Life is Good Festival Benefits Foundation that Helps Kids

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Written by Nancy Bean Foster

September 22. 2013 7:38PM

Life is Good Festival benefits foundation that helps kids


Union Leader Correspondent

There was a veritable parking lot of strollers parked in front of the stage as children’s group Yo Gabba Gabba kicked off the two-day Life is Good Festival beneath sunny skies this weekend. Life is Good, which bases its production and distribution in Hudson, N.H., is known for whimsical and optimistic T-shirts. It hosts the festival in order to raise money for the Life is Good Foundation. Thousands of people turned out to listen to musical acts including Jack Johnson, Hall and Oates, Amos Lee, and The Roots on Saturday evening, but the morning was all about the kids.

Spread across the historic Prowse Farm in Canton, dozens of games were being played by the hundreds of volunteers who participated in the festival. Tossing beanbags, playing tug-of-war and hiding inside a big parachute brought smiles to children’s faces. That’s the point of the Life is Good Festival. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the festival fund the Life is Good Foundation, allowing the organization’s “Playmakers” to get out into areas where kids are struggling to survive and haven’t had an opportunity to just be children.

The foundation trains educators, child care workers and others in helping kids experience life beyond the difficulties they confront, whether from living in a violent home or neighborhood, or living through a traumatic event such as an earthquake or hurricane. Serving children both nationally and internationally, the foundation was built on the success of Bert and John Jacobs who founded the company and grew it to its current level of success. Chief Playmaker Steve Gross took a moment before children’s group Yo Gabba Gabba took the stage to talk about the work of the foundation.

“Remember that there are a lot of kids out there who have to overcome poverty, violence and illness and don’t have a chance to play,” said Gross. “Sometimes in those children’s lives, life doesn’t feel so good. We try to make sure they feel safe and loved and joyful.”

Volunteers brought smiles to the faces of the kids who attended the festival, including Christine Elmore of Boston who joined 80 of her peers from a volunteer organization called HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership) which has branches in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

“Life is Good aligns with what we believe about the power of optimism and positive thinking,” said Elmore. “We have a responsibility to give back to the community.” This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Training Institute 2013

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Written by Sarah Collins

HOBY is BIGGER in Texas

On August 8-11, 2013, I had the opportunity to represent MAHOBY at the HOBY Training Institute in Houston, TX. Upon landing in Houston, while wearing my MAHOBY t-shirt, a girl sitting a row behind me said, “Hey! Are you HOBY?” It was a great way to start the weekend!

The weekend itself was filled with sessions on all aspects of HOBY requirements and management, best practices and brainstorming to help each seminar site where they needed it most, whether it was CLeW, fundraising, operations flow or alumni associations. It was an excellent opportunity to be able to work with HOBY volunteers from around the country, and even Canada and Ecuador, to better each of our seminars, come up with new ideas, and even do cheers!

One fascinating topic from this year’s Training Institute was Social Media and the best ways to implement it into our seminar. When I attended HOBY in 2004, Facebook did not exist, MySpace was becoming increasingly popular, and text messaging was just beginning to be a thing. We had no problem leaving our cell phones at home, if we even had one! This year, HOBY’s World Leadership Congress even incorporated social media, by having their theme be #myHOBYstory. I had the opportunity to hear from WLC volunteers about the use of social media during their week. From brainstorming and listening to stories from other HOBY sites, I learned some great techniques other sites have used to implement social media into the seminar, while showing the ambassadors how to be socially conscious. It truly opened my eyes to realize the importance of using our ambassadors to expand the HOBY brand, and our Massachusetts HOBY brand, in particular.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to relive my experience as an ambassador, but as an adult, and to stand in a room with volunteers, ages 21 to 75, and all together do the OUTSTANDING cheer. For the first time I truly thought about HOBY on an international spectrum, and was reminded of what an outstanding organization it is, and how lucky I am to be a part of it. I’m very excited to share new ideas that I received from other HOBY sites and volunteers, and continue to make our MAHOBY seminar one of the best in the country. I look forward to working with you all on the 2014 MAHOBY seminar.


