personal stories

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Clown Class

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

I taught myself to juggle. Really juggle. Not because I decided it would be fun to frustrate my uncoordinated self by tossing, tracking and catching three beanbags through the air in a continuing circular pattern, but for a circus skills class I was taking. After weeks of what felt like constant failure, not only did I learn how to juggle, but I also learned how to take a fall and to ride a unicycle. Yes, those are all stunts, but the fundamentals of clowning taught me how to keep my cool and be ready for anything in my day-to-day life. Consider:

I’m fine. Totally fine.

I’m fine. Totally fine.

  • Pratfalls. How to get knocked on our keisters and get up again like nothing happened. The big secret is to remain aware: anticipate, relax and keep your knees bent. You get knocked down and you fall into it, and treat it like a bounce. Before you know it, you’re back on your feet. Sometimes you get a little bruised, but it’s nothing you won’t recover from. Real world application: If you anticipate change, you’re more prepared for it when it comes. So you fall into it. You make the necessary adjustments to deal with whatever happens, you “keep your knees bent,” meaning you stay flexible, and a great bounce back makes everyone think maybe you had it planned all along.
Me for the first two weeks of the unicycle unit.

Me for the first two weeks of the unicycle unit.

  • Riding a unicycle. It’s all about balance, obviously, but it’s also about knowing the importance of support. Without my fellow clowns, I would never have been able to get on the unicycle in the first place, and without a nice strong wall, I wouldn’t have been able to stay up long enough to find that balance, let alone use it to propel myself down the hall and wobble make my way back up again. Real world application: Finding your balance takes time, patience and support, but it pays off big-time in team morale and personal strength.
I never did get to this level. Few do.

I never did get to this level. Few do.

  • Juggling. You start with one ball. You pop your wrist and send that ball from one hand to the other. Catch, release, catch, release. Add the second ball, repeat. Add the third ball. And fail for weeks while you try to keep all three in a rotation where you are aware – at all times – of where each ball is as you keep them in motion. The first time you get a good rotation going, you feel on top of the world! And before you know it, you drop them and you’re back to square one. This is the danger zone: you want that success again so badly that you get frustrated, push too hard and go too fast. The key? Focus and breathing. Recognize it is a process. You will drop a ball. Pick it up, start over and don’t beat yourself up. Frustration will only slow you down, and you want to get to where you can move from beanbags to hoops, to bowling pins, to steak knives(!). Real world application? Easy: focus, breathe and don’t rush. You’ll get there faster than you think.

No joke – some of the best experiences I’ve had in the professional world had a groundwork laid in clowning. So if you’re feeling frazzled or stuck, why not grab a few beanbags on the way home and teach yourself to juggle? Fine, maybe you already know everything about focus, breathing and patience; maybe you just need new way to de-stress that really works, and juggling does … Especially once you get to those steak knives.

 

Why Heroes For Children Is My Passion - In Honor Of National Childhood Cancer Month

By Jo Trizila, President & CEO of TrizCom Public Relations

Every person, every business has a reason for choosing their nonprofit partner. Let’s face it: one has to be choosy when picking a volunteer activity (whether it’s a board of director’s seat, charity gala volunteer or organization volunteer). We have only so many hours in the week that we can spare outside our family and work commitments.

I met the founders of Heroes for Children when I was a young 30-something-year-old with little financial resources but I did have connections and nonprofit experience. I took a meeting with Larissa and Jenny, Heroes co-founders, to see how I could help them. The timing wasn’t good, and I was already over committed to other projects – but I never forgot about them. Years would pass, jobs would change, situations altered and now I find myself on the board of directors for the second year and Heroes for Children has become TrizCom’s one and only pro bono account.

Heroes for Children provides financial and social assistance to families who have a child with cancer. Sometimes we help pay mortgage payments, give gas cards, pay for a prom dress, give a 6-year-old a birthday, supply a teenager a laptop so they can keep up with friends and schoolwork while undergoing treatment, or it might even be to pay the expense of banking a teenager’s sperm cells so one day he might be able to have biological children of his own. Unfortunately, we are also the organization that families come to when they have lost a child and need help laying them to rest.

