Monday, August 25, 2014

Will Scott McNealy Take the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Today marks the 6th Ice Bucket Challenge I've taken for ALS Awareness.   "Super Carpe Diem Woman" is dressed in a bathrobe, representing the time her "secret identity" was sick at home, and received a phone call from Former CEO and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy.

When Scott did call me in 2004, I was sure it was a prank. It was hard to believe that the CEO of a major corporation would take time out of his busy schedule just to call someone on medical leave to "cheer her up." But Troy Wright, who was on my team, had emailed Scott and given him my phone number and suggested he give me a call! What a surprise!

That's not the only time Scott McNealy impressed me with his generous heart. When I asked for a congratulatory letter for my son's Eagle Scout ceremony, Scott personally delivered it to the Broomfield office so I would have it in time for the event.

Scott McNealy was always a leader I greatly admired.  "Kick butt and have fun" was one of his mottos and I loved the playful spirit that he instilled in the organization.

I remember being inspired once by a speech he gave about leadership. I don't remember the entire story but the moral of the story was something like this: It's easy to be positive when things are good, but truly inspirational leaders stay positive when things are not so good, and find a way to make things better.

I've thought of that lesson often over the years, and especially in witnessing Craig's positive attitude in the face of ALS. It was incredible to me how he could continue to find joy and humor in the face of such a devastating disease.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

ALS Awareness: Why the ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE is my dream come true

My name's Yvette Francino and I'm a goal addict. I set a challenging goal for myself and then I get so obsessed with it that I drive my friends and family crazy, trying to come up with ways to meet that goal. Often, if I have a dependency on someone else, it turns out that I bug them so much, they help me just to shut me up.

This year my "obsession" has been with raising awareness and funds for ALS. When 2014 rolled around and I was setting my goals, I decided I wanted to "make a difference" in honor and in memory of my friend, Craig Dunham. Watching him live and die with ALS, changed my life.  It's impossible to describe the tragedy of living with this disease, though Bo Stern, in her post What an ALS family really thinks about the Ice Bucket Challenge came close with this compelling piece and her empathetic exercises.

Seeing Craig progressively lose his abilities to move, talk, or swallow, while still displaying an internal strength, courage, and independence, changed my life. I still get teary-eyed whenever I think about him... not out of pity, but out of sheer awe and admiration of the incredible strength that I witnessed in the face of a disease that robs you of all physical strength. Yes, he literally had Super Power Strength to be able to find so much joy in life despite this debilitating disease.

So, in January of this year when I saw there was an opportunity to be on the Walk Committee for the Rocky Mountain ALS Association, I told the director: "My goal this year will be to join the committee and to be the top fund-raiser for that Walk." Since the top fund-raiser last year raised $12,000, that has been my goal. Thanks to many emails and very generous friends, I had raised over $6000 before the Ice Bucket Challenge even started!

Enter... THE ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE!  OMG! This was like a huge wish coming true! I had been obsessing about how I could raise awareness and funds for ALS and here comes an unbelievable viral movement that is doing that very thing! We're talking over $50 MILLION DOLLARS!!! My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for all those celebrities and CEOs and superheroes and mere mortal people who are giving to ALS and spreading the word. How I wish Craig were here to see this. To tell you the truth, the "woo-woo" part of me feels like somehow he took part in orchestrating this whole thing, and that it WILL lead to a cure.

OK, so the real objective is being accomplished...  The funds and awareness are happening with or without my constant pressure, emails, posts to Facebook and YouTube videos.  Whether I raise $12K or not, whether I am the "top fundraiser" or not... these things don't really matter, right? That's all about MY ego... MY wanting to get recognized..  So why should I risk bugging my already-bugged friends with more messages and more videos asking to donate to MY page?

Well, for one thing, as we've already established, when I have a goal, I'm all in. I don't give up until I've met that goal. I still have over $5K left before reaching my $12K goal and just because $12K is a mere drop in that $50 million bucket, it's still a worthy drop.

Secondly, beyond making the money for ALS, what I want more than anything is for people to understand what it was like to experience what I experienced when helping Craig. We all hear how we need to "live life fully," but those words have so much more meaning to me now. We have no idea how much we all take for granted.  We have no idea how petty we sound when we complain or get annoyed by trivial things.

When I hear people complain about tiring of seeing the videos or being annoyed about getting asked to donate, I get it...  I complain about spam or about an overabundance of the same story on the news. So I feel shy or embarrassed about my constant requests for funds or my asks to share my posts or videos. I know that most people do not want to read or listen any more and I feel self-conscious that I'm getting on their nerves. Though I've gotten a few more donations since the Ice Bucket Craze, I feel I've kind of tapped out my friends and family, and don't feel very confident about raising another $5K.

And then I think about Craig and those who are currently living with ALS and realize, "How selfish am I?" Am I really so weak that I can let a little thing like being worried that I might bug someone stop me from fund-raising for a cause that I feel so passionate about?

