Empowering Future Leaders to Bloom

I can remember being a little girl and visiting my Dad at his work—he was a Director for the Guiding Light, a soap opera that was very popular at the time.  He showed me the control room, where he told people what camera to go for for the reaction shots, calling for each camera to create the story we all saw on TV and had me go out on the set where I could see myself in the monitor.

I ran off the set—I was shy and although I secretly wanted to be on camera, I was afraid to be there!  After being in corporate sales for many years, I decided to head back to my original dream of becoming an actress which led me to the career I’m in today!  Although my father didn’t necessarily nurture a career on TV (my parents divorced when I was 7), it did spark an interest in my own mind.

I decided to do the same for a non-profit group of young girls called “Diverse Daisies.” This is a group to bloom nurturing young girls of all ethnicities to learn new skills and engage in new opportunities, designed to motivate, empower and inspire the lives of young women!

The Daisies were so excited to visit Evine and experience behind-the-scenes of our home shopping world!  I gave the girls a tour of our control room where there area many monitors to view different shots on the set, showed them where the product is set up for us to review,
toured the studios, the host room where all of the hosts prepare and they loved seeing the “pink” room (although it’s not pink), where all of the hosts get their hair done before our shows!

The girls were screaming with excitement when I took them to our fashion studio with a runway!  They ran out on the set and wanted to reenact a show, so I picked 2 girls to be a host and a guest and 3 girls to be models with 2 others behind the camera, learning how to operate a jib (moving camera) during fashion shows.

I taught the 2 ‘hosts’ the basics of selling a new Holly Robinson-Peete cardigan and showed the 3 ‘models’ how to walk the runway and model the clothes with attitude and style, and the other girls learned how to move the camera around the set to follow the models.   They had a BALL! The girls were strutting their stuff and were all so proud of themselves afterwards.  Each girl had an opportunity to present and they didn’t want to leave.

A few of the girls were VERY good at speaking and presenting so who knows, we might see them on air in the future!

At the end of our tour, the girls gave me a bouquet of flowers and thank you notes and lots of hugs.

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What is the PANTONE Color of the Year?

During our fashion shows you may hear guests and hosts alike talking about the “Pantone color of the year.” PANTONE is the world-renowned authority on color. The PANTONE® name is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer.

On their website they state:  The PANTONE of the year is a symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.  The PANTONE of the year is a symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”

For 2017, the PANTONE color is Greenery. Greenery is a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew.

Nature’s neutral ugh.  My friends know green is NOT my favorite color—here is how PANTONE chose Greenery for this year:

So, how can you incorporate green in a fresh way if it is not a color you normally buy, wear or own? In jewelry, we have seen Emeralds and jade worn beautifully with black with celebrities. Green in small doses can go a long way to create a memorable contrast instead of the traditional diamonds.  Peridot will be a favorite this year paired with pastels and florals in spring, and certainly pops a neutral outfit!

 

In home, Sage is a tranquil color in the bedroom and one of the top colors used by interior designers, complemented by peaches and creams.  I do love the sage Cozelle sheets I pair with my peach silk duvet cover, pale pinks and ‘shabby chic’ florals—a little green can help cut the femininity in a home with a grounded color that our hubbies are sure to like!  My husband is very tolerant of my feminine aesthetic so he is welcoming the idea of a more neutral and unisex color!.

With fashion and accessories, olive green can unify an outfit that is more feminine and frilly, floral or peachy-pink!  Heather Hall received the most beautiful shoulder bag for Christmas from her hubby from a French designer and it was an awesome shade of grounded sage green/olive that she wore with denim and an ivory sweater—elegant and understated.   Hey, maybe I am starting to like green!

I love how this floral skirt and clutch is fresh—I personally would wear this lime clutch or handbag. A lime green heel with denim and a simple white blouse with peridot earrings and lime green bangles.  Only adding accents of color to my outfit rather than actually wearing a top or skirt in green.

For beauty I do like teal eyeliner! A makeup artist in Italy told me it would make my blue eyes pop, which it did. However, as a base shadow color, I wouldn’t recommend using green.

