Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Women Who Rock (for a cause!) Wednesday: Katie Corboy & Keep On Keeping On

As I mentioned last week, I'm changing up the focus of Women Who Rock Wednesday this month. I know a lot of amazing women who may not be famous writers, musicians, artists (well not YET in certain cases), but they are rock stars in their own right because they are fighting for a certain cause.

It's the holiday season. I'm not a festive person and the outrageous spending habits around the holidays gross me out. Being truly "giving" means helping those who are less fortunate or building our society/community or saving the planet and I thought we should shine a spotlight on some of the women and the organizations who are doing those things this month.

The first woman I would like to introduce you to is my friend Katie Corboy. I'm convinced that Katie will be on this blog for her books someday. She is one of my critique partners, a brilliant and amazing writer whose advice I'd be floundering without. And she is also one of the most compassionate, giving people I know. So let's meet her and celebrate the important work she is doing with an organization called Keep On Keeping On or KOKO today!

Q: Tell us about KOKO, what does the organization do, and why did you choose to get involved with it? As I understand it, even though you work full-time, you continue to volunteer your time for this important cause.

Katie: The Keep On Keeping On Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to helping those born with severe physical disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy or Muscular Dystrophy in the Chicagoland Area. We are a direct service organization and provide life-sustaining medical equipment, specialized wheelchairs, outfit homes to help individuals lead more independent lives, and aide with outstanding medical bills. Our goal is to also help others see past the wheelchair to the incredibly bright, passionate, and able-minded individuals.

I became involved in KOKO in Fall of 2007 when I received an email about a volunteer meeting from Executive Director, Dave Kunicki, with whom I’d gone to grammar school and high school. I’d recently received my MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago, where I’d been Managing Editor of a magazine, editor of two anthologies, tutored college students in Fiction Writing Skills, taught Creative Writing to 5th grade students, and acted as Assistant Artistic Director of Story Week: Festival of Writers. I’d worked in several areas of writing, but still didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my passion for words and the arts. When I went to the volunteer meeting and heard Tim Wambach—Founder and President of KOKO and someone I’d grown up with as well—speak about his experience with Mike Berkson—living with Cerebral Palsy and the inspiration behind KOKO—I felt something click into place. I’d discovered another use for all of my varied experience and a new passion for nonprofit work. Now I’m the Director of Events & Marketing, on a volunteer basis.

Our goal is to become a full-time, full-service nonprofit in the next several years. All of the executive members are volunteers and we rely on the kindness and dedication of all of our incredible volunteers to help us keep moving and growing. We help people directly. There’s no bureaucratic red tape to wade through. There’s just a matter of raising enough funds to aide every family who needs our help. The satisfaction of seeing the children and adults we’ve helped take a figurative step toward independence is indescribable.

I work a 9-5 job now but still dedicate a lot of my free time to KOKO. I want to continue to do something for others because I can. We also do extreme challenges, such as our annual 24 Hr Run, to bring awareness to our cause and to those who physically can’t, but mentally are as strong, if not stronger. We push ourselves because we can. Mike is a great inspiration. He’s in community college right now and wants to transfer to Columbia College Chicago for screenwriting. He’s witty and more poignant than a lot of people I know. He has his bad days, but keeps pushing forward. He inspires us all to Keep On Keeping On.

Q: KOKO has a super-fun annual event called Santa Cause. Please tell us about this year's event? Also if there are ways those outside Chicago can contribute to KOKO please let us know!

(click image to make bigger, right click to save and distribute online!)

Santa Cause is our biggest fundraiser of the year and is a fun way to kick off the holiday season. This is our 5th year holding this event. This year, we’ve moved to a new venue, The Abbey Pub (3420 W. Grace, Chicago), and are very excited about all the new components we’ve been able to add. The night’s festivities include a fun and flirty singles auction featuring Miss Illinois 2009 Ashley Bond, Country musician Kyle Jennings, Survivor: Fiji contestant Mookie Lee, author of From CP to CPA: One Man’s Triumph Over the Disability of Cerebral Palsy Rob Pritts, Founder and CEO of unstrapp’d Bradley Will, WGN Weather Team member Duffy Adkins, publicity “Maven” Sarah Vargo, and Bon V Chicago CEO Casey Urlacher, plus local singles. Kyle Jennings will be performing an acoustic set at 7:30pm and local band, Farkus, will play a special concert after the auction. The event is emceed by Jonathan Keaton from the upcoming film, My Name is Jerry, and Jen Knoedl of the NBC 5 Chicago Street Team.

The event is 21 and over. There’s a $15 donation at the door, or you can pre-purchase tickets for $10 through Doors open at 7pm and the auction begins at 8:30pm. Our goal this year is $20,000.

But anyone can donate through the website and we are always looking for volunteers. We also ask anyone, even if not in the Chicago area to post the flier on thier Facebook/ MySpace pages.

Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Katie: The first CD I purchased to go along with the first stereo I bought with my own money was Skid Row’s self-titled album. I cranked it to 11 and played it on repeat until my brother threatened to throw it out the window like he’d done with my Barbie’s just a few years before. The first concert I was taken to was Barry Manilow. I still have not forgiven my mother. I’m a Neil Diamond fan. But the first concert that I went to as a willing participant was Tiffany. New Kids on the Block opened up for them. I think it was a Tinley Park. Or The World. Or Tweeter Center. Or whatever name it’s going by now.

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Katie: I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of person. Don’t get me wrong, I like recognition and accolades, but I do not like getting up in front of people. My rock star moment was the first time I helped organize an event for Story Week at Metro. Once the reading began, I had a moment to myself downstairs in the green room. Upstairs, the house was packed with 800 people listening to Irvine Welsh read with his thick Scottish brogue. Laughter trickled down the stairs. 800 people were at the legendary Metro, not to listen to local bands trying to break through, or rock gods paying homage to their roots, but to listen to writers read their words like music from the page. That was my rock star moment. I was a part of that. I helped make it happen. And I peed in the green room bathroom while Stephanie Kuehnert guarded the door because the lock was not trustworthy. Yes, I peed in a stall scrawled with gibberish from the likes of Billy Corrigan, Clutch, REM, Bob Dylan, and I felt like a rock star.

LOL, I totally remember that!

Well how cool, I got to be part of Katie's rock star moment. But, seriously how cool is Katie for her involvement with this amazing organization. Won't you help me and Katie spread the word about it? If you do, it will be part of...

This Month's Contest:

As I mentioned last week, this contest will run all month long. The lucky winner will get signed copies of both my books and more important than that, they will get to choose which organization I donate to at the end of the month. (I'll have the list of orgs together next week. Totally disorganized this week But KOKO will definitely be on it.) Plus you will be helping to spread the word about charities through the contest during this season of giving. Very important work!

Here are the ways you can tally up entries.

+1 for leaving a comment
+1 for tweeting or linking to this blog entry
+1 for tweeting or linking to KOKO
+1 for tweeting or linking to the Santa Cause 5 facebook invite
+5 for posting the Santa Cause 5 flyer on your blog, myspace or facebook page
+5 for blogging about KOKO and/or Santa Cause 5
+15 for donating to KOKO

Note your entries in your comment as well as your email address.

See you next week with discussion about another great cause with another Woman Who Rocks!


pepsivanilla said...

I've never heard of KOKO before, but it sounds like they're helping a lot of people.
Katie's rock star moment sounds awesome :)

marina said...

KOKO sounds pretty neat. if i had a bank account i'd donate. i could probably find a way around that, i always do. if anything, i'll make my sister let me use hers. [=

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