Now More than Ever
It was the day of our first annual fundraising event, February 2, 2013, and we were looking to take a few hours before it to do something to calm our anxious spirits.
Our keynote speaker, and now good friend, author and journalist Tim Madigan was in town, from Texas. He had never been to Hershey, Pennsylvania, before, where the event was being held. So we wanted to give him a personal tour. Michael, residing in the town for nearly 20 years, knew the extra special places of interest to show Tim.
We invited Tim to be our speaker because the first book we read together as we grew to know each other more, was Tim’s book, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers. It was foundational to our own friendship and to the values with which we created Someone To Tell it To. The relationships between Tim and Mr. Rogers in several ways reflected our relationship and both of us intrinsically connected with the story.
We found Tim’s phone number and called him months before the event. Would he come to speak? Our conversation that day was incredible. Tim immediately grasped our mission and why it was needed. He said “yes” very quickly. Our friendship with him was born with that phone call.
During that day in Hershey, Tim enjoyed every minute of it, and so did we. We showed him the Hershey Chocolate factory and drove around town to spots that had much historical significance – the gravesite of the founder of the town and chocolate empire Milton Hershey, the Hotel Hershey which he had built during the Great Depression, and HersheyPark, the amusement park he had built initially for his employees and their families, for example. Pausing and reflecting on the significance of his life, Tim wanted to know more. So we took him to the Milton Hershey School – the largest residential educational facility in the United States, a school dedicated to teaching thousands of children who come from families in need. It is the part of his legacy that Milton Hershey was most proud of.
Arriving there that afternoon, we looked around at several of the monuments and plaques hanging on the walls. A tour guide, to our surprise, asked us if we would like a private tour of the facility. Thrilled by the invitation, we voiced a resounding ‘Yes’! Even Michael, who had been to the school many times before, hadn’t had such a unique and special opportunity. The tour guide brought us into a private room where we watched a brief video about Milton Hershey’s life, highlighting both his accomplishments (the iconic Hershey Bar being most prominent), as well as some of his less successful endeavors (the five bankruptcies he experienced before he hit it big with the beloved chocolate company we know today).
After the video was completed, we were in awe of what we had just learned. The Hershey Company wasn’t Milton Hershey’s life story, in fact, just the opposite; much of his life was marked by disappointment, setbacks and challenges. But he never gave up, taking calculated risks, even in the middle of the Great Depression, giving hundreds of people a place of employment when no one else had.
A very meaningful conversation ensued between the three of us as we walked the Hershey streets that afternoon.
“I can’t believe the daring risks that man took, especially after he had been bankrupt as the result of five other business ventures. Yet, he kept pressing on. Who does that?! Who takes that big of a risk after having so many setbacks along the way?” Tim pondered.
“When other people would have called him a failure, he persevered, he kept going, he continued to take that leap of faith, trusting in his gifts and visions. Amazing!” We all agreed.
Creating Someone To Tell It To was a risk, especially with no capital and virtually no money to pour into it. But we knew it was the right thing to do, because the world needs what Someone To Tell It To teaches and does. Tim knew that it was a risk, and questioned in his mind, we later learned, if it could catch on and survive, much less thrive.
But it has. Ten years since we received that first $500.00 donation to get started, and nine years after Tim came to Hershey to advocate for the mission and the need, Someone To Tell It To is still here, and it continues to grow and attract new support and change more and more lives each year.
When we wrote our first book, Someone To Tell It To: Sharing Life’s Journey, in 2014, Time wrote this touching endorsement for the beginning of the book:
Too often we suffer alone, afraid to share the truth of our insides, afraid to be authentic with others, particularly when we are suffering. That greatly exacerbates pain and prolongs it. A big part of my message, when discussing my friendship with Mister Rogers, is to encourage people to come out of their hiding. Cop to their pain. There are people out there who will listen with healing presence and compassion, and I have just discovered two more. They are Michael Gingerich and Thomas Kaden, who have recently embarked on a mission they have named, brilliantly enough, Someone To Tell It To. I learned of their hopes to help coax people out of their isolation, as Fred coaxed me out of mine. I believe one of the greatest struggles of humankind is individual isolation, particularly with suffering. With great personal courage themselves, these two guys are committed to tackling that struggle head on. I endorse them without reservation, and admire them both greatly. I am proud to call them my brothers, my friends.
We are so thankful for Tim, who publicly proclaimed Someone To Tell It To’s importance back then when we were hardly known and we were struggling to figure out how we could grow and survive. And he still proclaims it publicly today, as we’ve made it to this 10-year anniversary, when Someone To Tell It To is needed now more than ever.