My HOBY Experience Summer 2012

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June 8, 2012. A Friday, two days after I had finished exams. In the grand scheme of things, the last thing on my mind was going to a leadership seminar for a three day weekend with a small group of kids from Boston schools. Knowing that a lot of my friends were out enjoying the summer, probably still sleeping in, I found myself at Bentley University, walking around campus with a duffel bag at some crazy hour like 7:30 in the morning. I wondered if it would have been preferable to be spending the weekend with my friends, instead of whatever I was in for. I had expected 30 or 50 kids about my age, all of whom had come to the program just to put it on their college resume. Who wouldn’t want to go to a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) program? I found the registration area, which had over a hundred kids in line, all looking a little shy, unsure what the program would be like. We all got checked in, and headed into a huge cafeteria room. This is where all my preconceptions were completely shattered in an instant.

We walked down the stairs into the lively, cheering cafeteria, seeing over a hundred others, who had already gotten to their groups, and were playing big games of Ninja or icebreakers or were coloring posters. What was so amazing was how much enthusiasm the staff members could create from a group of high-school sophomores who didn’t know each other, this early in the morning! The shouts echoed through the room as we all tried to find our groups. My group was right in the middle of things, coloring some superman emblems (our group was Lois Lane and Clark Kent!) to put as badges on our shirts later. We introduced each other, started some ice breakers, and headed over to a huge auditorium on the other side of the hilly campus, learning cheers and chants all along the way.

Then we got to the seminar part, which was almost organized like a huge ASM—never mind, scratch that. Kids and staff combined, over 300 people in a huge auditorium, just sitting, listening to the speaker. We had quite a few memorable speakers over the 3 days, including one of the top mentalists in the country who explained that his manipulations were just a kind of leadership, to a woman who gave us a survey with animal groups that told us what kinds of leaders we all were, to WBZ- TV’s Steve Burton, all talking about leadership amongst talented individuals, grasping opportunities in our lives and communities, and appreciating what we have. For me, most memorably, John Jacobs from the Life is Good T-Shirt brand spoke, telling the inspiring story of how he and his brother, who were completely broke for many years, had always wanted to start their own company, and always stayed optimistic, even when times got incredibly hard. They had to spend winters out in the cold streets of Boston trying to sell their T shirts so they could afford to eat every day, and though it was hard at first, they got creative with their logo and motto, and eventually became really successful. Nowadays, the brothers do fundraisers and community service across the Greater Boston area to help inspire the optimism that kept them going and got them to where they are. This is just an idea of what one of these seminars was like.

In other activities throughout the program, with smiling faces all weekend long, we went to Cradles to Crayons and helped organize thousands of packages of clothing and supplies for the upcoming year to under-privileged children and teens, as we worked throughout the day organizing our own donations (HOBY had us bring a bag each at the start of the program) and helping tons of kids with just a few hours of work. In addition, though I had been to Cradles to Crayons many times throughout my youth with my middle and elementary schools, so many people at the program had never been there, and some had not even heard of it. This opened me up to how diverse we all were—which was another focus of the program, because there were so many people from all over Massachusetts. In fact, most people in my group live so far from the city that the idea of BUA—a high-school on a college campus seemed unreal. Conversely, a boy in my group, Alan, lives on a farm and told me what that was like.

The individual groups we had when we were not in seminars—the group I ate with, had meetings with, and walked all around campus with—grew to be almost like a family in just a few days. Two girls in my group formed a bond so close over the span of those days that most anyone would have thought they had been friends for years, by the way they trusted each other and could predict each other’s actions. That was where the program really awed me. I mean, I had just finished school exams, and most everyone else was in the middle of them, but HOBY still could put all of that out of their heads for the weekend as they focused on community activities and how to embrace every opportunity properly. Overall, the seminar taught me what kind of a leader I am and what makes me tick, how you can brighten anyone’s day with a smile and the right kind words, and how well you can get to know a group of teens in under three days whom you would never otherwise have even met. I am proud to be a HOBY alum, and look forward to going to alumni events, carrying these skills into life with me, and being even closer to my group today than I was on Sunday when we all left Bentley Campus for home, feeling like we had been at the program for weeks, and deep down having no idea how much we would miss each other.


