Saturday, June 11, 2011

What an ROI

This week was an amazing week for Embraced.  We were able to give someone a prosthetic leg, which will now allow them to walk again.  Let's just say, there were a lot of tears of happiness at Embraced.  The leg is currently being "tweaked" by a wonderful prosthetist, who indicated that Ms. Nancy, will be on her feet again in the next couple of weeks...more details to come.

From the Embraced vantage point, this of course is a very rewarding...however, interestingly enough, is that we are able to accomplish this just 2 years in, very, no, extremely limited budget.  Which then, makes me very excited about the future.  Excited because I can only imagine the amount of impact we will deliver, when we have a bigger budget.

It is amazing, how much can be done with very little.....however, imagine what we can do, with just a bit more.  Please make a donation, so that we can help to more people like Nancy.  Click Here to make your donation.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Connecting the Dots" by Nathan Hartman

It warms my heart to hear and see the good work that Lauren O'Brien and Embraced have done. Knowing that children like Leila can receive, at no cost, expensive equipment that will aid in her road to recovery is truly a gift. My small part in making this happen originated in awareness ofI Child Spring International through the work of Rose Emily Bermudez, and after learning about Embraced, I thought that the two might work together one day in achieving a common goal: helping disabled children in need. Little did I know how quickly this connection would lead to children receiving the help they need.
Lending a hand is not always easy. Our time is filled with work and relationships and any number of other duties and responsibilities. To pile on the task of helping total strangers seems impossible. We tell ourselves that there simply aren't enough hours in the day to make a real difference, but any amount of time can do real, tangible good if our efforts are directed towards the right cause. Making an introduction between Embraced and Child Spring only took a few emails, but those minutes have already secured necessary post-operation equipment that will help Leila walk. Organizations like these can use our individual talents and connections to make profound positive changes in the lives of people in our hometown Atlanta, across the country, and around the globe. So whether we have a free weekend or just a few minutes, there is a way that you can make a real difference in the live of others. Contact Lauren O'Brien at to find out how your talents can change lives.

- Nathan Hartman, ESQ. MTS
Hartman Private Law

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Newton's 3rd Law

Sometimes we get referred a patient that needs multiple pieces of medical equipment and we just don't have everything.  Because we rely on donations, sometimes inventory varies but, I kid you not, for some reason it always works out.  I recently delivered a wheelchair and walker to a 15 yr old over at Children's Hospital.  The case manager indicated that he also needed a shower seat.  I told Colleen, "nope we don't have one right now, but I am sure we will have one soon".  She looked at me suspiciously and asked me if I had other resources or if I were going to go buy one.  I told her with utmost confidence, "Colleen, this is how my life has been working out for the past two years- trust me, I can almost guarantee, we will get one in the next day or so".  

Shower seats are not common- we have been donated 2 shower seats in the past year but for some reason,  I just simply knew it would all work out.  I left and went about my day.

It wasn't until Monday that I received a voice message from a woman.  She told me her mother had just passed away and she was wanting to donate an item, but was not sure if we would take the item and to please call her back.  I returned the call, inquired about the item and learned her donation in question was a shower seat.

Coincidence or serendipity...who knows.  But, we all managed to work together to make sure our kiddo, Jonathan, had a solution.

Shower chairs might not sound that grand.  But, this is one less piece of equipment his working family has to worry about, one less piece of equipment headed to a landfill and one less headache for Jonathan who is simply trying to adjust to his new life in a wheelchair, so that he can focus on recovering and healing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Milli Vanilli, Goats and Hot-Dog truck drivers- corny or clever?

I swear I'd talk to a wall if it would talk back, so I rarely need an ice-breaker.  Sweaty palms and that "cat's got your tongue" feeling is unknown to me.  However, I do realize that we are all different, so at my first  Battle of the Burgers committee meeting, I decided to do an ice-breaker exercise at this meeting.  Now, these said ice-breakers usually annoy me for the first 10 min of most meetings, well, because they are usually really boring...and I never really felt anymore connected to "Hi, I am Jack and I am from Maryland".   So are 6 million other folks,, we have so much in common.  I have a nose too, Jack- does that makes us connected?  Maybe I am a bit harsh, but I just never did an ice-breaker that was beneficial.....until the other day...