I remember once when I was outraged because there was no wheel-chair access to Craig's church and I asked Craig if he was OK with me making a stink about it, and he typed out (with his one finger that still worked) "Yes! Thank you for being my voice!" So raising this money, spreading this message -- for me, it is part of how I can make some semblance of meaning to Craig's death. If I can do one good thing... if I can help spread the amazing spirit he demonstrated to one person..  if I can raise the money I committed to... then I'm keeping a part of him alive. Anything less, and I'd feel like I was giving up. One more of the very important lessons I learned from Craig was to never give up!

So I'm not giving up on my goals. I'll keep asking and sending blog posts and videos and ask you to share and some day a cure will be found to this awful disease.

Rest in Peace, Dear Friend
I'll do my best to live the way you did -- seizing the day

Monday, May 19, 2014

Urban Adventure Quest provides perfect entertainment for the playful traveler

Anyone who knows me, knows these things about me:

- I love to play games
- I love to travel
- I love a good deal
- I love technology

What's more, I passed these traits on to my son, Scotty. He's my favorite travel buddy because he's always up for whatever game I come up with. However, these days it's a little tougher for me to come up with games that will keep him entertained. Scotty, a 19-year-old engineering student, recently competed in the College Puzzle Challenge at Purdue and his suggestion of entertainment during our upcoming cruise was that we could work on puzzles from past years.  After trying one such puzzle, I quickly nixed that idea.

However, I did want to figure out something that we would both enjoy when we stopped in Catalina Island and I wasn't crazy about any of the overpriced excursions the ship offered.  (These definitely did not fall into the "good deal" category.)

When I googled "Things to do in Catalina," little did I expect I'd stumble upon the perfect activity for us: An Urban Adventure Quest Walking Tour of Catalina Island! The self-guided tour, part scavenger hunt, part game, was very reasonably priced and provided just the activity that was ideal for the two of us. The quest would guide us through the island with challenges and puzzles that were Goldilocks-perfect.. not too easy and not too hard. (OK, compared to Scotty's college-puzzles, they were super-easy, but not so easy that we got a perfect score. They could be a little tricky but were just right for our small mother-son team.  After all, who wants to think TOO hard while on vacation?)

The walking tour provided history and information about classic sites of the island as well as some hidden gems off the beaten path. Camera in hand, I snapped plenty of photos of the picturesque island and will savor the memories of the fun afternoon.

I highly recommend this fun way to see a new place. Urban Adventure Quest offers adventures for many major cities across the nation.  Their Facebook page is:

Monday, March 03, 2014

Thank You to Those Who Donate

I have done quite a bit of fund-raising in the past 15 years.  I've done a lot of running events  for Leukemia & Lymphoma and Cancer. I always felt awkward about asking my friends and family for money, but I knew that the causes were good, so I sent the emails and letters.  And, over the years, I've tried to help others who were fund-raising with donations and by helping to spread the word of their causes.

The downside of this is that by now my friends and family have seen so many emails from me asking to donate to causes that many of them are undoubtedly wishing to be off my email list!  And, though, I may have even promised them in the past that I wouldn't do any more fund-raising, here I am again, asking for money.

This time is different, though.  This is the first time I'm fund-raising for ALS, and it's very personal for me. The experience I had with helping my friend, Craig, who had ALS, was life-changing for me.

Even though I'd been worried that asking for money, yet again, would annoy my friends and family, I was once again, moved by the generosity from those who donated.  Many friends donate again and again. I almost felt like keeping those who have donated in the past off of my distribution list because I don't want them to feel like I'm taking advantage of their generosity. But instead of complaining, they give me encouragement and more donations! 

After only 2 weeks, I've already raised over $3000 of my $12000 goal! 

There are those who I barely know who have contributed... There are a couple of people (who I won't name to protect their privacy) who have given amazingly generous donations. These people truly are selfless. They ask for nothing in return, but just give because of the cause.  Maybe they knew Craig or have known someone who suffered from ALS and, like me, want to do something to help find a cure for this awful disease.

And then there are people who donate for me.  My family and good friends fall into this category.  I'm especially proud of my children, who don't have much money, yet still donated generously. They know how I loved Craig and they want to show their support. I feel so moved and grateful for those who realize that raising this money helps me keep Craig's spirit alive...  

Whenever I've done fund-raising, but this time especially, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the goodness of those who donate.  A thank you  doesn't seem to nearly say enough. I wish I could bestow all the goodness and generosity back ten-fold to those who give, but I guess I will have to leave that job up to God.