My recommendations after researching ideas to incorporate green is:  Pair it with neutrals, brights, deeper shades, pastels, metallic and the PANTONE Colors of the Year for 2016: Rose Quartz and Serenity blue.

See the palette below of 10 colors that show how versatile green can be as a “Trans-seasonal” shade that lends itself to many color combinations.

If you have any ideas of how you wear or decorate with green, please leave your ideas below, I’d love to hear them!  Enjoy Greenery YOUR way!

Xo Wendi

 

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The True Meaning of Christmas

Christmastime is my favorite time of the year!  The romantic snow, the homemade Christmas cookies, the family get-togethers, the holiday food, the plaid!  Everyone is cheerful and gives thoughtful gifts to show friendship or appreciation and people gather to celebrate with hugs and gifts.

I do tend to get caught up in the shopping and gifting, wanting to show my love or communicate how much I care for someone through gifts.  I guess you could say my love language is giving gifts!  I find that I’ve bought too much when I start wrapping, most of the presents under the tree are from me!

Last year I decided to experience Christmas in a different way. I committed to a 25 Days of Kindness- starting December 1st, I volunteered or gave back to one charity each day through Christmas day.  I played games with children at the Crisis Nursery, rang the bell for Salvation Army, packed blessing bags for homeless teens, and donated toys to the Children’s Hospital to name a few.  On Christmas Eve, my family and I made fleece blankets and drove downtown to hand them out to the homeless in zero degree weather.  This experience gave me a gift of appreciation- to be grateful for what I have and to give a small piece of happiness or importance to someone else.

This year I thought, “why not have a 5 Days of Kindness at Evine where employees can work together as a team and give back to others while having fun in the process?!”

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Day 1 we all wrote cards to those serving overseas for our military with “Holidays for Heroes”- over 100 cards were sent!

 

 

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Day 2 we made sandwiches for the homeless for The Sandwich Project, created by a former teacher and he literally feeds the homeless every night! Captain Sig Hansen even made a few!

 

 

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Day 3: Everyone donated over 100 toys for Toys For Tots for needy children in our area. The 3 Amigos had fun being a part by donating presents on air.

 

 

 

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Day 4: Employees of Evine chose a senior or a child to buy a gift for with “Be an Angel” project and all 80 names were pulled right away!  We will have to find more names to choose next year!

 

 

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Day 5: Over 50 fleece blankets were made and donated through “Project Linus” which distributes the blankets to children in local hospitals.

 

 

Color all of this giving with a sense of loss of a friend and former host, Connie Kunkle at 58 years old, and it makes me reflect upon the true meaning of life–what we spend our time doing.  We hear it said over and over again—life is about relationships and making an impact in others’ lives.  I hope we have done that this year through the ‘5 Days of Kindness,’ that we have inspired you to give your time to someone in need and in turn, to feel a sense of purpose and community.

I wish you all gratitude for what you have in your lives, and to show your appreciation by making a difference in another’s life who may need it most, that is what the holiday season is all about.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah!

With Gratitude,

Wendi Russo

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The Ripple Effect

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The book prototype I had created and almost completed writing when I got the hosting job with Evine – then Shop NBC 12 years ago

Have you ever hit hard times and needed help?  I have- I’ve always believed that when you are blessed, you should be a blessing to others. Over a decade ago, I struggled to find my niche-even after getting my Broadcast Journalism degree, I felt the News wasn’t for me—I would want to give the woman who lost her son at the murder scene a hug, not just report the news!  I needed some direction — my life coach asked,  “What is your passion?” I responded sarcastically, “I’m really good at shopping!”

Not the easiest thing in the world, to find a career that marries shopping, acting and improv background and the one that utilized the “talkative” comment most teachers would write on my report card growing up!  “Have Faith, ” she said.  I struggled for quite a while, trying many different sales jobs, but no real passion for any of them- I was feeling defeated.

On my wedding day 13 years ago, I walked up the stairs to Beverly Hills Town hall. My phone rang- it was my agent asking if I would like to host a Home Shopping Network (back then Shop NBC)—I said YES!

