iCare Blog

Aiming High

Last Friday six of us from Ipswitch helped judge the Catalyst business pitch contest organized by the Merrimac Valley Sandbox.

Through education and mentoring, the Sandbox encourages students to continue the Lowell area’s tradition of entrepreneurship. At the contest last week I and our other judges were excited by all the buzz, energy and enthusiasm. About 40 teams presented their business concept, and the top three won cash prizes. We had fun listening to the pitches and were glad to learn about this pragmatic program to spur entrepreneurial activity. I hope it leads to some mentoring opportunities for our staff.

Supreme Court Rules On EJI Cases

I guess I will not go into the business of predicting Supreme Court decisions. In March I visited the Court to hear Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative argue two cases, both asserting that mandatory life sentences for children were unconstitutional. (EJI is an iCare partner.) After listening to the tough questions from justices on both the right and the left, I felt that EJI faced an uphill battle and might not prevail, despite my belief in the validity and import of their assertions. Today, I was delighted to learn, the Court ruled that mandatory life sentences are indeed unconstitutional.

Our broad theme for iCare is children. We partner with non-profits who address poverty and injustice, organizations who represent the interests of children and give them opportunity and hope. EJI, a small organization, accomplishes this and more in fundamental, leveraged, lasting ways. They work for the interests of particular children, fighting tirelessly to represent them, and they work more broadly for equal justice for all children. Today’s decision is an important step towards providing that equal justice. Although much work remains, I am glad that one small organization can and does have such an important influence on our country.

Kids, Coaches and Mentoring at Fenway

Ipswitch Volunteers

Last Monday twenty Ipswitch volunteers helped the Boston Foundation’s CHAMPS (Coaches Helping Athletes through Mentoring and Positive Sports) program host thousands of kids at Fenway Park for an afternoon of exercise, entertainment and more at the first-ever “Cheers for CHAMPS” celebration. Kids got to play, learn from big-league coaches, and be interviewed by celebrities.

CHAMPS Boston trains coaches across greater Boston in youth development and positive coaching techniques. CHAMPS also helps secure funding for updated athletic equipment, field and site improvements. Monday’s event brought together more than 2,000 kids (despite the cold and rain) and their coaches for a special afternoon celebrating the importance of physical activity and healthy development through sports.

At the Supreme Court

Bryan Stevenson After Cases

I visited the Supreme Court this week to see Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative present two cases. (iCare supports EJI.) It was my first visit to the Supreme Court. I was honored and moved to see the Court in action and felt a new appreciation for the process, independent of the current justices and the cases being heard.

I met Bryan when he was in law school and have followed his career and EJI since then. The cases EJI takes are often controversial, defending the rights of people who have sometimes committed terrible crimes. The two cases this day involved murders in which fourteen year olds were involved. The core question of the day was whether it violates our Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a 14-year old to life in prison without the possibility of parole. With our current culture of retribution and punishment – I was shocked to hear it so openly acknowledged and accepted, I think this is an important question. After all, we are the only country in the world that puts kids in jail for the rest of their lives with no possibility of parole. We also make this sentence mandatory in some states, with no discretion given to the judge or jury.

Although I am not religious, I do believe in the possibility of redemption, especially for kids who have not yet cognitively or emotionally fully developed. Is it reasonable to conclude up front that a child, after some decades of prison, has no chance to change or ever participate in society? I say no.

These cases were not about guilt or innocence. They were about harshness of punishment. I think we need to ask such questions more often. EJI is staffed by people who deeply believe in equal justice and dedicate their lives to achieving it. I am proud to support EJI’s work through iCare.

Early Childhood Development Centers in Rwanda

For the past two years Ipswitch’s iCare program has been supporting, through CARE, Early Childhood Development centers in Rwanda. As this video shows, the ECDs teach kids life  skills and free parents from day care so they can earn a better living.

 

 

Learning from differences: Stewardship of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus by Al Ingram — and Ipswitch iCare

Al Ingram

Ingram, dressed for a concert

Four years before joining Ipswitch as IT director in 2000, Al Ingram began volunteering, organizing — and singing — with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC). The 175-voice, 30-year-old non-profit gives three public concerts a year — its holiday shows are Dec. 11, 16, 17 and 19 (Tickets)  in Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Now operations director for Ipswitch, Ingram is in his second term as president of the Board of Directors of  BGMC.  “Our mission is to create a more tolerant society through the power of music,” says Ingram.  In between concerts, an ongoing task for BMGC members is their work in Boston-area high schools — where members help with anti-bullying and anti-homophobia education — through musical appearances.  Ipswitch supports BGMC through our iCare program.

Ingram grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., when it was still a small city.  Starting down a track of interest in science and engineering, he got a degree in computer science and ended up a part of the mini-computer boom working at Digital Equipment Corp.  for 18 years.  He recalls that in 1999, Ipswitch CEO/founder Roger Greene attended a BGMC concert.

STORY CONTINUED . . . (with video)

Two Ipswitch-Atlanta families represent $1k commitment to Down syndrome research/education

Awoke family

Alex Awoke and family, with son, Kaleb, in stroller

Story and photos contributed by Dan Pitre and Alex Awoke

ATLANTA – Marking an increased commitment to Down syndrome education and research, two Ipswitch-team families took part last month in a four-hour, half-mile “Buddy Walk” around Centennial Olympic Park which raised more than $172,000.

October in Atlanta is a wonderful time of the year; the leaves turn, color bursting in vibrant reds and yellows under clear blue skies. It was in this idyllic setting that the Down Syndrome Society of Atlanta (DSAA) held its largest annual fundraiser.  Among walkers enjoying live music, entertainment, clowns and bounce houses were Dan Pitre’s family, walking with son Jacob, and Alex Awoke’s family walking with son Kaleb. Both Dan and Alex work with network management in Atlanta. Dan’s a technical product manager and writer; Alex does quality assurance.