I asked guest to state the, work, where they are from..and then, I asked them to recount one interesting and or embarrassing fact, keyword:interesting and/or embarrassing.

I then started strategically because I knew the first person to "go" would set the tone.  I praised that person for revealing that she was a professional "back-end fender bender", having back-ended a slew of cars in her days of driving.  This set the tone:  positive praise for embarrassing facts.

Other fun things I learned:
1. one girl drove a Oscar Meyer-like hot dog truck
2. someone lost 70lbs- very AMAZING
3. someone actually partied with MIlLI Vanilli!

So, moral of the story:  embarrassing/interesting facts bond us together... we all felt a bit connected through sharing laughs and smiles about how weird we all are.

PS- I had a pet goat named Sylvester when I was 7...and he ate dog food.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fostering innovation

I subscribe to this online newsletter and really enjoy reading it....this was yesterdays info:

This was taken from Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog

A big topic at the Fast Company Innovation Uncensored Conference in New York this week was how to foster innovation at your workplace.  Thought leaders from JetBlueHuluPepsi, OWN/Oprah Winfrey Network, DonorsChoose and even Jared Leto weighed in on the topic.  Here were some of the more helpful themes: 

5 tips on fostering innovation at your organization

A big topic at the Fast Company Innovation Uncensored Conference in New York this week was how to foster innovation at your workplace.  Thought leaders from JetBlueHuluPepsi, OWN/Oprah Winfrey Network,DonorsChoose and even Jared Leto weighed in on the topic.  Here were some of the more helpful themes:
1. Take the time to define for everyone in your office the kind of organization you want to be, or else it will just happen to you by default.  For example, Hulu defines itself as a customer company, not a media company, which affects how to approaches just about everything.  Their aim is to create a service that “users, advertisers and content owners love.”  They designed Hulu to work for all of those audiences - rather than to just disseminate videos.
2. Have a few simple shared values that serve as everyone’s North Star.  For example, JetBlue stands for safety first, as well as caring, passion, integrity and fun.  This permeates the culture (though as JetBlue said themselves, one flight attendant managed to violate all of them.)  When you have these, you can empower people throughout the organization to make decisions as long as they follow the values.
3. While everyone needs formal processes in the workplace, needless bureaucracy squelches creativity and discourages innovation.  At Hulu, staff raise their hand if they see signs of bad bureaucracy.
4. Stories are a great way to do just about everything: inspire, communicate and bring people together.  “The center of our culture is narrative,” as FX executive John Landgraf put it.

And my favorite....

5. Be a dreamer.  Build a company on what you hope to happen, not what you fear will happen.  It works better.

For more on nonprofit innovation, check out this month’s blog carnival at RAD.

Monday, April 25, 2011

co·op·er·a·tion noun \(ˌ)kō-ˌä-pə-ˈrā-shən\

Recently, I placed a call to a fabulous non profit organization.  I knew it would be hard for Embraced to work with this organization because they do not provide medical missions...however, I figured I would just give a call to introduce Embraced.

I spoke with a passionate director, who too, concluded that there was not a "working" match for us to work together, but then, she told me that she would love to put me in touch directly with other organizations.  And this is what made me so happy.  

She understood that as a result of her putting Embraced in touch with other potential collaborating organizations, she in turn would help to accomplish the mission of Embraced- to provide orthopedic and prosthetic equipment to individuals in need-both locally and globally.  

Without any benefit to her, she went above and beyond.  But, then I realized something grave.  The definition of cooperating is:

cooperatingpresent participle of co·op·er·ate (Verb)

1. Act jointly; work toward the same end.

Her "end" was ultimately helping individuals in need- not exclusively through her organization, but more so, through her actions.

What is your "end" mission and are you cooperating?  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Leila was Embraced

Meet Leila.  This beautiful girl is smiling because in a few days she will have surgery that will allow her to walk.

Leila is 11 years old and while her recovery from surgery will be long, it will be a bit easier thanks to the equipment- wheelchair and walker provided by Embraced.

Embraced just dropped off a wheelchair and walker that will make it's journey to Greenville, SC today to where Leila is anxiously awaiting her surgery.

Embraced had the pleasure of working together with the fabulous organization know as Childspring International to help an individual in need- to help Leila.

For the next few months this wheelchair and walker will provide mobility to Leila and will help her to heal properly.

