Posted on May 23, 2015


_24A1400I was laying in bed the other night, sleepless, when the thought occurred to me how backwards I was. Not the condescending, redneck-laced “Bass Ackwards” that you hear from time to time. Backwards more in a sense of circuitous acceptance and even opportunism.

Hours before this particular realization, I participated in the annual Mariah’s Challenge Scholarship Ceremony. I’ve been involved with this great organization for five years or so, the last few as its director. This ceremony is one of the keystone’s of the organization as we provide scholarships to graduating seniors who pledge not to drink underage and never to drive under the influence to make an impact on a rather unhealthy drinking culture, particularly youth drinking culture, that saturates what is still often perceived as the lawless wild west.

I am proud to say we provided $44,000 in scholarships that night; and over a quarter of a million dollars thus far in the history of Mariah’s Challenge.

But as I replayed the ceremony in my mind, I was struck with the thought that I have things mixed up. The night before the ceremony, I slept like a baby; not a care in the world. It was the night after the ceremony was completed when I couldn’t sleep. That seemed backwards… as backwards as a healthy 33 year-old being diagnosed with what is supposed to be an old person’s disease.

_24A1478I guess ‘backwards is the new black’… I never even realized I was a trendsetter.

Did my speech sound alright? Should I have talked about lessons I learned from my cancer? Do I have to mail any certificates? I forgot to thank Paul-I hope he knows how grateful I am. When should I deliver the donor plaques? Should I follow up with the media? How should I title the mass email? I hope the pictures were usable. Did I tuck in my colostomy bag enough so it wouldn’t distract people? Why can’t I sleep? I should have lost sleep last night, not now. Why am I so bass-ackwards sometimes?

We’ve all fallen victim to those nights when your thoughts spiral.

I’m just lucky to be surrounded by amazing people, from those who helped make the ceremony come to life, to the amazing group people that spoke, to the recipients, to my family and friends who allow, and dare I say-accept, me to be as backwards as necessary to make some meaning from this world.

E11181772_10153853461828345_5981974810345972052_oventually I did sleep. But not before an overwhelming amount of gratitude filled my heart. I rested on the same mattress that not long ago, I thought I may never leave. Since then, I competed in a kayak race, enjoyed the company of family and the revelry of community, moved into a new house, met amazing young people, and contributed to a cause that will continue to create positive ripples throughout this world.

We simply cannot take any of this, whatever your “this” is, for granted.

For those of you, near and far, that could not attend the scholarship ceremony, I will take some of my own advice I gave to the graduates that night and include a snippet of what I said that night. Also because, well, it’s just backwards enough to make sense…

… Perhaps the most important thing, when tonight is all said and done Mariah’s Challenge will have provided nearly 300 Butte area students, a total of $278,000 in scholarship money.

That money goes to you. It goes to students who have already proven to make sound, healthy decisions through their high school career… and it helps those students continue their education and further their positive impact on our world.

That money figure is nice and all, but it wouldn’t matter at all if we didn’t have anyone to give it to-if we didn’t have such strong people of character to give it to.

Mariah’s Challenge isn’t about Leo, Jimm, Me… any of us individually… it’s about all of us, collectively. With every good decision that each of us makes, day in and day out, we are contributing to the cultural change that the community of Butte, and this world needs. It’s all of us, together.

Tonight you’ll hear a lot of well deserved thank yous – you’ve already heard it from me… you’ll hear a lot of well deserved Congratulations… but I want to be one of the first to welcome the Scholarship Class of 2015 to the community of Mariah’s Challenge—It’s no secret that we live in a terribly difficult—confusing—demanding– contradictory world—but Mariah’s Challenge, all of us really, are working to create a community and an environment in which we can encourage and support each other, where we can be accountable to our fellow neighbors. As all of us and this organization continue to grow and live respectful and responsible lifestyles, we just might see less of the heartbreak and tragedy that created Mariah’s Challenge in the first place.

With this community, there is an implied call to action. Tonight doesn’t signal the end of your personal Mariah’s Challenge. It’s quite the opposite. The road ahead will be tough—regardless of the kind or location of college you are going to… it’s going to be difficult, there will pressures everywhere, some expected and some not — but know that it will also be amazing. With your already proven decision making, in the face of these pressures, I have no doubt that each of you will be successful in where ever your life takes you.

This call to action also means, that we ask that you to become an ambassador. What I mean is that 1) Continue to live by example-keep doing what you’re doing…and 2) help us share Mariah’s story–tell your friends, family, next year’s roommate… anyone about your decision to accept Mariah’s Challenge. There are people that don’t know the Mariah’s Challenge story and the reason we exist. …and it’s one that our world needs now more than ever.

And lastly… don’t be a stranger-keep an eye out for the Mariah’s Challenge Association and our events, like us on Facebook and Instagram, and head over to the new website and accept the challenge if you haven’t already done that-or even if you have once upon a time…. That way we can continue meaningful conversations, and continue what has really become a Mariah’s Challenge movement. Mostly, though, we love hearing about and celebrating what our past recipients are up to.

 So, once again…. Congratulations… Welcome… Thank you all so much for helping make our world that much more awesome.

Hopefully, I’ve peaked your interest enough to have you click right HERE to  head over to the Mariah’s Challenge website, or click HERE for our Facebook page… and check out some of the awesome things we’re up to!

Posted in: Think