2020 in Review
To Our Five Star Life Supporters,
In the summer of 2019, we began the filming and production work for our video curriculum theme for the 2019-2020 school year. This program is changing mindsets and transforming the lives of tens of thousands of students during school hours. We felt strongly that every lesson for students be centered around the theme of living “Fearless,” having no clue about the chain of events that would unfold over the next 18 months including a pandemic, protests, riots, and a chaotic election. At the risk of offending some, I must say that I am amazed at how God works. It’s just like God to impress on our hearts and minds the idea of teaching America’s youth how to overcome fear prior to arguably the most fearful time in American history, certainly in our lifetime. Make no mistake, our lives are guided by a powerful force and we’ve been witnesses of that in 2020.
Days prior to the economy and schools shutting down in March, our team was on tour visiting partner schools. I, personally, was in three different schools the day the shut-down announcements were made. We met with thousands of kids over a ten-day period and there was a consistent and powerful theme…kids were being transformed! Some laughed and others cried as they told us their stories of how FSL impacted them. One girl shared how she had been sexually abused for several years by someone in her home and how FSL lessons on overcoming trauma helped her regain her value as a person. Through strong emotions, she shared that her family member had been removed from the home and she was now safe. Another girl shared how her parents were tragically killed in a car accident and how FSL taught her how to navigate tragedy by grieving, but not living forever in a perpetual state of fear. One boy said he always wanted to run track but was too afraid to go out for the team. With excitement, he shared that he was now a top hurdler for his school thanks to FSL. Several other athletes told us they put into practice our lessons on mindset and how to mentally prepare for competition. Countless students mentioned how their grades transformed from failure to success. For others, our impact was a matter of life or death. They told us how FSL literally stopped them from taking their own life.
While it’s impossible to sum up the faces, names, and conversations we had with masses of students, I hope you grasp the power of what is taking place! You are part of transforming lives from Indiana to Florida and from Washington to New Jersey. Because of our video curriculum platform, we were poised not only to survive the pandemic but to flourish in it. We released over 20 archived lessons and produced several new lessons and made them available to students and educators across America for FREE! We also continue to add new cities, states, and school districts to our footprint of influence.
Although we are growing and serving more students than ever before, due to the pandemic, it comes at a high cost. I believe we will one day remember 2020 as the year America forgot about the youth of our nation. We have addressed the physiological concerns of the virus ad nauseum. Our economy has been prioritized through multiple stimulus bills. However, the one thing that never seems to be discussed is the impact all of our adult decisions are having on our kids. We say things like, “They’re kids…they’re resilient. They will figure it out.” I’ve spoken with teachers and principals who have no idea where their students are. They are simply…gone. I’ve spoken to frustrated grandparents who are heartbroken watching their grandkids flunk classes because virtual school doesn’t provide the necessary structure that many of our kids need to thrive. Many teachers are frustrated and feel powerless because they are unable to give students what they need. Teenage depression, anxiety, and loneliness has skyrocketed. I read a report today that said the mental health issues kids are dealing with will continue to impact them for up to 9 years from now. This is the urgency that drives our team. WE MUST DO MORE! It’s why I’ve called every senator and congressperson I know, begging them to put a seat at the table for kids as they make decisions that will shape a generation. Kids need to learn, laugh, play, high-five, hug, and be relationally connected with their families, teachers, coaches, and peers.
The year 2020 also surprised us with an incredible opportunity to greatly expand what we offer student athletes through Five Star Life Basketball. Rod Creech, founder of MBA SELECT Basketball reached out to discuss a partnership. In the world of basketball, Rod has his PhD and lays claim to the oldest, largest, and most influential travel basketball program in Northern Indiana or Southern Michigan. With 28 years of experience and a track record of preparing and sending players to college and professional levels, Rod has generated over $20M in scholarships for kids. After a year of meetings with Rod and our leadership team, we announced in September that MBA SELECT had officially merged under Five Star Life forming Five Star Life Basketball. In short order, Rod’s influence attracted highly talented coaches like Andre Owens, who was the starting point guard for Oklahoma State’s run to the final four (basketball fans, think Big Country). Playing under Hall of Fame Coach Eddie Sutton, Andre brings tremendous value to our team of coaches. Imagine being coached by a player who understands what it takes to play at the highest level. In addition, Notre Dame All-American and NBA star LaPhonso Ellis has joined our team in the role of National Spokesperson. LaPhonso is the most dynamic pro athlete I’ve ever met whose heart for people is evident. You can catch his enthusiasm Saturday mornings on ESPN College Gameday. One of the biggest value-adds to our students in our merge with MBA SELECT was Rod’s relationship with Adidas. College coaches rarely attend local high school games to recruit players. The entire recruitment process has been streamlined by Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. These shoe companies sanction tournaments that are invite only, gathering the best travel programs in the nation for competition. Five Star Life Basketball is now one of about 40 programs in America that plays on this level!