I have stayed awake late at night trying to figure out how to do more for Heroes. I have wept because of our kiddos with Heroes. And I have never smiled more than with the work we do with Heroes. In short, my passion lies with Heroes for Children, and it is deeply personal.

When I was 13 years old, in the middle of my 7th grade year, I developed a brain abscess that was considered inoperable. My parents had just changed insurance and the company denied coverage, stating the abscess was a preexisting condition. Following emergency brain surgery and months in the hospital to treat the abscess, I contracted hepatitis. After the hepatitis, I developed aplastic anemia from a drug given to me to treat the brain abscess. The only cure for this disease was a bone marrow transplant. At the time, 1985, there were only two hospitals in the United States doing this “experimental” transplant, and we were lucky enough that Baylor Hospital was one of the two. Once again, insurance denied coverage – this time because the transplant was “experimental.”

As a 13-year-old, I had no idea what stress my parents were absorbing. As a mother today, I simply don’t know how they faced each day. The brain abscess was inoperable, and I was told that my odds of coming out of surgery were very, very slim due to the location. My odds of surviving an experimental bone marrow transplant were just as low. Bills upon bills upon bills piled up. I was critical most nights, and either my mom or my dad would stay with me while still trying to run their travel agency business and care for my younger brother. To help, they flew my grandmother in to stay with me during the day. My poor brother was left with friends for most of 1985.

During the darkest days come some of the brightest memories. Our church at the time, First Presbyterian Church of Richardson, unbeknownst to us, took up a special collection one Sunday. They came to the hospital and gave my parents a check for a couple thousand dollars with no strings attached. My parents, to this day, say that it was like someone handed them a million dollars. I have experienced firsthand how the generosity of others impacts a family’s life.

So fast forward 30 years. I feel like I am able to give back to the hundreds of strangers who helped me and my family back in 1985. No one ever wishes a child to be sick. No one ever plans for a child to be sick. But thank God there are organizations like Heroes that families can turn to in their darkest days.

I think what hurts me the most is that we are not able to help every family that needs us. There is so much more we can do. Our average gift to a Heroes’ family is a mere $750. There have been times when we lose one of the kiddos we’ve helped and it literally takes a little piece of your soul each time. These are the days when I crawl into my sleeping daughter’s bed and hold her tight.

Cancer SUCKS. It SUCKS even more when it happens to an innocent child. Cancer doesn’t care if you are black, brown or white. It doesn’t care if you are a millionaire or if you are living below the poverty line. It doesn’t care if you have insurance or you don’t. When a child has cancer, it is a crisis for the entire family. Your normal life is now turned upside down, and you have a new normal to learn. A life of treatments, short-term and long-term side effects, tests, procedures, transplants, trials, caregivers for your other children, and the list goes on and on and on.

You hear this all the time: you really don’t understand a parent’s love until you become a parent, and boy, no truer statement has ever been made. A parent’s love is unlike any other love I have known. You are your child’s protector, you are her fighter, you are his voice, you are her nursemaid, and when you can’t be…. well, that’s the definition of true, honest, gut-wrenching, hopeless pain. At Heroes, we frequently hear stories that a mom or dad lost their job because their boss made them choose between spending the night with their scared, terminally ill child vs. coming into work. Or the mom who had to move to a major city so her baby could get treated and still had to figure out how to pay her mortgage/rent back home.

So this is why I support Heroes for Children. No family should EVER have to fight this alone!

When you go home tonight and are in the middle of evening chaos (trying to cook dinner, answering the cell phone, telling someone to get off the iPad and do their homework, letting the dog out…), stop for one minute and imagine if today, you were one of 43 families who were told that your baby has cancer. What would you do? Would you be financially prepared for such a diagnosis? Would you have a network of supporters? Would you be stable enough to fight this battle? Honestly, I don’t think I would be – but you do what you have to do for your children. What I do know, my first call would be to Heroes for Children. 