I sent in my demo reel-a prototype of me hosting a show I created “Inside LA”, showcasing the best places to dine, club and shop in Los Angeles. Soon after, I booked the job! My new husband and I moved to Eden Prairie, MN where Evine is broadcast and I’ve been a part of the Evine family for the past 12 years.

Remembering how lost I felt and fearful, I now help women identify their skills, to believe in themselves to find a job and a better future for their family with Dress for Success.  As a Career Advocate I speak to the women engaged in the 8- week program about what it takes to “sell” themselves to an employer through their words and body language/energy to get the job.  As a One-on-One Mentor, I’ve been able to impact many women’s lives by giving advice and encouraging them to reach their dreams through daily action.

wendi2I was so proud of our Evine hosts for agreeing to be a part of the Dress for Success annual 5k fundraising walk to support this job program!
I was even prouder that our President, Bob Rosenblatt, was kind enough to donate $1500 on behalf of Evine for our Dress for Success team!  Hosts Kendy Kloepfer, Heather Hall, Kimberly Wells, Allison Waggoner and Melissa Miner all donated to the cause, helping us to raise over $2100!

wendiEarly the morning of the race, Evine Hosts Skip Connelly, Lynne Schacher, Brian Kessler, Kristine Kvanli, Sam Simmons and Fatima Cocci and I all rallied together at 6am, walking to raise money to support the women in the “Going Places Network”.

We had a ball!  Sam chose to run it with Kristine, while Skip walked alongside Fatima and I was busy Snap Chatting on the Evine account—hopping from host to host, jumping into each conversation.  At the end of the walk, we ran and crossed the finish line hand-in-hand!  The ladies from Dress for Success were at the finish line and cheered us on with their kids.

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We all bonded in a very unique way that day, and vowed to do it again next year!  I call this the Ripple Effect because if each of us helped someone and then they helped someone once they were on their feet, we would magnify the impact!

What are you doing this holiday season to give back?  Leave your comments below!  If you want to donate clothing for this program, find your local chapter at www.dressforsuccess.org.

“Be Good to Others” and stay tuned for my “5 Days of Kindness” Initiative December 5-9th on my Facebook Page and Evine’s social media platforms! Fine me at:  Wendi Russo Evine Live.

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Behind the Scenes with Effy Gems and Designer Effy Hematian

One of my favorite jewelry designers is Effy Hematian-not just because I love his rose gold panthers with diamonds, exquisite workmanship and use of colored precious gems, but also because he passionate about a business he started himself since 1979 – and he is adorable!  Wearing one of his Effy Ties along with a tailored Navy suit,  Effy is the epitome of a gentleman–warm, kind and gregarious, he began showing me around his multi-level office building where all of his designs are made.  Effy’s designs are all made and designed in the USA and I saw the floors and floors of workers who make it happen.

wr4-wendi-effyIn one room are the female photographers who touch every piece and capture their beauty for still shots.  Another stores bins and bins of gems, female workers tirelessly separating the colored gem stones to create matching earrings or to pave a ring so that all of the rubies, emeralds and sapphires match perfectly.  Did you know that women are only hired for this job as they have superior skills in color matching?  Since I’ve studied at GIA and am a certified diamond and colored stone grader, I can appreciate the work that goes into sorting each gem and the expertise it requires!

wr4-sorting-gems3wr4-sorting-gemswr4-sorting-gems2Another floor was dedicated to setting stones, polishing and finishing the piece, while still another floor dedicated to melting and pouring the gold into each mold for the rings, bracelets and necklaces they produce.  Effy has the design team in his own office with large computers where he can see his designs come to life on 3D screen; a series of awards decorate his walls – he beams with pride as he tells me about the designs that are being created for EVINE exclusively.

wr4-grinding-gemswr4-grindingI was taken to a room where all of the Effy designs are set up by style – from the dreamy and classic Panther collection with black diamonds, to diamonds, rubies, sapphires, serpants and leopard print (this gorgeous ring is one of our best sellers – wait until you see the matching pendant that we’ll be featuring in a month!).  I was most impressed by the men’s line which featured a diamond leopard band – we are bringing in the men’s line soon so get ready!  I could easily see a woman wanting this band ring too!   When I was brought to a large case of just enormous one-of-a-kind sapphire and emerald rings featuring the highest quality natural emeralds, I HAD to try a few on! These are movie star-ready for the red carpet and EVINE is going to be featuring a show dedicated to these high-end, exclusive pieces for those of you who really love estate style rings with high quality precious gems.  I’ll keep you posted on when that show will hit EVINE airwaves!

