3rd Annual 4G Event// Jacksonville Girls Charity

Hello there Gorgeous people. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, then you KNOW that one of the most important things to me is giving back to the community! The 4G Event allows me to do just that… but also gives me the added benefit of doing something that I love.

This year was No Acception!!! As the girls walked in they are checked into an amazing day of Fabulousness. They were greeted with a bag full of goodies consisting of all kinds of things any girl would love which included donations from Thirty One via Catheleen Halfmann and sweet treats from Ashley Price of Kraft Foods! And then they were off, and into the styling chair they went. The girls got their hair and make up done by friends of mine in the industry who just happen to be the so VERY talented students of Paul Mitchell. They were also treated to getting their nails glammed up. Lastly, they received their own photoshoot where they could show off their own personal flare! The girls and I chatted it up about upcoming surgeries and their fears or concerns that they may have and we also discussed personal issues that each girl is currently facing. It was my goal today to instill into these girls that they are NOT alone and we now have our own little unique support system, where we can come to one another for support and guidence. To know that someone has walked in your same shoes is sooo comforting. To be Honest, to see some of the “first timers” faces as they walked into the event, having no clue what to expect, they come in looking timid and shy. (and to me bc I know this feeling VERY well.. A little defeated) But as the event continues on, you see these shy girls start to crack a smile and by the end of the event are talking, laughing and walking around like they own the place! THIS IS WHY I DO WHAT I DO. It just took ONE smile, three years ago at my very first event, to make me realize that just seeing that one smile was worth it all!!!!!

This year we received the most sponsorships that we have had in the two previous years combined. I am BLOWN away still! Somebody pinch ME… hahaha! The reason I am so amazed at this is because it tells me that all of you have the same compassion as I do and can truly see a need of support to host this event  =)

The girls and all volunteers were treated to smoothies donated by Ronnie Penna of the Tropical Smoothie in San Marco. And enjoyed yummy pretzels donated by Sue Fuller of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, and Iced Coffee and Passion Fruit Tea was also complimentary of Tiffany Morgan of Starbucks that was delivered via my little bro Michael Lee. Not to mention the many, many contributions made by a lot of my family and friends.

A Huge Thank You to My Photgrapher friends Gwen Jimenez of GwenBriannePhotography, Stephanie Broom, Natalie Cross and Denise Tiencken. I would also like to extend my deepest Thank You to all the Students, Instructors and to Natalie  Carson at Paul Mitchell School.

Lastly, thank you, thank you to Nikki Anson and Magan Shaffer for all your hard work to help me put all this together. You guys ROCK!!!

OK! OK! OK! I know this is what you’ve been waiting for… here’s some of the pictures. Go Check Them Out!!! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

 

As you can tell from the pictures, this years event was AMAZING!!!!! I cant believe how much this event has grown since our first year and I cant wait to see how it grows in the years to come! AGAIN, a HUGE thank you to everyone who came out and supported our event. I am forever Grateful. AND to all of you lovely ladies who participated in this event, I will leave you with this….

 

XOXO, Mandi

A Very Unexpected Reward // DAR Community Service

In these past few weeks I went to a DAR: Daughters of the American Revolution meeting/ luncheon. I went, for what I thought was, to support my grandmother who is the Regent of the Puc Puggy Chapter NSDAR. I, however, was recognized for receiving FIRST Place for Excellence in Community Service by the Community Service Awards Committee. I am so grateful to have even been considered for this award. My Mema emailed me a letter to let me see what the prerequisites consisted of to even be considered for this award and all I could think to myself was… I dont think i’ve done near enough yet to recieve this! Here’s what she sent me:

“The purpose of the Community Service Award is to recognize worthy local people from a variety of walks of life for outstanding achievements in educational, humanitarian, patriotic, historical or citizenship endeavors.  The recipient is expected to have contributed to his or her community in an outstanding voluntary heroic,  civic or benevolent manner, or participated in or organized community activities.  This award is not to be presented to members of NSDAR for their DAR-related activities. The recipient must not have received any salary or remuneration for this service.  The award may not be awarded to a recipient more than one time and may not be initiated or approved posthumously.  Awards that have been approved may be presented posthumously. There will be a limit of two (2) awards per chapter per NSDAR year.  This achievement should have taken place in the past five (5) years.”

HERE’S ME AND MY MEMA

And here’s a group shot!!!

I had no idea that my info was even being submitted… and to win 1st place? WOW!!! I just wanted to take the time to thank all of you who took the time to write letters of recommendations and would like to personally thank each and every member of the Puc Puggy Chapter for so graciously recommending me for this award! I am very humbled to say this award was given for my efforts to help mentor young women with my 4G Event through the Just For Grins Foundation. So excited, this years event is THIS WEEKEND!!!

As I understand it, I will now be placed in the running to receive a Presidential Award and can not even begin to tell you how honored I am! Thank you all again for all the love and support you continue to show me on this journey… cant wait to see what God has in store next!!!

XOXO, Mandi

 

Why I started the Just For Grins Foundation // Jacksonville Foundation

This blog you are about to read is very raw and personal. Anyone who has ever had any type of insecurity should definitely be able to relate to this story…My Story! To really get a handle on this, it means I need to start from  the beginning…

As a child I was being pulled out of classes to attend speech therapy sessions and I was constantly in and out of doctors appointments. So, I learned at a very young age that I was different from all the other little kids around me. In every school that I attended, there was no one that had Cleft Lip & Palate… EXCEPT ME!!! I felt very alone on this journey. Every year I had to attend a cleft palate clinic with the Jacksonville Cleft Lip and Palate Assn. At the visit I would see numerous doctors about 15 or so. Including the most sweetest doctor of them all Dr. John Obi. Each doctor would come in and examine me based upon their field. They did this so they could later determine what procedures would need to take place over the course of the next year. To be honest, it was a grueling process. Sure, other kids were there on clinic day but most were too shy to talk and would just stay in their rooms anyway!