For the families we help and for the thousands we simply don’t have enough money to help, please consider a recurring $25 gift a month with our Heroes for Children from The Heart Monthly Giving Circle. Think about it – that’s less than six Starbucks coffees a month. Your donation will help fund a computer, a mother’s groceries, a dad paying to keep the electricity turned on. It makes a real difference. We see it every single day. Please go here: http://www.heroesforchildren.org/get-involved/from-the-heart-monthly-giving-circle/.

TrizCom PR is proud to donate Heroes for Children public relations. Here are a few of our favorite Heroes’ stories:

You may be thinking, why is this blog on a public relations site? Well, part of our job as PR folks is to tell our client’s stories to targeted publications. You read this entire blog post, yes? Your awareness and consideration is higher for Heroes for Children than it was before reading the story, yes? This is true because you read a story. Storytelling is a great tactic in any public relations strategy.

At TrizCom PR we tell our clients that an effective story has transparency, is authentic, has a human interest angle, provokes emotion and contains visuals.

As the king of marketing, Seth Godin, says, “Marketing is storytelling.”

Everyone has a story. Let us help you tell your story.

#TrizComPR #StoryTellingandPR #MarketingIsStorytelling

A Few Personal Thoughts on Olympic Athletes

By Jo Trizila, CEO & President, TrizCom PR

The power of video, as we all know, is amazing. A friend of mine posted the Under Armour - Rule Yourself video featuring the awesome Michael Phelps. Watch it. Be inspired. Share it.

After watching this video, it got me thinking about hard work. Nothing really good comes to anyone without hard work – well, maybe lottery winners get it easy, but I wouldn't know as I've never won. I believe that the people who personify hard work the most are Olympic Athletes.

My 6-year-old daughter, Kate, is a figure skater. She started skating at age 3. For the past three years, she has gone to the ice rink three days a week for lessons. Her home ice rink, the Dr. Pepper Stars Center in Plano, is the training facility for a Team USA figure skater and two national junior champions/Team USA 2022 hopefuls.

These three girls practice six to eight hours a day, five days a week. Watching them practice has been an eye-opening experience. I have learned firsthand that amazing athletes do not get to be amazing without the dedication of their parents and family members. Every time I see one of the girls practicing, I see one of their parents sitting in the bleachers watching them – and they’re at every competition, too. Although Kate is far from their level of skating, I realize that if it wasn't for my father/her grandfather's dedication to the sport, she would not be where she is today. For the past three years, he has been the one to take her to almost every single practice.

Secondly, I witness pain almost every time I see them – when they fall, when they twist wrong, sometimes when they just walk up the stairs. Even though they wear pads inside their tights during practice, no amount of padding can help when you fall out of a triple axel or a triple lutz. When your hip hits ice – pad or no pad – it has to hurt. Yet they get up, brush the ice shavings from their body and do it again – and again and again and again.

The sacrifices they make are difficult. Most have dropped out of regular school and are home-schooled so they can skate. There are no fun runs to McDonalds, because they have to eat healthy. There are no late nights out with friends, because they have to be at the rink at 4 a.m. to get ice time. There are no family vacations, because there are competitions to attend all over the world. The sacrifices these kids and their family have made are mind-boggling.

And let's talk about money. Kate is 6 years old and her skating – not taking into account the costumes, skates, competition fees, stretching classes, gymnastics and soon-to-be ballet classes, just lessons and her coach’s fees – averages $350-450 a month. This, of course, will only increase over time.

As the audience, all we see is the final, sometimes beautiful, sometimes gut wrenching, product… It is NOT pretty training to be an Olympic athlete. It is hard, hard, hard work. It's painful work. Just watching them, it is exhausting.

So as we watch the Olympics, take a minute to think about everything they, and their families, have gone through to make it to the games. I am so proud of our American athletes. Now, after watching one of them train for the past three years, I am filled with abundant pride, admiration, awe and appreciation. However, this is also mixed with a little sadness. They have sacrificed so much to be where they are today.

Thank you, Team USA. Thank you.