When I first met Todd Grossman, it was on a business call when I was trying to resolve a problem with a project I had undertaken with his organization.  Todd was the “escalated” call and I was taken by how well he handled a sticky situation.  He was just the kind of person I wanted to get to know better. Not long after, we met in person to see where we could help each other business-wise and struck up a friendship.

When I learned about Todd’s foundation – the Kilimanjaro Education Foundation or KEF for short – that he founded after climbing the mountain and meeting the guides who lived in villages around Kilimanjaro and seeing the great need for help in the region – I knew I wanted to help.  KEF  strives to improve education and to build school facilities for underprivileged children in Tanzania and other countries bordering Kilimanjaro. I volunteered to help the foundation by providing pro bono PR services.

At the same time, I was looking for a way to show my kids how lucky they were – that not everyone has the same privileges – not to mention all the “stuff” they have.  It seemed like a natural fit when I brought Todd to Franklin Elementary School to meet with the principal and the kids and to create a relationship.

Three years later, that relationship endures as the kids of Franklin are working on raising enough money to build and outfit a library at Eluwai Primary School and Noonkodin Secondary School in the village of Eluwai outside of Monduli in Tanzania.  What an amazing sight when we got the pictures of the ground breaking and of the foundation being laid.  Soon there will be a building there and kids in Tanzania will have access to books and other materials that they could only dream of.

The kids at Franklin have embraced the project, raising money through spirit days and selling bracelets.  But the big fundraiser is a yearly “teachers vs. parents” basketball game that will take place tonight.  A different kind of march madnessImage.  I toured the school last year with Todd when we went to classrooms to talk to the kids about the project and to hear their ideas about raising money.  I sat at the assembly where Todd showed pictures of the conditions in the village and showed how the library will help.  I listened to the great questions from the kids who wanted to know everything and connect with the kids they are helping.

If this project inspires only a small percentage of the kids at Franklin – and their parents – to appreciate our way of life more – or to give back to the community through a volunteer project of some kind it is worth it.  And if my kids take nothing more away than that they should help others in a time of need, I will be one proud dad.

Go Franklin Elementary!  Go KEF!