Volunteer Leadership

Over the summer I attended the National Volunteer Leadership Retreat hosted by Delta Sigma Pi, the professional business fraternity that I joined as a business student at Kent State University. I’m currently serving in my second year as District Director (a volunteer leader) for the chapter at Kent State, acting in an advisory role suggesting ways to improve chapter operations.

Led by incredibly successful entrepreneurs Adam Carroll and Tim Augustine, the retreat provided an opportunity for more than 60 volunteer leaders to network and build relationships, but most importantly gave us an opportunity to enhance current leadership skills and grow through the development of new skills.

I’m incredibly excited to share that I’ve been asked to present at a Delta Sigma Pi conference this November on the topic of volunteer leadership. I’ll share with collegiate members the importance of serving the fraternity as a volunteer, as well as the many benefits that come with volunteering.

So what comes to mind when you hear the words “volunteer leader?” Volunteer is obvious, but I think the definition of “leader” in this case falls into a bit of a gray area. Many times it’s assumed that you must be in a position of power to be a leader. That’s just not true. If you’re serving people, in small or large amounts, with integrity, honesty and authentically, then you’re a leader in my book.

One of the topics we covered at the retreat over the summer was that volunteering tends to be misconstrued and people think that only the organization receiving the services sees any sort of benefit. That’s also not true.

The Corporation for National & Community Service provides plenty of benefits associated with volunteering, including:

  1. Pride, satisfaction, accomplishment, etc.
  2. Connecting with other volunteers.
  3. Improving and strengthening your community.
  4. Health benefits.

Volunteering is also a great way to develop many different leadership skills. Depending on the type of organization and role you’re in, you can interact with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, you can learn how to communicate with different types of audiences, and you just might find a new passion or career path.

A simple search will show you that there are PLENTY of of organizations looking for volunteers, especially volunteers with leadership skills. Non-profits in industries such as healthcare, animal care/adoption, community development, and even organizations with more focused missions, such as chronic illnesses or child advocacy.

If you’re currently serving as a volunteer for an organization and want to share, I’d love to hear about your experiences and any leadership skills you’ve offered others, or skills you’ve developed through volunteering! Please comment below!





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Addiction – Focus on the real issue


Just a couple days ago the city of East Liverpool, Ohio shared a gruesome image of two people in a drug-induced unconscious state while in a vehicle with a young child in the backseat. If that scenario doesn’t grab your attention, then I don’t know what will.

In just two days the original post received over 4K comments, 10K reactions and over 20K shares. I’ve always been intrigued with media that goes viral. Whether it’s a Facebook post, a tweet or the next YouTube sensation, there’s always some characteristic that draws in views and shares. In this case that characteristic is “shock and awe” and the inability to look away. Since the original post on September 8, 2016, the story has been shared by The Washington Post, NBCnews.com, The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.

Here’s the story as shared by The Washington Post: CLICK HERE

It’s obvious that this country has a drug problem and it’s obvious that users of the Internet love and feed off of controversy, and this story is not short of controversy. There’s the drug problem, there’s the “love to hate or hate to love” drug Narcan that resuscitates people who have overdosed, and there’s the image of the scene itself.

Many people are up in arms over the original post because the city decided not to blur the child’s face. I’m sure the city had its reason for not doing so, even if it wasn’t the popular decision. At the same time, I’ve read plenty of reasons that the child’s face should have been blurred.

I’m not here to question ethics or debate about what should or should not have been done. Instead, I want to focus less on the “how and more on “why” the photo was shared in the first place. Here are some of my thoughts and rhetorical questions to consider.

  • I think the post was shared to stir discussion around the plague-like drug problem we have at our hands. Would this specific issue be so far widespread if that photo hadn’t been shared the way it was? Mission status – accomplished: we’re discussing.
  • I think the post was shared to show that small towns are just as much (or more) at risk as large cities. Mission status – accomplished: the story about East Liverpool, Ohio has been shared internationally.
  • I think the goal was to get people to focus more on the drug issue than anything else. Mission status – questionable?

While people are spending time debating about how the photo should have been shared, I feel like the reason the photo was shared has blatantly been disregarded and that little is being done to resolve the real issue at hand. It’s incredibly easy to feed off of controversy, fear and hate that is shared in the media. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make a positive change in the world because it truly requires more than just sharing opinions in a social media post. Change requires action.

I’m not a doctor, therapist, addiction specialist or medical professional of any sort, but I do have a voice and I want to use if to offer assistance, if possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the resources below are available so you can take action and offer the help that is needed. 








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My Views on Nature and Running

Once upon a time (back in high school, 10+ years ago) you could say I was a long distance runner. I was likely in my peak physical condition and for the most part healthy, only having to battle some issues with my shins. After high school, I grew apart from running, but remained active by cycling and hiking local trails.

Shortly after starting a new job earlier this year, a company-wide email with information about the Akron Marathon was sent to all employees. As I scrolled through and skimmed the info, one detail that caught my eye was that the company will cover the cost of registration for anyone interested in running. The gears in my brain began turning!

