Category Archives: Non Profits

Taking The Polar Plunge

If you would like to donate to the 2010 Polar Plunge please visit my 2010 Polar Plunge Donation Page

Josh Holmes doing the Polar PlungeAs I talked about in a recent post, I recently participated in a fund raiser for the Special Olympics of Michigan. The end of the fund raiser was that I did a Polar Plunge.

clip_image002This is a charity that is special to me because of my youngest daughter, Maura, who has a lot of challenges of her own. One day, my hope is to see her compete in the Special Olympics.


To find out more about Maura, see the “About” page at


Turns out a lot of people wanted to see me jump in a frozen lake… 🙂 In the end, I raised $725.00 + whatever we get through matching funds so probably a little over $1000.00. So, for all of you who paid to see me do it – here’s the video.


Special thanks to all of you who donated – many of who are friends on twitter…

Display Name Date Amount  Comment
Omar Greene 2/14/2009 $50.00 Josh is a fine person. Known him since his boyhood.  
JSConf 2009 2/13/2009 $100.00  
Michael Eaton 2/13/2009 $25.00  
David Giard 2/13/2009 $25.00  
Aaron Lerch 2/13/2009 $25.00  
Carey Payette 2/13/2009 $25.00 Great Cause 
tye 2/12/2009 $25.00  
Anonymous 2/12/2009 $25.00 good luck! 
Dennis Burton 2/12/2009 $25.00  
Frank Martin 2/11/2009 $25.00 Happy to help this cause. 
Susan Holmes 2/11/2009 $25.00 Because we love you and yours 
kellie englund 2/10/2009 $25.00 hope Phoebe gets your new suit done in time!!! 
Denny Boynton 2/10/2009 $50.00 Because you’re even willing to do it… 
Pandamonial 2/10/2009 $40.00 Good luck!  
Ryan Stewart 2/10/2009 $50.00  
Anonymous 2/9/2009 $20.00 don’t freeze your butt off! 
Bruce Szabo 2/9/2009 $25.00 Good Luck! 
Anonymous 2/9/2009 $40.00 Good luck!  
Tim Adams 2/9/2009 $100.00 God Bless!!! 

Grand Total: $725.00

It was a surreal experience. I watched how far across the water it was and decided that I just needed to make a dive for it. The water was about 8 foot deep where I made the jump. When I hit the water, every last bit of breath left my body. As one person said, that’s God’s way of making sure you don’t yell bad words when you hit the surface. I said something about “Man that’s cold” but it came out “BBBBBRBRRRBBRBBBRBBRBBRBRBRB”. The really bizarre thing was getting out of the water and realizing that I was walking across the snow and my feet didn’t feel cold. The snow actually felt a little warm. I got in and changed the feelings got more bizarre as my skin warmed up but I was still cold inside – exactly the opposite of normal when it’s cold outside your skin is usually the first to get cold.

I just got off the phone with a friend who asked “Would you do it again?”. I answered “Yes”. He rephrased the question with “Would you do it again if there wasn’t a good cause involved?”. I answered “No…”

Look for me to do it again next year but I’m going to go bigger on the fund raising and possibly go with a costume…

Polar Plunging for the Special Olympics

What I’m doing:

I’m going to be polar plunging to raise money for the Special Olympics Michigan this coming weekend in Belleville.

clip_image002This is a charity that is special to me because of my youngest daughter, Maura, who has a lot of challenges of her own. One day, my hope is to see her compete in the Special Olympics.

To find out more about Maura, see the “About” page at


How you can help:

If you can donate, please check out my donation page at  


About the Event:

If you want to watch (video – whatever), come and ‘bear’ the elements at the 2009 Polar Plunge – Belleville at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at the Belleville Moose Lodge (831 East Huron Dr. Belleville, MI 48111). Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. with the plunge and parade of costumes beginning at 11:30 a.m. with a warm post-plunge party at 12:30 p.m.

The polar plunge is a fun-filled event open to all courageous and community-minded individuals willing to plunge into the cold water and raise critical funds to support the year-round athletic training of more than 16,000 athletes across the state. Be sure to pre-register to receive detailed information.


About the Special Olympic Michigan:

The mission of Special Olympics Michigan is to provide sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for the children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Athletes are given continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness; demonstrate courage; experience joy; and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. Through Special Olympics, athletes gain self-confidence and prove their own capabilities.

Inspired By: Nathan Blevins and Wonderpuzzle

logo I thought long and hard about how to write this post. There are a ton of people that have inspired me throughout my life.

I was inspired by Jeff Blankenburg‘s Contribupendence Day. I was inspired by the original GiveCamp thrown by Toi Wright and Chris Koenig and the latest one hosted by John Hopkins and Jennifer Marsman. I was inspired by Joe O’Brien‘s passion for Ruby. I was inspired by more people than I can possibly name. I am the person that I am today because of the people that have inspired me through out my life.

At first, I couldn’t decide that I should profile anyone person because there are so many and I’d be doing a disservice to all those that I wasn’t profiling and I didn’t want to leave anyone out. Then I realized how stupid that was because I was leaving everyone out by not starting somewhere.

So, I decided to start with Nathan because he’s the most recent on my mind and has touched my life directly…

Who has inspired you and how?

When Nathan Blevins heard about the Ann Arbor GiveCamp he could have, like a lot of people, decide that it was too far away and not to come and left it alone. Instead, he decide to organize an offsite group and pulled in 4 more people to help. He hosted them at his house and they worked 9-5 each day. In the early going, he called and called, making sure that we hadn’t forgotten about him until we threw them a lot of work.