Training Institute 2011

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 20:35 Written by Brad Heglin Tuesday, 23 August 2011 20:18

Hello MA HOBY! A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend the HOBY Training Institute held in Houston, Texas at the Omni Hotel & Resort with Gail Elmore and Nisha Wali. The point of this conference is to allow directors from sites all across the United States to meet for one weekend (this year Thursday, August 11-Sunday, August 14th, 2011) to hear from different members of the organization on how to improve their sites, as well as exchange ideas with one another. To do so, we attended various sessions of our choosing held throughout the weekend. To start off however they invited Stephen Harvill to be our opening and motivational speaker. Stephen talked to us about the process of making an ordinary idea an extraordinary one, or what he liked to call a "dazzling blue" idea. He recounted stories of how simple ideas to make a product stand out have made all the difference to the companies producing them. One example he gave was duck tape. For years, duck tape was just plain old silver. Now think about this, what if someone had wanted red or green duck tape? Well too bad, we only have silver. Until one day they thought "hey, we could make our tape colored." Woah, right? There you have it, a dazzling blue idea. It does not have to be overly complicated or intricate, just something small and that is not too vanilla. His talk was motivational and entertaining! The idea that you can take one simple idea which can have a huge ripple effect is phenomenal and something we can use with MA HOBY.

Brad, Gail and Nisha Receive 2011 MA HOBY Awards

From there we began the weekend and I enjoyed several very informational sessions. The sessions I attended were very helpful and gave me a lot of useful information on little things we can do to improve MA HOBY but also gave me the chance to offer the many successful things we do at our site to others to take home to theirs. Attending TI made me so proud of our site as I got to see how it compared to others throughout the nation. As you can imagine the sessions that I attended covered a wide range of topics. They were: HOBY 202, Social Change Model of Leadership and Leadership Seminar Methodology, Building a Better Clew, Maintaining, Managing & Training Volunteers, HOBY Through the Phases, Developing and Maximizing your Alumni, Special Events and Seminar-Based Fundraising, National Topic-Bullying, a session on technology, Creating Effective Marketing Tools and a round table discussion on the seminar as well as our regional meetings.

HOBY 202 was a session just to cover the basic ins and outs of the seminar. We went over various title abbreviations, the vision of HOBY, and other structural pieces such as the actual seminar, WLC, and more. From there I went to the session on Social Change. Here we covered the new curriculum that HOBY has adopted. We went over the three phases, Personal Leadership, Group Leadership and Leadership for Society. During each of these we talked about activities to go with their respective phases and what each phase should accomplish. This is something our seminar has been able to do successfully. The next session was Building a Better Clew, here we talked about how to get people to come to the CLEW, how to save money on a CLEW and the overall costs, as well as who the target is and the benefits of a CLEW. This session was informational but again, we luckily have very successful CLEWs. From there I attended the session on Training, Maintaining and Managing Volunteers. This session went over who should be responsible for training the staff and what tools they should or can use to do so. It also covered ways to delegate tasks and organizing the structure of your seminar staff and how developing your site can really help to maintain volunteers. The group discussion focused a lot on training and from MA we were able to share how we are able to secure basically our entire staff early in the year and hold two trainings, one in January and April, to prepare staff for the seminar!

Then it was time for HOBY Through the Phases! This was a more in depth look at each phase, what to accomplish with each phases, activities to go with each phase and other tips as well. For the most part it was just learning and reaffirming what I already knew about the phases because of how successful we were at integrating the new curriculum. However, I was lucky enough to learn some new fun activities for each phase that I am excited to bring to MA HOBY. Next on the menu was Developing and Maximizing Your Alumni. The goal here was to help people really get their alumni program running and ways to do so. Luckily MA HOBY is one of the sites, among others, who have a strong alumni base. This group is the lifeline to a successful seminar. It helps bring on not only staff but reach other to new schools and get more ambassadors registered. It helps get HOBY out there by holding events, like many of our community service events we hold, and spreads the goals and HOBY name. We talked about how to get started, forming a good structure and ways to hold events through each season. From here it was time to attend Special Events and Seminar-Based Fundraising. As you can imagine, this session focused on money raising ideas and techniques which were very useful. Holding fundraisers can really help cut down the costs of your seminar and even allow for some extra spending money at times. Here we each shared different ideas that can help people raise money for their sites which was very helpful. We covered everything from staff fees (such as our $200 for your first two years on staff) and various events that can be held. This session was extremely fun and beneficial.