I immediately reached out to my marathon running group of best friends to see if they thought I could complete the half marathon. They said YES! I took the plunge by registering, bought a new pair of running shoes and started working on getting in shape. A few months of training are in the books and now I have only a few weeks until the race. Luckily, my goal is to complete the race, so the only person I’m up against is myself.

The point of this post is to share one of my favorite parts of this entire experience so far with you. Of course I’m feeling better, eating healthier and maybe even shedding a few pounds, but something all of this running has done for me is connected me to my outdoor surroundings via local trails and metro parks. I’ve seen all sorts of animals, insects, plants, streams and wildflowers. I’ve ran on paved trails, dirt trails, sidewalks and streets. I’ve ran through neighborhoods, prairies, bogs, forests and a national park.

Here are some photos of the places I’ve been. Experiencing just about any location on foot will definitely expose you to your surroundings and help you appreciate everything that’s out there. I urge you to get out and see some new places. You just might get a little exercise in, too…

*All photos taken within Summit Metro Parks or the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.







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The Small Things can be Life Changing

Earlier today I read an article on LinkedIn based on a speech given by James Citrin at the Wesleyan University Phi Beta Kappa Commencement Address.

The main idea of the article is that anyone can make small life changes that can lead to great happiness and success. Many of my favorite topics are covered, including finances, leadership, and goal setting. He even covers fitness! (You better believe I’m going to download ‘The 7 Minute Workout’ app that he mentions.)

James says…

I’ve come to discover that small things, when applied consistently and over long periods of time, have the ability to change your life. Small things, applied consistently and over long periods of time, also lead to massive success. In addition, they can help you achieve health and happiness. And indeed, they can help you change the world.

This is easily one of the best articles I’ve read in a while. The lessons shared through the author’s experiences are invaluable!

Please take the time to read the article here or follow the link below. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss if you’d like!




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Top 15 Photos of 2015

Even though the calendar says we’re nearly two weeks into the new year, I still want to celebrate last year by participating in Ryan Avery’s top 15 photos of 2015 challenge. Honestly, it took me AT LEAST one week to narrow an entire year down to 15 photos. I was incredibly fortunate last year to have plenty of reasons to take pictures, and I have no doubt that this year will be just as great.

Here are my top photos of 2015:


What happens when a childhood friend runs the Boston Marathon? You and three other friends go with him to cheer him on! Erik (in yellow), finished in the top 1,000 his first time running this event. Our trip the 2016 event is already booked! 


My wife, Allison, and I enjoy supporting causes that we believe in! We participated in a benefit walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo


Many of our friends in northeast Ohio were shocked when they heard Allison and I had never eaten at Swensons, especially since we live only a few miles from one. Now, WE are shocked that it took us so long. Galley Boy and teezers is where it’s at! 


Allison surprised me with Garth Brooks tickets for my birthday! Seeing him live is something I want to do since I was little. Luckily, his tour came through Cleveland! 


In addition to the Garth concert, my mom, sisters, nieces and nephews visited us on my birthday weekend. I sure do love this crew! 


My high school track/cross country coach retired at the end of the 2015 track season. Some of his past runners surprised him at the last meet! I’m glad I was able to be there! 


My father-in-law introduced me to road cycling back in 2008. I look forward to the annual organized ride. In 2015 we spent a weekend biking 100+ miles of trails starting in the small town of Franklin, PA.  


Allison created her photography business (Allison Ewing Photography) at the beginning of 2015. I surprised her with this cake (a replica of her camera) to celebrate before she shot her first wedding! A few close friends were able to join in, too! 


We spotted these vehicles parked on a street in the Soho/Chinatown area of New York City. Being a lifelong Batman fan, I was very excited! What’s even better, I witnessed these cars in action as later that night the show “Gotham” was filming outside of our hotel! 


Allison faced her fear and flew for the first time! Our flight, NYC to Akron was a great first flight for her. She made this face when she felt the nose o the plane lifting up. A proud moment for me! 


This picture is easily one of my favorites. One of my best friends admiring some artwork at the Art Institute of Chicago. He justifies the wardrobe (not that is needs justification) by stating that we were heading to the beach afterward (and we did), but his shirt was complimented by plenty of other museum goers and staff before we left. 


I was honored to stand and support one of my best friends as he got married! 


My oldest niece is driving. OMG! She insisted that she drive us to Taco Bell for practice. I didn’t say no. Despite the fearful look on my face she did a great job! 


My nephew, Kade, decided to wear his cape to the park. I think this picture should inspire others to always be brave and be themselves, no matter what others think. And that wearing an actual cape is always an option.


Our dog, Bogart, absolutely loves me, and sometimes it drives Allison crazy. I snapped this photo after one morning after loading him into the car. At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but then Allison saw it and FELL IN LOVE! I believe it’s still the background photo on her phone. 


I hope your 2015 was as exciting as mine! Do you have 15 photos that you would like to share? Even though we’re into the new year, it’s not too late! I would love to see your highlights.

Thanks for reading!




