VB Gives Back
#VBGIVESBACK: Jill Martin
August 1, 2017
We are honored to support the Garden of Dreams Foundation as part of our ongoing #VBGIVESBACK program and will be donating $10 of every VeronicaBeard.com order in August to the cause.
Jill Martin, the TODAY Show contributor, New York Knicks broadcaster, QVC Creative Director and best-selling author, has been a part of the Garden of Dreams Foundation since it was started in 2006. With the goal of positively impacting the lives of children facing challenges, such as extreme poverty and illness, Jill has dedicated countless hours to volunteering and hosting events alongside the Foundation’s 28 partner organizations. Jill’s passion for giving back has helped the Foundation touch the lives of over 325,000 children and families.
This year, Jill was honored with the Garden of Dreams Hero Award for the incredible work she has done with the organization. We are honored to partner with Jill and support this incredible cause in August.
How long have you been involved with the Garden of Dreams Foundation? I have been involved with the Foundation since its inception in 2006. I started volunteering during hospital visits, at wishes we were granting to deserving children & at our MSG Network Classroom sessions where we encourage high school students to learn about all aspects of our business. I am proud to say, I am now on the Advisory Board of the Foundation, and was recently given the Hero Award for my work with my Garden of Dreams pals.
What is the goal of the foundation?The Garden of Dreams Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with The Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Networks, Inc. to positively impact the lives of children facing obstacles. The Foundation works with 28 partner organizations throughout the tri-state area, including hospitals, wish organizations and community-based organizations, to reach children who are facing challenges such as homelessness, extreme poverty, illness, and foster care.
Here is the thing about the Garden of Dreams Foundation: it works, it really works. Every action is met with an immediate reaction. Every Talent Show at Radio City Musical Hall, where our brave, tremendously-talented kids perform, is met with smiles. Every wish we help grant is met with tears of joy and most importantly, every experience we create allows kids facing unimaginable obstacles to just be kids and have fun.
What has your role been? The two main events I am really involved with is our annual Talent Show at Radio City Music Hall & our Garden of Dreams Prom at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Two of our prom attendees even got a special Ambush Makeover with me on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda!
Perhaps the most powerful moments with the Foundation, for me, have been the conversations I have with the parents of kids who are fighting to get better and in some cases, fighting for their lives.
Every Spring we hold our Prom, for kids who heartbreakingly didn't make it to their own prom or who, devastatingly, won't make it to their prom. The event is filled with dancing, celebrities, a DJ, and tons of food and at the end of the night parents are allowed to peek inside for one second just to get a glimpse of the party.
At the end of one of the proms, one of the mothers, whose daughter was in a wheelchair, spotted a boy spinning her little girl around under the disco ball and lights. She came up to me sobbing and said, “Thank you so much for doing this. This is the first time, I can honestly say, I have seen her truly happy.” She continued to say, “…for that moment, I was happy. I can’t remember the last time I felt that feeling.” These are the moments I cherish: to make a mommy and daddy happy (even for a minute) is worth every second of my time.
What was it like to be recognized for your work and receive the Garden of Dreams Hero Award this year?I cried when I got the phone call from Garden of Dreams telling me that I was going to receive the Hero Award. I have been with the Madison Square Company for over a decade and to get this level of acknowledgment took my breath away. It is the most important thing we do at the Madison Square Garden Company and I am so proud to be a part of it. The kids are the true heroes in this, but I am thrilled to be a member of this extraordinary family.
Is there a moment that has stood out to you? It couldn’t have been more special for me that Oscar and Juliana presented me with Hero Award at our big event. I first met Oscar when he was just four years old, going through treatment for cancer. He was in his little top hat performing at Radio City Music Hall at our talent show. I met Julianna four years ago when she was going through chemotherapy, but you never would have known with the little bow in her hair. With all her might she performed “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” that elicited a standing ovation from the crowd. I am so grateful to say that these two, now 10-years-old, are cancer-free. They are part of our family and always will be.
Jill with Julianna and Oscar at the Garden of Laughs event.
How does the Garden of Dreams Foundation hope to grow in the future? In addition to the over 500 events the Foundation holds annually, the Garden of Dreams Giving Program helps its partner organizations meet the critical needs of the children they serve through direct support of college scholarships and tangible, targeted community projects. To date, the Foundation has awarded scholarships to 41 children. Garden of Dreams has also served its partners by refurbishing pediatric wards at area hospitals, activity rooms and gymnasiums at community facilities and creating music studios at community areas — with plans for many more vital civic enhancements in the years to come.
What is your advice for those looking to give back in their own communities?Not to sound cliché, but giving back to these kids is probably more rewarding for me then it is to these children. I feel it is our duty, being blessed with so many things, to help families facing unimaginable obstacles. My advice would be to look deep-down inside of you and find an issue that is important to you, then find a charity or organization you can form a partnership with to make an impact. As busy as we all are, there is always time to make new, special friends.
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