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Get ready for another drool-worthy collection of gemstone and gold jewelry on EVINE this fall!  See you soon!

XO  Your Rock Hound,  Wendi Russo

GIA Accredited Jewelry Professional (AJP), GIA Certified Diamond Grader, GIA Certified Colored Stone Grader

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Behind the Scenes in NYC

Behind the Scenes with our fashion designers in NYC:  As a former NYC native, I was excited to do some family sightseeing at the Statue of Liberty, visit Ground Zero where two waterfall monuments have been built, naming all of those who passed during 9/11, eat fabulous food and of course,  SHOP!

wr-blog-3-chloeThe shopping in NYC can have your head spin with high end fashions and large chain stores that have cute fashion, but EXPENSIVE –  I was so excited to visit some of our biggest names in fashion to see what they had coming down the pike for fall- Marc Bouwer, WDNY, Indigo Thread Co. and the manufacturer who creates V by Vanessa Williams for Evine.

wr-blog-3-marcFirst stop – the meat packing district – a hot fashion mecca downtown just steps away from Ground Zero and Marc Bouwer Unlimited Headquarters.  Marc was the picture of a working designer in jeans and a t-shirt, working on a stunning gown for some of his big name celebrity clientele’s red carpet moment.  I saw racks and racks of fully beaded gowns, shirts, jersey gowns that he was adding crystals to and day dresses for spring!  He had bins and bins of jewels, trim, lace, Swarovski crystals and all color coded – an artist’s dream!  He began showing me the gowns wr-blgo-3-sequinsworn by celebrities, telling me who wore what and to which major event, and then showed me works in progress for us at Evine – let’s just say sleeves are BIG: bell sleeves, details on the sleeves, and faux suede.  I have his faux suede pants and LOVE them!  What would his fall collection be without a moto jacket in faux leather? Of course those are coming!  While I was there he had me try on some of his samples and I loved them!  They fit so well and his print is fun and inventive!  Marc is a genius with fashion and can make any body look their best – that is the ‘mark’ of a true designer.

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wr-blog-3-yellowNext was a visit to Warren Donner, fashion designer for WDNY.  Warren has been in the fashion business for 35 years and has impeccable taste for trends!  When I saw his studio it was well-organized by color story and I saw so many beautiful pale pink romantic blouses, full bell sleeves with chiffon, sequins galore for the holidays, faux fur chubbies in black and white, and one I wanted to take home featuring chocolate/pale pink and ivory.  He is a master at bringing us affordable trends that make bold and fun statements.  You’ll LOVE what is coming up!  Warren himself has a penchant for ‘Veuve’ and apparently a day doesn’t go by without a glass of his favorite champagne –  you won’t hear me complaining!

wr-blog-3-wdYellow is his color and his yellow Corvette makes a statement everywhere he goes – he drove me to his favorite restaurant, Mr. Chows downtown where everyone knows his name.

wr-blog-3-wd-vetteMy daughter, a budding fashion designer, experienced duck for the first time. Great ready for a fabulous fall line up from Warren!

wr-blog-3-wd-dinnerThe manufacturer who works with some of our most popular brands like Indigo Thread and V by Vanessa Williams is located in NYC, and Susan Gainsborg is instrumental in working with our celebrity lines and helping them to bring their ideas to life!  Vanessa is bringing us jeans in the fall, along with more accents of color that flatter all body types.  There are a few pieces from Indigo, as well – of course I loved the sleeve on this top!  wr-blog-3-white-bellIndigo is bringing you more of what you love in faux suede, tie dyes, tunics, dramatic sleeves, lace and earthy tones that are denim friendly!  we’ve got a lot of Fashion coming up on the calendar, with a big Fall Fashion Day on the list.  See you there!