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The Good Stuff

In the midst of the turmoil and heartache that this world constantly endures, I want to do the best I can to help you stay grounded and focus on what’s positive. Let’s step back from the red coffee cup controversies, the political debates, the terrorist attacks, and anything else in mainstream media that generally makes you unhappy.

This picture makes me very happy.

This picture is something that makes me very happy.

This isn’t a  “how to stay positive” post, but instead is a “here’s what I do and you should too” post. I do my best to focus on what I like to call the good stuff. I don’t have a specific definition for the good stuff because it will be different for everybody, but I think you’ll understand by reading some of my examples.

My wife and I made a trip to Columbus, Ohio last weekend to visit family. The following list contains parts of the weekend that I consider to the good stuff.

  • The good stuff is not seeing my mom for two months and being greeted immediately with a hug, even if I have to bend down a little because she’s only 4’11”.
  • The good stuff is watching my photographer wife take special maternity photos for my sister.
  • The good stuff is entertaining my two nephews by making up a story about having to protect their aunt and mom from bad guys while the photos were being taken.
  • The good stuff is pretending to be superheroes with your nephews in order to protect the previously mentioned ladies. I was assigned Wolverine, while my almost three-year old nephew was (baby) Hulk, and my five-year old nephew was Thor. The only slightly confusing part is that Thor’s cape has a Superman symbol on it (see photo above).
  • The good stuff is my mom preparing a Thanksgiving-esque meal and properly setting the table because she knew I wouldn’t be there on actual Thanksgiving.
  • The good stuff is my youngest niece wanting me to flip her, tickle her, or allow her to “put me in jail.” The latter is bogus because she never reads me my rights of charges me with a crime!
  • The good stuff is my oldest niece learning how to drive and me being brave by letting her take me to Taco Bell.
  • The good stuff is playing a trivia game with your “older and wiser” sister to find out that she is indeed older….and wiser.
  • The good stuff is escalating one goofy comment to the point you find yourself in a “pee your pants” kind of laughing fit. This happens all of time with my family. You know it’s on when you see my mom crossing her legs.
  • The good stuff is leaving while knowing in my heart that they will all be waiting for us when we return.
My sister and her third boy.

My sister and her third boy.

She did a great job!

By the way, she did a great job!

The point I would like to make is that for every tragedy or disheartening news story you come across, there is plenty of “good stuff” in your life that you should be focusing on. Take some time to yourself to think about what’s going on around you that truly makes you happy, whether it’s a special person (or people), an accomplishment, or significant life event.

Please feel welcome to some of your good stuff with me! I would be happy to hear about other great things that are happening in this world.

Thanks for reading!

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Man’s Best Friend

Just about everyone who knows me and my wife has either heard about, seen a picture of, or even met our chocolate lab, Bogart. I have to apologize to my Instagram followers because it seems like I post more and more photos of him the deeper we get into autumn.

He loves Fall just as much as we do.

He loves fall just as much as we do.

As soon as you meet Bogart it’s clear that he LOVES people. I don’t think we’ve come across any type of person that he doesn’t like. He really wears his heart on his….tail? That thing wags and wags and has been known to knock items off of tables. What a lot of people likely don’t know is how we adopted Bogart. I could talk about this for at least an hour, but I’ll do my best to keep it short.

Back in 2010, a close friend of ours introduced us to 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit that trains and provides services dogs to children with disabilities. Our friend was fostering a dog and encouraged us to do the same. We were given three four-month old pups to choose from, and we chose Bogart. Over the next six months our mission was to socialize him, train him in basic obedience, and introduce him to many different environments and situations. It was easy to socialize a puppy that LOVES people. Obedience training was quite easy because he seemed advanced. And we both took him to various meetings and events, shopping, restaurants, etc. The only part about the fostering that I hated was that we had to give him back. I lied to myself when I said it’d be easy. No, Allison and I were crushed.

My wife, Allison, shortly after we picked him up from 4 Paws.

My wife, Allison, shortly after we picked him up from 4 Paws.

He was such a little guy.

He was such a little guy!








Fast forward six more months and I was given a reason to believe in miracles. Due to Bogart having mild hip dysplasia (common in labs), we were given the first option to adopt him! He was unable to be a service dog because he wasn’t 100% healthy. We officially adopted him three days after we received notice that he was available.

He grew up too fast!

He grew up too fast!


There’s no doubt in my mind that Bogart would have been an excellent service dog. He’s the most loyal dog I’ve ever seen. Unless you have Pup-peroni. You’ll win if you have Pup-peroni. You can tell by looking into his eyes that there is no limit to his love and companionship. His only flaw MIGHT be that his snoring can compete with the local freight trains, but hey, I’ve been told that I’m a snorer, too. Like father, like son!


If you’re a dog person, I’m sure you can relate to the bond we have with Bogart. I want to leave you with a heartwarming story about a man who actually had his dog act as his best man during his wedding. This wasn’t just any dog, but it was his service dog. Justin Lansford is a U.S. Army veteran who was paired with golden retriever, Gabe, after being injured in Afghanistan by and IED back in 2012.

Thanks for reading!


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