As I got older into my teenage years, my life was a wreck!!! I felt so awkward… I was having sooo many surgeries and having what felt like a million “extra” teeth removed. And then… the dreaded braces. Do you know I had to wear those suckers for 8 years.. let me say this again, 8 YEARS!!! It was honestly, at this time in my life, that I was so mad at God. I couldn’t understand why he wanted me to be so ugly. My mom would always say… “Mandi, God doesn’t give us anything that we cant handle, so  he must think you are one pretty tough chick.” She would say “There is a reason you are having to endure these things and it is not for us to understand … only to have faith!” I find this next one comical because she always said that one day I would be able to use my story to mentor other girls just like me! I thought  to myself.. ME???? What would I have to offer anyone? I just couldn’t understand why I was having to deal with this. What is she talking about? I just wanted to be one of those carefree girls. You know, the ones that didn’t look in the mirror and think, “Well, it could be worse”. I struggled severely with my self esteem. I wouldn’t even wear lipstick because I was afraid it would draw too much attention to my face. Every time I laughed I would even cover up my mouth. I still do that out of habit …to this day!!! Funny how old habits die hard, huh? At times, I was teased so badly that going to school felt like torture. Good thing I had a few friends that didn’t mind sticking up for me! Whew! Without them, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it! Anyway, it was at this time in my life that I was trying to figure out who I was and what was I about…. more importantly, I needed to decide if I was going to let this facial deformity define who I was. My parents always taught me to take the negative and turn it into a positive. “Look at the glass half full.”  However, this is ALWAYS easier said than done! But I was determined to NOT let it stop me from reaching my goals! I fought so hard to Not be known as Mandi, that girl with the messed up lip, that I didn’t even realize I was actually becoming that person who was helping other girls around me. Helping them to be defined by who they truly are and what they have to offer and not by their own insecurities!

And that is exactly what I plan to accomplish with the Just For Grins Foundation!!!

I first started this foundation because I wanted to help create awareness. Then I realized there was an even deeper need to help girls connect with other girls who were facing the exact same obstacles in their own lives. I’m talking about a support system… full of girls who know first hand the daily challenges of being born with “CLP”.  Having a family, and even friends, that support you is a MUST, but there is just something extraordinarily comforting about being able to share your thoughts and concerns with someone who is walking down that same path along side you… or better yet, has already finished that walk and can help guide you through the obstacles you may face on your journey! I have found that establishing these connections, allows us to gain strength from one another and it also gives us the boost of confidence SO DESPERATELY needed. Who can better understand your pain, than someone who has already overcome the very obstacles in life that you will ultimately face yourself? As I previously stated, since I found that I was the only one through all my years in school with “CLP”, loneliness had been no stranger to me. I found this to be a common theme in Jacksonville. This is why I made the decision to change that, and created an event known as the “4 G Event”!

 The 4 G Event *Girls*Glitz*Glam*Gab*

Here’s a clip of last years event: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=204999

The purpose of this event was to get girls together to offer a self esteem/motivational workshop with them. On this day, these ladies get make overs, including hair and makeup, and a professional photo shoot. I wanted to give these ladies one day that they could feel like the princesses they are! I also used this time to have small groups, where we discussed daily obstacles that each girl may be currently facing. In these groups they learned that they weren’t alone in their struggles and were able to lean on one another for support and encouragement. Remember, I felt so alone on this journey growing up and I learned that day, that these  girls felt the exact same way! My mission to change the status quo begins here.

My heart longed to see girls who were going through these self esteem challenges find strength and acceptance, along with a few friends to draw support from. I wanted girls who were in those rough ages, where all the “normal” kids were at their least compassionate stage. However, after my first 4G Event, it became clear to me that the challenges started much sooner and if we could catch these girls at an earlier age, and get them connected sooner to their support system, we could alter the course of their lives forever thus, reversing the insecurity process and increasing the impact they will forever have on their friends, families and communities!!! Sounded like a huge undertaking and an extremely long term commitment, but since I was up for the challenge, gaining the support of my friends, family and community would prove to be one of my most rewarding challenges yet.

My ultimate goal is to develop  an after school recreational facility where kids can come to receive routine check ups, connect with friends and find necessary resources. Not only would they be able to maintain friendships, but they would be able to establish new ones. They would be inspired and encouraged to share their fears and their struggles with each new friend, but gain hope and strength as they hear the fears and struggles of others. I would also hope to provide things like hearing tests and speech therapy and even classes that will help these children get a fresh perspective on their lives. I believe it is imperative in their growth and development process. The main objective is to afford these children the opportunity to form relationships in a non-judgmental, non-critical and a non-threatening environment. I believe this is the first and MOST important step to changing their future!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read as I continue on this journey!!! Feel free to comment and share your story… you never know who it just might touch! I would be so honored if you would click like on the Just For Grins Foundation Facebook page and share with your friends and family. Your support is greatly appreciated and if you would like more information on how you can volunteer your time, resources or simply make a donation, you can contact me through this website or our Facebook page. Our next 4G Event will be held on June 24, 2012 at the Paul Mitchell School- Town Center.

xoxo,

Mandi