools, helping about 300 struggling students per year to become strong, confident readers. It’s incredible the difference this program makes.  I’ve seen children who hate reading at the beginning, end up by the end of the 16 weeks increasing their reading score by an entire grade level and declaring their love of books.

How the Program Works: Credentialed teachers are paired with local elementary schoolchildren who read below grade level in the Mt Diablo and Walnut Creek school districts.  As a direct result of the program, over 97% of participating children showed significant improvement in their reading skills, self-confidence and self-esteem.

How you can help: Donate today and share with your friends! Your tax-deductible donation will help directly fund the Buena Vista Tutorial Program.


Day 33: October 19, 2015:  Doctors Without Borders

We’ve been giving to Doctors Without Borders for several years now. They are a private, international association of doctors and health sector workers as well as other professions which might help in achieving its aims of providing assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters, and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of race, religion, creed, or political convictions. They are in over 80 countries and helped tens of millions of people in need of medical attention. When Iris makes mention of being a doctor, I always have a thought in my head that she’ll find time to be a part of this organization and exhibit a selflessness that would make me proud as I can think of no nobler cause. And that’s why I give.


Day 34: October 20, 2015:  The Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, they drive consumer choice and civic action.

EWG has been a key resource for our family for years now, always reliable with the latest research on which products are safe for families and especially kids to use.  I check their sunscreen guide and seafood guide every year, and now they’ve expanded into other areas too including safe cell phone use, children’s cereals, and cosmetics guide from shampoos to toothpaste.  Without a nonpartisan research group like EWG, there’s no way to get information on what chemicals are in the products we buy and use every day.


Day 35: October 21, 2015:  UCSF Brain Tumor Research Center

In the wake of Joe Biden’s decision to not run for President, it’s worth taking a moment to think about his decision on a personal level. Regardless of your politics or your opinion of Vice President Biden, it’s tragic to recognize that the grief from the loss of his son to brain cancer may very well have been the deciding factor in his decision to forego his best chance of achieving what was clearly a lifelong dream (he has run before and it’s no secret that he has wanted to be President). Unfortunately, Biden is not unique as many of us are affected by this disease. Personally, I’ve had a friend from college who has undergone three surgeries and completely changed her life to battle this disease. That was my first exposure to the disease. But of course, far more close to home, we lost Cherise’s father to the deadly disease seven years ago, forever altering our lives as a family. The tremendous work done by the folks at the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery gave Cherise’s father two more years of life and they continue to fight the good fight to research and treat this scourge that affects so many lives, not only of those afflicted but those that are left behind. They create greater hope for the future sons and fathers and college friends that deal with this. And that’s why I give.


Day 36: October 22, 2015:  Meals On Wheels

An event I attended last night was a terrific reminder of what a wonderful program this is, especially as I think about my father’s physical struggles in his final months. Delivering meals to seniors who are unable to obtain meals for themselves is such a noble cause that means so much to a very undervalued part of our population. No one likes to talk about truly growing old, but there are struggles with the things we take for granted the limit these individuals in what must the most frustrating way. The combination of the meals and also the human contact (and safety check) is how we should respect our elders in their advanced years. After all, as Gandhi once said, “you can judge a society by the way it treats its weakest members”.  And that’s why I give…


Day 37: October 23, 2015:  United Negro College Fund

With Cherise’s 20th college reunion this weekend, it’s easy to be reminded about the profound effect a college education can have for an individual. While college is under attack for rising tuition costs and oversensitive students, the truth is that college provides unquestionable resources and opportunities for young minds. A cause that we have always been close to is the United Negro College Fund, which has helped provide these opportunities to qualified and capable African American students otherwise wouldn’t have access to a college education. Given my Dad’s emphasis on education, this is one of those causes that I know would be very close to his heart. And that’s why I give…


Day 38: October 24, 2015:  Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy Initiative

Another by-product of heading back to Stanford is seeing many of Cherise’s old friends and some of the exciting things they are working on. Sally Matalin, a longtime friend, is doing great work for the Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy Institute. They help those without the resources to help themselves by making the our legal system an asset instead of a hinderance. Here is the information of her organization in her own words:

I work for Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy Initiative. Bolder Advocacy provides social justice nonprofits with technical assistance and training. We demystify complex tax and election laws so nonprofit staff and volunteers can confidently advocate for change. Can your soup kitchen fight against income inequality? Yes! We’ll help you figure out the laws that regulate that advocacy. Can your immigrant rights organization criticize Donald Trump for his atrocious anti-immigrant comments? Probably not, but we’ll help you figure out how you can raise awareness about immigrant rights during the election season!