The next session I attended was the session on technology and its uses. This was a session I found very interesting and is something I learned a lot from to help out HOBY. We discussed various social media forums to help get HOBY out there, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. We also discussed creating your sites website and making it easy to use for students, schools, and volunteers. We have also added a link to the HOBY Facebook page which allows you to log your hours, and the ambassadors to log their hours, through Facebook. The other ideas were ways to share documents and information between each other (staff) to help organize and make things easier for everyone. Wrapping up there were only two other main sessions to attend. The Creative Effective Marketing Tools one, which covered ways to promote HOBY, such as using the slogans, social media, fun t-shirts, etc, creating an annual report on your site, site evaluations, and many other ideas. All of these were ways to promote your own site and raise awareness of the organization. The last session was something HOBY is doing as a pilot for the seminar curriculum. HOBY wants to allow certain sites to adopt the National Policy as part of their sites curriculum. It can be weaved into any of the phases and this year the topic is on Bullying. HOBY has created a partnership with Rachel's Challenge ( among others to raise awareness of bullying in schools and the impact that it can have. By working with your sites DNP each site can apply to have this optional curriculum added to their site. There is a list of speakers and organizations to team up with to make this work effectively. There would be a panel focused on the types and forms of bullying, their effect, and how to prevent bullying. This sounds like a wonderful idea which I am very excited about personally.

One other big part of the weekend was hearing about the strategic plan from President Javier La Fianza and Ted Bellinki, who is on the Board of Trustees. Not only was it an honor to hear from these two but it was very interesting to hear the strategic plan for 2015. We wish to develop strong partnerships with other organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Teach for America so that they can reach out to students who not only have never heard of HOBY but would never dream of being able to attend. In addition they wish to reach out to other age groups besides just sophomores such as seniors and college-aged students. By adopting a National Topic such as bullying, HOBY hopes to accomplish finding our voice and to drive home solutions to issues that affect teens throughout our communities. Other goals on the list are to strengthen and develop our sites and make improvements where needed, utilize technology and enhance our social media, to bring in more revenue and to increase the number of ambassadors attending to nearly 15,000 in four years.

I am excited about the direction I learned HOBY is taking and it appears that some great years are ahead for the organization; we'll be "dazzling blue" in no time! On a more personal note, attending TI was a really great experience. I learned a lot of valuable information to help our site as well as contribute information and tips to help others and their sites. I also had the opportunity to meet a lot of great and interesting people from across the country. I made some amazing new friends that I'll never forget and created new memories I'll carry with me forever. Even now, a few weeks later, we all talk with one another and say how much we miss TI and hanging out. It meant a lot to me to make these new friends and to be at TI.


2010 HOBY Training Institute

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 February 2011 10:45 Saturday, 14 August 2010 20:09

MISSION POSSIBLE! HOBY’s Training Institute in Houston, TX

Each year, MA HOBY sends two volunteers to the nation-wide Training Institute which was held this year in Houston, TX. Christine Elmore and Lauren Watka, the 2011 Co-Leadership Seminar Chairs, attended the weekend conference where they met HOBY’s CEO, Javier LaFianza, and the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Brian Wakefield, among other HOBY directors and staff members. Many new friends were also made with other volunteers across the country, such as in the Kansas City Region and Virginia, and some closer to home, such as New York East, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Christine and Lauren were able to share some of the best practices Massachusetts has developed, especially with our program and with our alumni association while also gaining some ideas for fundraising and public relations from other sites.

Nick Grasso, the MA HOBY CLeW Director, also attended TI representing HOBY New Hampshire where he is helping them as their Director of Recruitment.

MAHOBY TI Representatives 2010


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