Why is this significant? For 16 years, we’ve been on a mission to target the core issue plaguing America’s youth, their mindset. By transforming students’ mindsets, we are changing our culture. It began with middle school students in afterschool programs. Five years ago, it moved into developing video curriculums that entire schools adopted, reaching 100% of their student body. Our shift to adding basketball is significant because we are now prepared to shape the culture of one of the most influential facets of American culture…sports. Basketball is just the beginning. We will be adding other sports including soccer, volleyball, and baseball, just to name a few.
From our humble beginnings 16 years ago, when we ran afterschool programs in a couple of Elkhart schools and bussed kids an hour north to Manowé for day-trips twice a year, to where we are now with Summit is incredible. Weekly school time and afterschool programs (archery, equine, nature education) are now housed at Summit and happening multiple days each week. We are launching a FSL Archery team led by an instructor licensed by USA Archery (affiliated w/Junior Olympics). We also added a full-time equine instructor who comes with 25 years of experience. I don’t have time or room to discuss all the progress we’ve made at Summit, even in spite of the shut-down.
Five Star Life is poised for record breaking expansion in 2021 as we are on the cusp of signing contracts with schools in Columbus, Grand Rapids, and many other cities and states across America.
As amazed as I am about how far we’ve come and the impact we are having, I had my own bouts with fear earlier this year. Cancelling both of our major fundraisers (5starlife/953MNC Radiothon & FSL Golf Open) due to Covid-19 should have wiped us out. To make matters worse, we lost all our revenue from running leadership events and camps at Summit in order to comply with the Governor of Michigan’s Executive Orders. With all that bad news, in 2020 we experienced a real miracle! Five Star Life did not lay off a single employee. To the contrary, we found and hired some additional outstanding people to help carry us into 2021. We paid every bill. We never missed a single payroll. Through the tremendous stewardship of our Business office and the faithfulness of a group of our supporters, we are still standing, poised to take this good news of Five Star Life to our most precious resource, the forgotten kids of our community and nation. These are our kids…we are not willing to let them slip away. We need your help.
For just $18 a month, you can adopt a student for the entire year!
For $18 a month, you provide a student with a Five Star Coach who will help them set academic goals and walk them through our Video Curriculum that focuses on impacting students at the very core of their being…their mindset.
In the middle of my bout with fear, there was a turning point. It was the realization that I can sit back, throw my hands in the air, and conclude that there’s nothing I can do about the millions of kids who are being left behind during the pandemic, or I could dig my heels in and fight for the forgotten kids of America. I could sit in a pool of anger and despair, feeling helpless at what’s happening to kids, or I could practice what I teach students and do what is in my power to do. My mindset had to change, and I had to fight not only for my thoughts, but for my family, our organization, and the forgotten child. Like me, many of you have experienced your own bout with fear, despair, and maybe even depression. I want to challenge you to do what I did. Shake off the hopelessness and despair. Breathe in the truth that what you do today can turn the tide. Now, more than ever, the forgotten kids of America need hope, truth, vision, and values…a new mindset. They need someone to light the way in an increasingly dark world. Five Star Life is doing just that, but we need your help. Each of us has a choice to make. Allow our mindset to stay stuck in hopelessness and despair, or latch onto hope, pick up the baton and run our leg of the race. I’m very aware of the crucial role we (FSL) play in shaping the kids of this nation. We DO NOT intend to just survive this current state of events. Our intent is to take massive ground in new schools and in new states, to change mindsets and transform lives. But we CANNOT do this without you. Will you join us? Will you give like you’ve never given before, as though the fate of millions of lives (and possibly the soul of America) is at stake? Or will you sit back and allow what’s happening to continue as though you are powerless. I apologize if my tone is offensive. I’m speaking on behalf of the forgotten kids of America and since I’ve gone this far, I will take it one step further. You have friends, family members, and co-workers who can help, and deep inside want to help, but need the opportunity only you can provide. For the sake of the forgotten kids of America, I’m asking you to be bold and ask those in your network to match your donation or give their best gift. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. Thank you in advance for giving as much as you can and challenging others to do the same. Together we will empower our students with truths, principles, and values that will not only create success in their life but create a ripple effect for generations.
Now is the time. Momentum is building. Several donors are already stepping up to go above and beyond their normal giving. Lippert Components has given us a significant donation as a deposit to create an incredible state of the art swimming facility in our 45-acre lake. I received word today that a donor (who asked not to be named) felt led to give us a check in the next week for $100,000!!! His only request was that we ask folks to match his gift. Whether your best gift is $25, $250, or $25,000, your gift matters. Again, the worst thing for the world is when good people do nothing because they think it doesn’t matter. The truth is that your gift can turn the tide. Give and give generously and invite those you know to join you, me, our staff, and our board, with even more determination than ever to leave 2020 in the rearview mirror. How strong you respond to this letter will determine how strong Five Star Life will be going into 2021.
P.S. Join us for the Global Giving Movement by donating to Five Star Life on #GivingTuesday this December 1st!