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Taking the Time to Help Children Choose Success!

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My WHY Is Strong!
By VaNessa Duplessie 2002

Last weekend I had one of the best experiences in my 30 short years. I spent the weekend in San Francisco. I can hear you already - 'It's San Francisco, of course you did!' But what you don't know is that I was born and raised in 'The City'. I thought it was going to be just another weekend visiting home. But, this time was different.

This trip was my Christmas present and my boyfriend (now husband!) had made a special request that I play tour guide for him in the city where I grew up. He wanted to see SF through my eyes as a native. As for my friends and family, it was one of those trips where I knew I wasn't going to be able to see everyone so I only told a select few I was coming into town. And even then the deal was that they had to make the trip to meet me downtown. We weren't going to travel all over the Bay Area. If you've lived away from your family for any extended period of time you know how this works!

So, I made plans with a few people - one friend, my mom and my sister - I can't miss seeing the babies! My friend and I were going to get together on Friday with our beaus for dinner, and my mom and my sister were going to meet Greg and me for brunch on Sunday. Cool! The rest of the time was ours.

A few of the highlights were visiting my Catholic Grammar School and chatting with the school secretary who has been there for 31 years. It was such a joy to see Mrs. Murphy, a sense of stability rushed through me. Another highlight was taking Greg by Robin Williams' house (something a local would know). Tooling around the old neighborhoods was a hoot, as was going to the local tourist spots.

If you ever get a chance to visit SF, you need to go to The Cliff House at Ocean Beach and play in the Musee Mechanique -- an engineering marvel!

But I digress - back to my point ... As I traveled through The City many memories came to mind. Some of struggle, others of triumph. This trip was needed much more that I realized. It was cathartic. I didn't have the most enjoyable life as a child or young adult, but there were a few constants in my life, one of them being my Uncle Mike. Mike wasn't my Dad's brother. He was my Dad's best friend from the days in The Bronx, NY - 40+ years ago. Mike was there when I was born (at the hospital) and for as long as I can remember growing up I must have seen him at least once a week. He was basically my second dad.

From the time he put me into tennis lessons when I was five to attending my sporting events and sitting at my 8th grade play (then giving me flowers after the show) he always cheered me on. He bought me my first Commodore 64 computer that I begged for because I wanted one soooo bad (like Nintendo or X-Box). As I became an adult we worked on bigger issues in life and in business. He was always there with advice, a laugh, a smile and even a lecture now and again. This was how it was for me. I knew Mike was ALWAYS there for me.

The tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this because part of me says, "He was always there and now he's gone", but I know that isn't completely true. He may be physically at peace but in my reality all I have to do is call on him and he is there. He lives in my heart. I even asked him to help me find the words for this article. And you know what? He still gives me the greatest advice!

He was my mentor, my friend, and a genuine human being. And I miss him. Because of his influence and recent inspiration I have found my greatest joy in the soul work of helping kids - kids who may be in the same place I was as a kid and are in need of an Uncle Mike or Aunt Sue. That is WHY I am a mentor to two teenagers, WHY I know we can make a difference in the lives of our kids, and WHY I started FFYI in his name. I want to honor him and his beautiful life and say Thank You to the world for him. As I have said before, and will probably repeat, "It takes one person at a time to do whatever little piece they can and it does make a difference." With Mike's passing I took time to reflect on his friendship and my life. It became even clearer to me that I had a huge advantage having him in my life.

It is my intention that we should all have a chance to have this advantage. My WHY Is Strong. I am committed to taking action to realize this dream.

With Mike's memory in my heart, his spirit by my side and a little help from people like you - I know I can do it!

In Memory of Michael B. Rabinowitz
who passed away on September 15, 2001

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