Your monetary donation will allow Embraced to help more children like Leila.  Please click HERE to make a donation.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I met with the case management team at major hospital today.  The goal of a case manager is to pretty much do two things:
1. make sure the patient receives appropriate care
2. reduce hospital expenditures

In general, they work with patients who can't pay their bill.  This, as you can imagine puts the case manager in very difficult situations- juggling two goals (delivering healthcare while reducing costs) as polar opposite as yin and yang.   

Case managers have access to funds that are derived from tax dollars.  So, case managers often use these funds to buy durable medical equipment, all the while,  there are tons of wheelchairs, walkers and other durable medical equipment that are sitting under a bed- perfectly usable...but stranded.

Embraced works with case managers to empower them with a solution by providing them with durable medical equipment (crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, etc) in an effort to: 
a. not use as much tax dollars 
b. to utilize funds better- ie on disposables, like antibiotics or medications.

I always wondered what happens when a case manager runs out of their fund for uninsured patients...where  or what do they do?  After talking with a case manager today, I learned a startling fact.  For purposes, I will use an example.  Tommy, an uninsured, breaks his leg.  He needs a wheelchair and crutches.  Hospital funds have been depleted for the year.  Tommy sits in a hospital until he can get the medical equipment he needs, thus increasing the LOS (length of stay).  Each day he sits there, he costs the hospital money.

Could this be a reason why healthcare cost so much?

Embraced partners with hospitals to make sure that uninsured/non-paying patients like Tommy are given the medical equipment to get up and out of (reducing the time in the hospital to return to society to be productive, all the while reducing healthcare costs.

If you like this, I encourage you to join in the Embraced movement by:
1. Follow us...on facebook, twitter and blog so you keep up with us
2. Volunteer with us!  Whether it is Saturday Sort day or Battle of the Burgers,we have a wide variety of great volunteer experiences
3. Donate money.   We need donations to support our work.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meeting my idol

This morning I met one of my idols, Carol Cone- the mother of cause marketing.  I was flattered to sit across from this brilliant mind and discuss with her what Embraced has been currently doing, where we are heading and our needs.  If you have not read her book- Breakthrough Non Profit Branding- please do yourself a favor and put it on your next important agenda item.

Who knows what will happen, but I walked away from the meeting with a few thoughts.  First, I walked away validated that Embraced is an "organization".  It is no longer "me"- while I would love to pretend to have "founders syndrome"- I truly want Embraced to grow, provide more services and allow for others to continue the work of Embraced.   I felt like my "baby" went to school today.  A small step on a long journey, but a step that will foster Embraced to have it has its own identity- an identity that some very big players are taking notice of and lending their ear.

Second, I realized just how powerful the message of Embraced is- it is becoming a movement,  a new way of thinking, all the while solving a huge health care issue.

Please visit for more info.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Imagine not being able to feel your feet and how scared you would be that you would fall over with every step.  That is how Alysia feels everyday.   At 11:45 am today, Embraced gave her equipment so she can simply take a step with confidence.  

Meet Alysia.  This is her story.

Alysia has drop-foot.  Drop foot is a condition in which nerve dysfunction hinders the ability to lift one's foot off the ground while walking.  Today, Embraced gave her two AFO's, which is a splint that keeps her foot in a flexed position, so she can move her legs without her feet falling under her, potentially causing her to fall and sustain other injuries.  She has already broken her toes as a result of not having the proper medical equipment she needed- AFO's.  

Why does she not have this equipment?  Like many Georgians, she is uninsured.  1 in 3 in Georgia are uninsured. 

 "I applied for Medicaid, but that takes 45 days and I'm still waiting on my case worker to return my call.  I can't take a step without being terrified I will fall.  What can I do?  I called and got a $500 quote for the equipment I needed- which was not helpful because I can't afford it.  Then, thats when a friend of mine heard about Embraced and I contacted you and here I am".  

 In the course of getting her the equipment that she need, Alysia told me this was the first time in 34 days that she left her house.  After she stated this she told me she thought she was going to cry.  I told her that I thought I would too.

After the sentimental "Oprah" moment, we went back to joking around and I learned a little more about Alysia.  She too was a "joke-ster" and we cracked jokes and laughed.  For being in such a hard situation, it was so inspiring to see her in such high spirits.  