Thanks for doing this great work, Sally.

Day 39: October 25, 2015:  Stomp Out Bullying

At Iris & Robyn’s school, they’ve been having sessions on anti-bullying. Having seen people bullied when I was growing up, I realized the potentially traumatic impact it can have on a young person.

For years, I’ve often thought “kids are cruel”, but I never gave any thought as to why. Unfortunately, for years, kids were taught to look the other way, just accept it. But now, kids are being taught to call it out, think of their classmates, and take action. The recognition of this issue and proactive approach to minimizing its impact if not removing it entirely. I know this won’t end things, but just encouraging mutual support. I’m grateful for the organizations that try to nip the “mean girls” thing in the bud before it becomes a destructive influences on good girls, be it my daughters or yours. Stomp Out Bullying has been one of the more effective organizations in this regard and I’m grateful for this work. And that’s why I give.


Day 40: October 26, 2015:  Camp Twin Canyon

This funding campaign is to plant shade trees at Camp Twin Canyon, a Girl Scout camp property that provides affordable, volunteer-run summer camps for hundreds of girls each week.  Iris and Robyn have attended camp there since they were ages 5 and 8, and they learn so much from the older girl “elves” who teach everything from fire and archery to group songs and teamwork games.
Here are the details from the camp:
Their goal is to raise $14,000 by November 1, to replant with native trees and shrubs before the winter rains.  Every donation makes a difference!  Please join in and share with your friends – for shade, beauty, birds, clean air, and girls!

For camper safety we have had to prune and/or remove a number of mature trees from our beloved camp over the past several years.  We have been very sad to lose the trees but were reminded, again, of the importance of this work after a tree limb fell into the parking lot this summer. An arborist has inspected the 11 parking lot trees and recommended that because of their size and location near power lines and parking, it is advisable for camper safety to remove these trees and replace them with native Toyon trees and native Ceanothus shrubs.

Since 2012 we have raised $23,000 to support tree pruning, removal, and re-forestation at Camp Twin Canyon and $7,000 this summer from Diablo Day Camp families.  We need to raise an additional $14,000 to complete the job and re-plant the camp with native trees and shrubs. Our top priority is adding 4 mature native shade trees (and a temporary drip irrigation system) with a goal of providing shade within the camp activity area by summer 2016.


Day 41: October 27, 2015: Sakhi

Recently, I was touched by the story of an South Asian woman who was a victim of domestic abuse and went through horrific ordeal to rid herself of that situation. I was reminded of a charity that was brought to our attention several years ago through a friend that lived in the New York area. It’s an organization called Sakhi and focuses on supporting survivors of violence, communities, and institutions to prevent and end domestic violence in the South Asian community in New York City. “Sakhi” means woman friend and the organization was founded over 25 years ago to address an often unspoken truth about the terror that women face at the hands of domestic abuse, especially in situations where these women have no community and no recourse. These women need a voice and Sakhi gives it to them. And that’s why I give…


Day 42: October 28, 2015: End Polio Now (via Gates Foundation)

Today is Bill Gates’ 60th birthday. Needless to say, he’s been a huge influence on my life as an entrepreneurial role model, my former uberboss, and now as a philanthropist. In honor of this day, I thought it would be appropriate to give to support one of his greatest causes–the effort to eradicate polio. For 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected for life. They actually within reach of ending polio, which would be only the second human disease in history to be eradicated. This year, they ended polio in Nigeria. Now only two countries remain polio-endemic, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The Gates Foundation has given generously to make this amazing feat possible. There were few people my Dad admired more than Bill Gates for his work at Microsoft, but using the money he made on Windows & Office to eradicated a treacherous disease could very easily be his greatest accomplishment. Thank you BillG.


Day 43: October 29, 2015: Harlem Children’s Zone

Yesterday’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert featured both a great bit about Donald Trump’s modest $1 million loan (Trump claimed it was “nothing”) and challenged Trump to give “nothing” to a worthy cause: the Harlem Children’s Zone ( They give thousands of kids the individualized support they need to get to and through college and become productive, self-sustaining adults. Early childhood education makes a critical difference in the lives of these children as does the sustained effort through these formative years to inspire them to pursue their dreams. Colbert’s ability to mock an out-of-touch statement from a presidential candidate and opportunistically bring light to a tremendous charity is one of the reasons he will always be one of the best things on TV.

