I recently heard my daughter tell some of her classmates what her mom did for work: “She’s a helper.”

I love that description. It’s my mission and, apparently, my job. It is also an example of the power of philanthropy to positivity influence so many people—not only those served by nonprofits, but the donors, volunteers and fundraisers involved as well as everyone in their spheres of influence.

Little did I realize how much she picks up from the stories I share at home—stories of children who struggle to read being helped with new programs; zoo animals receiving larger and better habitats; boys and girls taking home backpacks full of food, so they have enough to eat over the weekend, and so on.

Clearly, it is the frontline workers and nonprofit volunteers and leaders, who work tirelessly to make these things happen, who deserve all the much-warranted credit. Yet, I am so grateful to be able to help in my way. I derive great satisfaction from helping to connect these important missions and projects with generous donors who care deeply and have the capacity to give in large and meaningful ways.

I’m reminded of a heartfelt story from the Fundamental Learning Center in Wichita, Kan. The nonprofit teaches children to read using research-validated curricula, lessons and classroom-tested instruction tailored to each student’s unique learning style.

The organization was founded by Jeanine Phillips and Gretchen Andeel, both accomplished teachers, instructors of teachers and, most importantly, parents of children with profound dyslexia. Not only do they address the importance of teaching children to read, but they also educate parents, teachers and the community about what they describe as the “superpowers” of dyslexia.

For example, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, dyslexic individuals are extremely creative and can have gifts in cognitive and emotional areas such as science, problem solving, empathy, art, visual-spatial abilities and more.

Identifying dyslexic children’s superpowers gives them the help they need to overcome any previous doubts and discouragement they have experienced, move forward in school with confidence and achieve their fullest potential.

As part of a technology class project that took place in the Rolph Literacy Academy at the Fundamental Learning Center, students were asked to make a video of themselves. The assignment was to “talk about your school.”

I’m sure there were many adorable videos and many more of meaning, but one they shared was especially moving. No one knew how much this student had to say about his school until his teacher reviewed the videos and heard him announce—with the boldness of a master of ceremonies:

Kids need a place to go when they’re dyslexic. They don’t know where to go! And that is why you come to Rolph Literacy Academy. It’s the place where you can actually come and learn how to read. I’m one of those students. Cooper. I love this school!

Wow! What a message. It’s also the kind of pure expression of gratitude that makes donors want to start asking questions and writing checks. It’s the reason—or, at least, it should be the reason—why fundraisers do what they do.

At the beginning of the school year, when my daughter’s class met via Zoom, students were asked to share something about themselves. One classmate shared that he was dyslexic. My daughter jumped onto the comment section: “You have superpowers!” She’d heard me talk about Fundamental Learning Center’s work, and was so happy to encourage her classmate and proud to share that her mom raises money for a school that “helps kids with dyslexia find their superpowers.”

I won’t officially add it to my resume, but when I need a little boost, and a reminder of what it is I do, I will remember to tell myself: “I’m a helper.” This is just one example of the “superpowers” of philanthropy!

Janell Johnson Janell Johnson
Executive Vice President
Wilmington, N.C.

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