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Be the change you wish to see in the world

Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

I had been planning my vacation to Jamaica for almost a year!  I envisioned tropical beaches, Pina Coladas, fun in the sun!  I did not count on another version of Jamaica – one filled with poverty and hunger – the other side of the Island in Kingston, Jamaica.

Two weeks ago, I flew to Jamaica to represent Mrs USA in the United Nations pageant system, a pageant based on service and a desire to make a positive and global impact with the less fortunate.  For more than a decade, I’ve been mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kinship of Greater Minneapolis, and as a Career Advocate and speaker for Dress for Success.  As Mrs. USA United Nations, I’d been promoting ‘Become an Everyday Hero: Mentor a Child,’ hoping more adults and families would consider mentoring a young person, helping them to grow and develop into productive young people with a promising future.

Over the years I’ve been partnered up with children who didn’t have much in terms of familial support or material things, but nothing had prepared me for what I was about to experience on my trip.  The Director of the United Nations pageant is a Jamaican gentleman with a heart for the orphans living in the Jamaican Christian Boys Home in Kingston, Jamaica and, once all of the delegates arrived, we headed to the Boys Home to paint the exterior of the building the boys lived in.

Wendi blog 2 clotheslineDriving up I was struck by the condition of the home and property – it was dilapidated, the yard filled with junk and garbage, broken windows, old mattresses stacked up, dangerous wires and pipes, cinderblocks strewn Wendi blog 2 basketballaround . . . and the boys ran around with old, dirty, torn, ill-fitting clothing and bare feet.  Occasionally, one shoe was seen on the driveway but there was no one to tell them to bring it inside.  One boy was trying to bounce a basketball that was worn down to its innards and toss it into the rusty basketball hoop with no net.

Twenty boys lived in this orphanage, and they slowly peeked out and crept over to see who was coming to paint their home.  One 12-year old wasn’t afraid and began asking me questions about the USA.  I asked him what they really needed there.  He said “We really need Wendi blog 2 photo w boy leftanother bike.  We only have one bike and we need a bike for the smaller boys so we can race.”  “You only have one bike for 20 boys?” I asked.  “Yes.” he replied.  I was thinking that, in the US, that would not happen – there would be drives, churches would get involved, people would donate from their excess but, here in Jamaica, there is no excess and no Target or Walmart with inexpensive bikes.  “We also need church clothes – pants and a buttoned-down shirt.”  All the boys had now were ripped jeans and shorts and old t-shirts.  Going to church was their one day out of their compound since it was summer and there was no leaving for school.  They spent 24/7 at the home – riding one bike and playing with a few old balls.

The delegates from around the world painted all day in the hot sun and 100 degree heat (Why didn’t I bring a hat!  Why am I wearing jeans?! Why didn’t I bring suntan lotion?)  Those of us from colder climates found ourselves with sun stroke after a few hours and had to lay on the shady porch to rest and rehydrate . . . did I mention there was no air conditioner inside this home?  After 8 hours, the home had a fresh coat of red paint on its exterior.  Inside was a 90-year old woman who owned the home and had the most beautiful, full smile I’ve ever seen!  To everyone who passed by, she would smile her toothy grin and then go back to her crossword puzzle, occasionally dozing off mid-word, while her stocking fell down to her ankle.  She and her husband had taken boys in to her home decades ago, along with older boys who were not mentally able to live on their own and, now that he had passed, it was just her.  She has a heart of gold.

As we left for the day,  I thought about what more I could do – the bed sheets were filthy and old, the pillows had no pillow cases, the pots and pans were warped and looked like they were 100 years old.  In America, all of these things would have been tossed decades earlier.  We rarely ‘wear’ anything out – we buy new even before something is old!  When I told my daughter about these boys and their single bike, she agreed: first things first – we needed to buy them a bike!

Wendi blog 2 chloe mom bikeIn Jamaica, a mid-sized bike is $125; Chloe picked out a green one that looked like a racing bike.  We also bought chicken, pasta and the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies for the upcoming cooking contest to be judged by all of the boys; then we headed to the orphanage.