Day 44: October 30, 2015: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

We talk about mental health in the news quite a bit, but mostly in the context of mass shootings that destroy countless lives. But mental illness takes fare more lives in a different manner: suicide. So many people struggle with demons and decide to take their own life as their only solution. I’ve seen it with my childhood neighbor. I’ve seen it with my musical hero. I’ve seen it with the child of a great friend/colleague. My friend Jean proposed this cause (thanks Jean!) and, given it is her birthday today, I thought this was an appropriate time to follow up. The right support at the right time could save someone’s life. And that’s why I give…

Day 45: October 31, 2015: Kidpower

Given it is Halloween, it seems like the right time to stress the importance of skills around lifelong safety and confidence. It’s a day of treats but also tricks, a day of child wonder and trust but also frights and scares. So we give to Kidpower. In addition to bullying (a cause we addressed a few days ago), they address abuse, abduction, and other violence. They aim to to empower people of all ages and abilities with confidence and skills.

Day 46: November 1, 2015: Exploring New Horizons Outdoor School

I wanted to donate to Exploring New Horizons Outdoor School because I went to Walker Creek and it was really fun and I learned a lot. I think other kids should have the opportunity to go to outdoor school. They can learn a lot about nature and how it’s important and they can see animals and learn about them. They can observe more things and understand the importance of nature.


(Walker Creek is in Petaluma, and the 5th graders at Walnut Acres went there for an entire week. Exploring New Horizons provides similar outdoor education opportunities for kids, including scholarships for low-income kids in the Mt. Diablo School District)

Day 47: November 2, 2015: UNICEF

I want to give to UNICEF because if people keep catching diseases then eventually everyone will die and the world will have no meaning. UNICEF vaccinates kids so they don’t get sick
– Robyn

Whether Mexico, Syria or Nepal, when children are at risk, UNICEF has one focus: keeping children alive and safe, and tending to their unique needs. All over the world, children desperately need water, shelter, food and medical supplies. Children die needlessly from preventable causes — and they don’t have to. Your support will prove that their lives matter, and that people are willing to stand up for them right now. By making a donation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF today, you can provide children with Clean and safe drinking water, child friendly spaces for counseling, rest and play, essential vitamins and nutrients, and much more

Day 48: November 3, 2015: Peterson Foundation For Parkinsons

Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressive neurological condition that affects over one-million people in the United States. Actor Michael J. Fox may be one of the most notable people who has been afflicted with the disease. You get tremors, muscle rigidity, generalized pain, slowing of movement, a change in posture, and problems with balance and coordination. The Peterson Foundation was brought to me by a friend (who I happened to run into again yesterday) and I was reminded of the great work they do to promote research, activities, and care for those with Parkinson’s.

Day 49: November 4, 2015: EARN

Today I choose to donate to EARN, to create lasting change for families. Thanks to Amy Williamson for your tireless work in this arena and for pointing out EARN as a bay area org similar to your work in Sacramento. EARN is a national nonprofit with the mission to create prosperity for working families by helping them save and invest in their futures. They give families the tools to achieve life-changing goals such as saving for college, buying a first home, or starting a small business. I was amazed to read that approximately 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and 21% don’t even have a savings account. “They likely don’t have cash reserves to cover an emergency and will have to rely on credit, friends and family, or even their retirement accounts to cover unexpected expenses” > Check out how EARN has helped people save for the things that matter most to them. Visit >


Day 50: November 5, 2015: Texas A&M Biochemistry Fellowships

 As we reach the 50 day mark of this 100 day endeavor, it’s worth returning to the person for whom this whole exercise has been intended to honor. For all the flak that higher education seems to be taking, it also manages to create wonderful opportunities for students here and abroad. Over 50 years ago, it created that opportunity for my father. A fellowship at Texas A&M enabled him to come to America, forging new life, and have two sons that would grow to truly appreciate the two things that Texas A&M provided – America and education. This seems like as good a time as any to give a little something back to say thank you. That’s why today’s donation just Texas A&M’s biochemistry department to support graduate fellowship. May they create an opportunity for the next Robindra Khaund to come and take advantage of the power of education, just as my dad did.

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