She told me how happy she was that Embraced existed because it was a solution for her.  She just wanted to walk and to move without being scared that her foot would turn under her.  She just needed a simple piece of equipment to do so and Embraced made it possible.

But, as always, it was more than equipment that was given.  Alysia was embraced.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I was pleasantly surprised to receive a very special gift recently.  It was a necklace that had a message in Sanskrit- "Shanti"- Peace.  I loved the design, but more importantly the message.  I thought how appropriate because weeks earlier, unknown to the gift giver, I had make a new years resolution, centered around peace.
So, I wore it with more depth and meaning, it was more than just an accessory- but rather a reminder of my life mission.  It became very sacred to me.

And then, in the hustle and bustle of an early morning flight, almost missing my plane and several pat downs from security, my necklace broke.  My peace broke.  

Immediately I launched into the script in my head that immediately plays.  You know, the one that say, "gosh Laur- why can't you be careful.  Why do you break everything?  Why cant you just have something nice for a bit?".

Then, I chuckled.  I grabbed the necklace and started fixing it on the escalators down.   I ignored the fact that I have no nails and huge hands (think :man hands" from Seinfeld, well, not really, but thats what it felt like trying to fix this delicate necklace).

I realized that this (fixing it) now meant more to me than just having a pretty necklace to adorn my collar.  It meant learning to remain calm when an unfavorable situation arises.  It meant learning a new dialogue to put into my head- one that doesn't take away but rather adds positivity to myself.

Calmly, with a couple deep breathes, patience and a knowing that nothing would break my peace, the necklace was mended.

Lesson:  Aim for peace.  Surround yourself with peace.  At times it will get interrupted, get broken, but when it does, have trust in yourself that you possess every capability of restoring it.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Admission: I have fallen in love.

Admission: I have fallen in love. Her name is Dollie and she is the best thing that has happened to me.  She is always there,behind me, carrying my load with such grace, such ease.  At times, when I need extra room, she just folds down and takes the back seat.  She is amazing.

What is even more amazing is how people want to steal her away (Raul, watch out, Dollie is mine!)- they see how special she is, how supportive and how strong she is- she is amazing.

Not only is she amazing, but she is also very philanthropic and ends up carrying most...okay, all, of the collected equipment at Embraced.

Dollie- you are amazing, shiny, strong and yet, filled with such fluid grace as you move.  You have changed my life and I am forever grateful for you.  You are the wheels beneath my load.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Leaders Council

I have to admit- I am a skeptic.  I am an optimist, but maybe its just experiences like living in third world countries, experiencing reality and just life that keeps at least on foot on the ground.  So, when I was nominated for a leadership council, I immediately was a bit skeptic- 5 months of leadership training, support and networking  just because someone saw that entrepreneurial glimmer in my eye?

I was also a little hesitant to give up a whole weekend a month- my weekends are filled with catch-up hours of, I was just trying to figure out where I would cram those hours....but, I walked into Turner Studios (Thanks Turner!) unaware that this council would be one of the bridges that get me to the next place, the next step.  The weekend consisted of a ton of sharing, setting goals, discussing key issues that leaders are faced with and more importantly, making new friends.
As I left the training on Sunday, I left with not only with 25 new contacts, but I left with 25 new friends.  Friends, who I know, will push me, I too, them to the next level- whatever it may be.

New Leader's Council- thank you- for providing such an important community for today's young leaders.

Conan was at NLC too! 

Friday, January 28, 2011

getting a little personal

I get excited about off the wall stuff.  Yes, I realize, I am a "dork" for not only remembering physics equations, but having that high inflection in the tone of my voice, which means only one thing: joy when reciting them.  I love learning about systems- whether it is the adrenal or Systems of a Down.  I love orthopedic and prosthetic equipment- now that is just weird.

One thing I am not too keen on is weekly planning meetings.  Yes, I see the utility in them- they are a must, but lets just face it, they are not that fun.  This Thursday, I decided to switch it up a little.  I decided to add in the end two items.  I contemplated doing so, because these two items were personal- should I, or rather, is it okay to add in too personal items into work?  I am a little sensitive about not being too down to business simply because I am a young, female leader....not to down play or up play any of the typical stereotypes that surface as a result of that comment...but just want to run an professional, respectable organization where I am respected.