So... for all those wonderful people who have donated to this very worthy cause...  Thank you. You make such a difference in this world. I will always be grateful for your generosity.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Live Life to its Fullest

“I intend to leave this life with nothing but love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion in my heart. I am so ready to live life to its fullest. I only wish I would have thought to do it sooner.” ~Craig Dunham 1960-2010

These were the words from my good friend, Craig Dunhum, in his email when delivering the news that he'd been diagnosed with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease).  This video was made a few weeks before he died. I helped him communicate his love to his friends and family. He wasn't able to talk on the phone and I was happy I came up with a solution. Can you imagine not being able to move or talk? 

My goal is to honor Craig's memory by becoming the top fundraiser for the Walk to Defeat ALS. Last year the top fund-raiser raised over $12,000, so that will be a challenge, but I like a good challenge!

Craig always lived life to the fullest, even when he could no longer move or speak. It's only fitting that his initials match that of the saying, Carpe Diem. I know if he were still alive he would be jumping wheelies in his wheelchair, probably creating some new Olympic sport to help me raise money. I wish I could think of some cool, nifty trick that I could do myself that would help me make this message go viral, but all I can think of right now is just to ask for your help.  One thing I might do is send an eBook to everyone with inspirational stories about Craig and how he lived life fully, in spite of this disease.  Do you have an inspirational story? Let me know!

Please help me keep Craig's spirit alive by:

1) Spreading the word! Please pass this link on and spread to your social networks!

2) Join team Carpe Diem and if you live in the Denver area, come walk with me on Sept. 13.

3) Donate! (Anything helps.)

4) Let me know stories of people in your life who you've been inspired by (by comment or email)

5) Make every minute count...  Carpe Diem!

Friday, January 31, 2014

January, 2014 Highlights

It's been an excellent month! One of my resolutions is to post a monthly slideshow of some of my favorite photos and memories from the month, so here's January's!
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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ski to Defeat ALS, February 23

It's a new year which means a new volunteer project for me! This year I'm serving on a committee supporting a cause that's near and dear to my heart: ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). My good friend, Craig Dunham, died from ALS in 2010 and I wrote several blog posts about how inspiring he was to me. He lived life to the fullest, even when he couldn't move or speak.

So, my first task in this new volunteer role is to help spread the word about an awesome event that's coming up at Eldora on Sunday, February 23.  This is a great way to support a good cause and have fun at the same time!

Ski to Defeat ALS, at Eldora Mountain, includes a lift ticket, breakfast, lunch, and the chance to win some great prizes! Some of the highlights:

  • Early Bird Registration: Register before February 1st Register before February 1st and receive $15 off the $50 registration fee!
  • Season Pass Holders’ Discount: Do you already have a season pass that covers Eldora Mountain? If so, enter Discount Code: SEASON and received $25 off the $50 registration fee!
  • Costume Contest: The most creative Individual Costume and the most creative Team Costume will be honored at the End of Day Celebration!
  • Fundraising Contest: The Individual and the Team that raises the most money by the day of the event will receive an award and prize at the End of Day Celebration!
  • Ski to Defeat ALS Sweatshirt: Each participant that raises $200 will receive an official Ski to Defeat ALS hoodie sweatshirt
Please help me spread the word about Ski to Defeat ALS. Let’s get the word out about this awesome event, by sharing on all your social networks and telling your friends!

For More Information ~ Call (303) 832-2322 Email

Sunday, December 29, 2013

I'm Grateful for People Who Send Christmas Cards

One of my ongoing resolutions has been to practice gratitude, so I thought it might be fun to have a weekly blog post about something I'm grateful for. (And hope it lasts for more than a week!)

So... today I am grateful for people who still send traditional Christmas cards through the good old fashioned mail. 

I've become very lazy, myself, about using the mail and use the convenience of Facebook, email, Smileboxes, JibJabs etc. to send my news and photos.  There's so many cool options to animate and include photos and music, all for free! (BTW, my 2013 recap can be found here!)

But I give a lot of credit to those friends and relatives who still take the time, trouble, and expense to buy, print, label, stamp, write, and mail, the traditional way. 

I've started a new tradition where I now send New Years cards back to those people I get the Christmas Cards from.  It's handy, because I can get their addresses from the return addresses of their cards and I can comment on their recent photos or news. 

So, for all you people who still send traditional cards: Yay! I am grateful for you!! Thank you!
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Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 Slideshow

It's been a good year! I kept my resolution to run at least one race in costume each month (I actually did 4 extra!).  So... as I review my 2013 photos,it turns out I have an abundance of running pictures!  I also traveled quite a bit, both for work and for pleasure.  Matt got married over the summer, so we welcomed beautiful Stella Min to our family. I'm lucky to have Meg and Chris and my two grandchildren, Diego and Reneya, living close by, which gives me a lot of babysitting opportunities! Matt started a PhD Psychology program at Florida State in August and Scotty is in his second year at Purdue and also interning at GE. I'm still single, but have lots of fun with friends and dates, so I'm never lonely. I feel very blessed!
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