The excitement on the boys faces when they saw their new bike was a sight to see!  The jumped up and immediately starting pumping the tires up, adjusting the seat, testing out the bell on the handlebars, and then the first boy jumped on it for its first spin up the bumpy driveway – they didn’t mind!  They stood up on the foot pedals so they didn’t feel the bumps, and sailed back and forth with the freedom a new bike gives – as well as the joy of riding on a bike that has speed since it had 2 good tires!  Here’s the video:

That day my family cooked fried, breaded, pounded cotoletta chicken chicken breast (an Italian favorite), penne with tomato sauce, and I made large, soft chocolate chip cookies (giving tastes of dough and chips to the boys along the way).  I wanted to represent a traditional American dessert – plus I gave each boy a Snickers bar (chocolate is a real treat since it’s expensive there).  After all the different countries’ foods were tasted, the boys started chanting “USA Wendi blog 2 cooking USA USA” – we had won the cooking challenge! (Thank goodness my husband was there to help me cook for that many kids!)

A few days later, I won the title of Mrs. United Nations 2016, my daughter won Little Miss United Nations 2016 and, with it, we plan on doing what we can to create more smiles around the world  – as well as feel more gratitude for all that we have and are able to give.

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When life gives you lemons . . . make lemonade!

It’s a quote my grandmother stitched onto an embroidered piece of fabric and framed it, placing it in my bedroom – it had 2 bunnies that reminded me of Beatrix Potter bunnies – very simple crisscrosses created the words to a very complex life message.  I’ve thought of this quote many times as I’ve experienced tough times – how do I make lemonade out of this?  It means to find the silver lining to the dark cloud, or to make something positive out of something negative.

Like cancer—how can you find the positive in that? One little girl did just that.

For many, summertime is the time to drink lemonade because it’s hot. However, for my family, it’s a time to do our part and fundraise to help find a cure for cancer—one cup at a time! 

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Each summer my daughter, Chloe has held a neighborhood lemonade stand outside of our home where she sells cupcakes, cookies and brownies to raise money for Childhood Cancer Research through Alex’s Lemonade Foundation.   It’s an annual fundraising event that Alex’s parents continued on well after their 4- year old daughter Alex’s death from brain cancer.  She was an inspiration to kids across the nation for telling her mom she wanted to raise over $1 million dollar for a cure for all children who have cancer.  Alex doesn’t know it- but she has more than doubled that goal!  Chloe was just one of the kids she inspired to take action!

Chloe brownie blogDaddy is handy so he made the lemonade stand with pink and yellow strips when she was just 6-years old, soon becoming an attraction to all of the kids in the neighborhood!  Everyone wanted to come and help pour lemonade and sell cookies!  

Wendi group blogIt’s a whole weekend event and, of course, I invited all my fellow hosts – this year Sam Saboura from One World stopped by and did a live Facebook chat with me from the Lemonade stand – AND he contributed!  Laura Duffek from your favorite bedding and Tiffany Style Lighting shows also came around, as well as host Kimberly Wells, who was a big donor this year (thank you Kimberly!!) and even  easy and breezy Becky Wright from OSO Casual!  Host Kendy Kloepfer comes every year and got Chloe police blogto witness the fire truck pulling up onto the block, along with Chloe who, of course, was screaming and jumping up and down (sidenote- why are firemen always cute? Where were my single girlfriends?)  Another donor was even our own CEO Bob Rosenblatt (who is a doll by the way), Invicta Ryan . . . and the list goes on!

 

So, all-in-all, it was a huge success!

By the time Chloe was 6-years old, she had raised over $1,000. Each year since then, she has surpassed that goal, with over $8,000 donated so far!  That first year the local news station came to interview her and last year, a local company who chooses one “little fundraiser” to help raise BIG money, presented her with a $1500 check.  It’s been amazing to witness how people really come out to help, and have been moved by the big heart of a ‘little’ person.

Chloe stand 2 blogThis year Chloe’s Lemonade stand was held in honor of Cheryl,  a long-time beloved friend and nail technician to many of the female hosts at EVINE, who’s had cancer for over a year and is undergoing a major battle for her life.  Prayers for her would be wonderful . . . .

 Learning about compassion and helping others is a lesson I wanted to teach my daughter at a young age—what are you doing to touch the life of others this summer?

 

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