Ipswitch has in the past had individually sponsored employees and their families who participated in the DSAA Buddy Walk. This year the company, through the iCare program, upped the ante and became a corporate sponsor of the event at the $1,000 silver-sponsor level.

In the advertisement for the Oct. 9 Buddy Walk, DSAA Executive Director Cynthia Jones wrote:

Dan Pitre and son, Jacob

Dan Pitre and son, Jacob

“Corporate sponsors make this event possible. We have the opportunity to let the entire community know of your support of families and individuals with Down syndrome. With your help, the projects of DSAA can continue to grow and raise awareness while educating the Atlanta community to the importance of individuals with Down syndrome to the community as a whole.”

The “Buddy Walk” was developed by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 to promote awareness and inclusion for people with Down syndrome and to raise money for research and education programs. The program has expanded from 17 walks the first year to more than 300 expected in 2011. Last year over $11.2 million was raised nationwide for the Down syndrome community.

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra 21st chromosome (Trisomy 21).  It takes its name from the English doctor John Langdon Down, who first described the syndrome in 1886. The poem entitled “Welcome to Holland,” written by Emily Perl Kingsley, speaks to the experience of raising a child with a disability.

Road Trip

Who are these people and what are they talking about?

Looks like another run-of-the-mill meeting, but it’s not. They are discussing a recent road trip to Angola prison in Louisiana.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences children to life in prison without parole.* The people in this picture work at Equal Justice Initiative and have made it their career to strive for balance and fairness in our judicial system. Imagine you are 14 years old. Your mother’s boyfriend regularly attacks her. The police do nothing to stop or punish him. One day he beats her so badly that you can not revive her and think she is dead. The only thing you can think of is to take the boyfriend’s gun and shoot him. The state decides to try you as an adult and aggressively prosecute you. The people at EJI think that you deserve representation. So do I.

EJI is in Montgomery, Alabama. The drive from Montgomery to Angola takes over seven hours each way. EJI staff make that drive regularly because of their passion for fair and equal justice, and because so many of the children sentenced to life in prison without parole are at Angola. I think that with an understanding of what actually happens, most would agree there is too much injustice in our judicial system. I am glad that the people who work at EJI have it as their mission to represent people who suffer from it.

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*Thanks to EJI, the Supreme Court last year declared life sentences without parole unconstitutional for children convicted of most crimes. Getting state courts to acknowledge that decision, however, is another story. Much work remains.

New friends, rolling exercise: Dan Kirkland reports on a two-day ride for MS – complete with unicyclist

Dan Kirkland, NM Atlanta tech support

Dan Kirkland, Atlanta tech support, at the start of the MS ride

Blogger Dan Kirkland is a three-year veteran of the Ipswitch Atlanta office, where he is a senior support engineer.


By Dan Kirkland

I’m not a person that will exercise just for the sake of exercising; I need some purpose or goal other than trying to get in shape.  Bike MS gave me a great reason to get on my bike and ride over the rolling hills of Central Georgia.

The “Bike for MS” is a nationwide fund raising event for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The Ipswitch iCare program contributed $250 as a sponsor of my ride. I have registered for next year’s ride, so I will begin a new fund-raising campaign soon.  During the two-day event Sept. 16-17, over 1,800 riders raised over $1 million to help find an MS cure.  Many of the riders sported high-end road bikes, a few recumbent bikes, a couple of hand powered trikes and even a unicyclist.

CONTINUED . . .

Steve Staden joins bike run that nets $50K toward healthy food for needy families

More than 200 needy families in southeast-central Wisconsin, two-thirds of them with children, will have an easier time affording healthy, locally grown food as a result of $50,000 raised in a weekend “Bike the Barns” bicycle event which included rider Steve Staden, Ipswitch R&D development manager in the Madison office.

Madison-area CSA Coalition logoStaden said he and his girlfriend  joined 570 bicyclers who  rode either 26 miles (“radish route”) or 63 miles (“rutabaga route”)  in rain and 50-degree temperatures around the rolling plains of Madison, Wis., to benefit the Madison Area CSA Coalition. “CSA” stands for “Community Supported Agriculture,” and in this case it applies to a 20-year-old non-profit association of 50 food-growing farms within about a 100-mile radius of Madison.

Steve Staden gearing up for "Bike the Barns" on Sept. 18

Steve Staden gearing up for "Bike the Barns"

Despite the rain, the $50,000 was “more than we have ever raised before in a single bike event,” said Gini Knight, community-program manager for the CSA Coalition. They’ll use proceeds from Sunday’s ride to provide 50-percent subsidies to the 200 needy families who purchase an annual family “share” of food. That would otherwise cost them $570 for 20 weeks of fresh produce – in quantities sufficient to feed a family of four.

To fortify the bicycle riders along the rolling route pit stops were at participating farms with names like Wholesome Harvest and Sprouting Acres. They included – all locally sourced – a breakfast of yogurt waffle cups with fruit and  lunches of either roast beef or veggie sandwiches, bean salad, green salad and homemade ice-cream sandwiches. Menu for  the post-ride after party? Tacos, coleslaw, root-beer floats and beer from a local brewery.

Staden’s registration fee and contribution for the ride will be matched by Ipswitch’s iCare program.  He’s still taking friends-and-family donations at his pledge web page. His next charity ride is Oct. 1 to benefit 12 health-related services via Tomorrow’s Hope.