Life is filled with ups and downs, good decisions and bad decisions. On November 13, 2009 I was the victim of one my own bad decisions. I trusted someone I shouldn’t have and was forced to pay the price. I made a business decision that I never should have and it resulted in me having to start all over again at the age of 40. I was dead broke and was starting over with nothing but my experience, reputation, and a very strong work ethic.
Fast forward to November of 2012, I was in my office reviewing the year with one of my staff and we both took a moment to realize that I was no longer dead broke. I was in fact booked solid for 2013. My dj and my new bridal show company were doing incredibly well and I had more money in my bank account than I could remember in a really long time. Most of all, I was grateful.
I have always felt that helping others is important. I have always donated my time and skills as a dj whenever I could. I have walked in numerous 5K marathons, bought raffle tickets, etc. just like everyone reading this. I however felt the need to do more. In three weeks my staff and I organized our first toy drive. We put the word out to friends, family, and industry colleagues and we were able to collect 4 boxes of toys our first year. Since then each year we have tried to make it larger and larger. Last year, the Marines informed us that we collected more toys for Toys for Tots than the Chicago Bears did.
This year, my goal was to double what we did last year. With the help of countless people who volunteered, donated, and attended our 5th annual Toy Drive, we were able to donate two 15’ box trucks filled with toys and bikes for needy kids. The Marines were amazed when we pulled up both on Friday and again on Monday just a few days after our actual Toy Drive event.
I thought I was done for the year. I called a friend to tease her for not attending my toy drive since she had told me that she was coming and never made it. She informed me that she had a conflict and that she was also “charity’d out.” In addition to running her wedding business, she also works as a kindergarten teacher’s aid in a low income area. She said she finds herself reaching into her own pocket weekly to help her students since they simply need the help. I asked her how I could help. I told her I had a few hundred dollars left from the toy drive that I was simply going to buy toys with and drop off but if I can help her, I would. She explained that she needed hats and gloves/mittens for her kids. I thought she was doing an arts and crafts project and decorating them for Christmas. She wasn’t, she needed them for her students since they were being sent to school without hats and mittens. Their parents simply didn’t have them. I made some calls to people who had promised to donate but didn’t come through. I posted on my social media and within 12 hours, I had raised $800. This money along with my left over money bought 135 kids hats, mittens, coloring books, crayons, and I had Keith Christopher Entertainment draw string back packs that we put everything in for each student. On December 21, 2017 I got to hand them out to these amazing little kids that screamed and hooted in delight. I honestly don’t know who was happier, the students or me. My friend called me on her way home and said all the kids wanted to do all day was color in their new coloring books. A simple coloring book and crayons made these kids so incredibly happy.
If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I also volunteer my time djing for two days the weekend before Thanksgiving for my friend Mike Cozzi. Mike started a charity called Caring Patriots. He went to the local VA office to see if he could help volunteer in some way. While he was there, he couldn’t understand how so many veterans were in need of assistance. During the Thanksgiving holiday, there were veterans who couldn’t even put a meal on the table for their family. Mike Cozzi was not going to allow this to happen. I need you to understand who Mike is; he is a truck driver with no business friends in high places who can simply write him big checks and call it a day. He started with a goal of feeding 100 veteran families in honor of their service to this great country. His first year, he begged people for their money, their time, and any canned good items they could donate. He purchased turkeys, carrots, apples, pies, etc. from a Chicago based grocery store chain that would later become a huge ally to his cause. Today, he feeds 1,000 families every Thanksgiving. Each veteran gets 6 bags of canned groceries, a 2 gallon container of laundry detergent, soda, fresh vegetables, potatoes, pumpkin pies, and a huge turkey. This undertaking takes hundreds of volunteers to organize, collect, sort, and hand out all of these items to these veterans and their families.
I am not writing this article to try to convince you what a good guy I am or to impress anyone. Instead I am trying to impress upon you how powerful a small donation of your time, money, connections, etc. can be toward a cause that you are passionate about. I am producing the Marquee Dj and Photo Booth conference in Chicago this upcoming July. A portion of all of the profit will be donated to the new 501c3 charity that I am starting. The goal of this entire charity is to help kids and families in need.
As you make your New Year’s resolutions / goals for 2018, I hope that giving back to something that you are passionate about makes your list.
Keith KoKoruz Owner Windy City Wedding Show / Badger State Bridal Expo