By doing so, he affected 2 different projects.

One was the Ann Arbor Hands on Museum (done in PHP so that it could fit in with the rest of their already existing web site). One of the guys, Dylan, that he hosted was a PHP savant and did a lot of the heavy lifting on that project. 

The second was a charity called Wonderpuzzle. It’s a charity run by my wife for children who have medical problems with no diagnosis. The parents of these children feel like their on an island because if their child’s condition had a name, they could join that community. As it is, they are bumping through the night with no one to turn to for help or even empathy as they fight against the insurance companies who won’t pay because they don’t have a name for some paper somewhere or the schools because the legislation only forces them to work with a small slice of named conditions like autism. Wonderpuzzle is an online community with discussion forums, articles and much more that address these issues.

I was very touched and privileged to get to demo the finished version of their site. Check it out:

What have they inspired you to do?

The next time that I look at something that’s the right thing to do but there are constraints in the way of my participation – I’m going to ideate on different ways to engage. I’m going to stop letting my “lame excuses” (all props to Michael Eaton for calling a number of people out on that) get in the way of my participation in a number of things that I’ve wanted to do.

Who else have they inspired?

The other people that came in to help Nathan out with the Knoxville GiveCamp satellite need mention too:

  • Ben Farmer – Ben worked w/ Joe to make sure the site was completely ported over to sitefinity, replicated its functionality, and made sure the data was moved over as well.
  • Jenny Farmer – Jenny was the mastermind behind the new design.  She spoke directly with Phoebe to make sure she got exactly what she wanted and made it so in photoshop. After that, she worked w/ me as Nathan made her ‘idea’ into HTML / .Net code. She, unfortunately, was not able to come in the second day due to not feeling well.
  • Joe Simpson – Joe worked with Ben to make sure the site was completely ported over to sitefinity, replicated its functionality, and made sure the data was moved over as well.  Joe was actually a real trooper as he was usually the first one at Nathan’s house and the last to leave.
  • Dylan Wolf – Dylan worked mainly on a separate PHP project.  However, any time he had down time he would jump on Wonderpuzzle and start taking small tasks on. He was a great asset to both projects and did an excellent job multitasking.

Call to Action

My challenge to you is to write an “Inspired By” post and profile another community hero.

In fact, I’m going to call out 5 people and because I want to know who inspires them. The fun part is that I could have started with any of these 5 people because they all inspire me.

Carry Payette (who did a very similar satellite group in Columbus)

Michael Eaton (who worked tirelessly at GiveCamp to make sure that everyone there had whatever they needed)

Martin Shoemaker (who brings design, best practices and humor everywhere he goes)

John Hopkins (who doesn’t want people to say thank you but rather – what can I do?)

Sam Henry (doesn’t blog much but when Sam sees a problem he goes after if head first. He, his wife and some of their friends, have started the Red Letters Campaign – Living Faith to End Poverty)

Ann Arbor GiveCamp 2008

GiveCampThis past weekend was the Ann Arbor GiveCamp 2008. The idea is Geeks Giving Back. The GiveCamp organized a number of charities(15) and a number of developers (over a hundred signed up and 90ish showed – I don’t have exact numbers). We showed up on Friday night at 5:00 and started work. At 3:00 on Sunday afternoon, we showed what we had accomplished. In many cases, the charities just needed a web site or a better web site. In some cases, they needed real programming work done.

It was an amazing experience. I was involved in the first one in Dallas. I worked remote and contributed to the St. Vincent DePaul Society volunteer scheduling application with J Sawyer and Chris Koenig. I don’t remember how many charities and developers contributed to that one but it was a huge way to begin. Since then there was one in Kansas City and now Ann Arbor.

While at the event, I, like a ton of other people, wore many hats. I was assigned to a charity (Center Stage Drama – separate post on them coming at some point soon). I also was helping with some of the organization, running the break room for a couple of shifts, technical helper for many of the groups, photographer, videographer, errand boy and anything else that could be done.

One of my favorite things was that I tossed the ideas around of doing a short standup 2-4 times a day and I got to run those. It was fantastic to get all 80+ devs in a circle and be able to run through all of the groups and do a 1 minute status to find out how the project was going and what blocking issues where up. More than once we got a resolution or found the person that had the immediate answer to follow up right after the standup. On Sunday we did 3 quick standups about 2 hours apart. Those really helped everyone quickly find resolutions and gave everyone a sense that we were going to finish on time. All good stuff.

The last hat that I wore was a little surprising, even to me. On Friday night, we started chatting and realized that we have 5 remote developers down in Knoxville, TN headed up by Nathan Blevins. As I’m tying this – I’m realizing that I really need to just do a separate post for that group. Briefly, it was Ben Farmer, Dylan Wolf, Jenny Farmer, Joe Simpson, and Nathan Blevins. They did great work for several of our charities and even took on one completely. That’s my next post about Wonder Puzzle.

The only issue with GiveCamp is that we can’t realistically do it in a geography more than once a year because of the massive time commitment, organizational efforts and sleep depravation. I’ve got some more sustainable ideas floating around that I’ll surface when they’re a little more baked. Let me know if you want to be in on those early and we’ll start some conversations.

The reality here is that I can’t even come close to doing the whole experience justice. The best I can hope for is to inspire you to come next time…

*update* Carey Payette called me out – there were two satellite groups, Columbus, OH and Knoxville, TN. Sorry that I didn’t mention the Columbus crew in the original post.