So, this week, in the meeting as we finished up discusing our current professional goals, I asked for a "personal goal"...."it can be anything that you have been wanting to do in your personal life...but you have to start on it this week".  Wow.  To see the look on my director's face was priceless.  His face filled with excitement as he gushed about various goals- his passions erupted as he spoke of all these goals.  One of his goals was to improve fitness, so we both decided one way to measure this would be to time his mile run, ...which by the way, I have not done since, ummm, high school?

The other exercise I added was to come up with a motivational quote that we would recite during the week- a mantra.  Again, it was such a great team building exercise to do this.

As we finished up and I was on my way- I realized something- first, that it is so easy for small business to incorporate fun into their work place- you don't have to be some silicon valley company with fuzeball and guys traversing through company halls on skateboards to be cool (however, that does sound pretty sweet).

Secondly, as I was finishing up the day, thinking about the events and preparing to sleep, I realized our mantra this week ironically was "bring life to life".  I felt like we did that in our meeting.  We brought purpose to our meetings aside from just being centered around work.  We brought balance.  Moments after that thought surfaced at 9:30pm in the evening I received a text from my director-  "4.25=1/2 mile; 9.02= 1 mile, can't wait to hear your times....".  I smiled.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Liberia at La Parilla

Besides dental floss, my favorite thing in the whole wide world is the ability, awe and wonder when individuals share ideas and have the potential of turning those ideas into real, tangible outcomes.  I get excited just from typing that thought!

I was so flattered to meet with Amanda, who works for the government in Monrovia (Liberia).  Amanda is an Atlantan who decided that she was going to do something big with her life- something that made a social impact. I listened to her story- how she decided to leave a high end corporate position after completing a compelling volunteer internship.  How she found herself, her happiness through service.  Due to her volunteer experience, she was offered a position working for the Monrovian government.  Although reluctant to turn in her US life for a world away, she knew that this opportunity was her life story- what was going to make Amanda, Amanda.

It was so amazing to meet this inspiring woman- both for the mere fact, that I too, am a woman that shares a common interest- improving the lives of less fortunate individuals and to witness her wondrous spirit.

I will keep everyone updated on the  hospital adoptions in Monrovia.  I have absolutely no doubt (and yes, chills are going down my spine as I type this) that as a result of a simple lunch at La Parilla on Howell Mill, Embraced and more importantly, Amanda, will improve the lives of so many individuals.

Who knows...maybe we can have a soccer match in Liberia after we get done providing them with orthopedic equipment through Embraced.

Dream big because there are a lot of Amanda's out there to make it a reality.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

creating a movement versus an organization

Anyone that works for a non-profit will tell you how important their organization is to the community.  There are thousands of individuals right now dedicating countless hours to their organization.  But, is this effective?  Is that enough?  Should the focus of a non-profit leader be to build an organization?  

As the founder of Embraced, I am also creating an organization.  But, while my focus is on building an organization, my overall objective is to build and create a movement.  

But, then I am confronted with the proverbial question of chicken and egg...which comes first- the movement or the organization?

As a founder, I am left with addressing and creating both.  But, at the end of the day, I realize that movements are what will get my organization (Embraced) to the next level.  A movement implies basic quantum physics- mass, acceleration and force come to mind.

So, as life has never failed at demonstrating to me that everything happens for a reason-  I did not take two years of physics for nothing...but rather to understand how to incorporate momentum (which is the product of mass times velocity) into my organization to create a movement. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is inside of you?

There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that your work makes a positive impact in the life of someone else.  Embraced received this email today:

"We found you through Kim, my friend who also attends church. She needed some assistance with her wheelchair and someone at Embraced offered it to her.
Kim was, until recently very  marginalized and living in poverty with her sick uncle and developmentally handicapped cousin as her care givers. Embraced helped her when she grew taller and needed some help with a wheelchair. Kim has now successfully been "adopted" as a young adult into a  home and the Ormewood Park community. She lives with a loving family and their children part-time and her dear friend and adopted grandma part-time. She is no longer marginalized, and living in poverty. She lost her uncle but her cousin visits regularly. We are going to be donating her current wheel chair soon, because she is now able to afford a comfortable customized wheel chair to fit all  her needs.
Thank-you for being there for my friend Kim."

You can't help but to smile at that note.  Whether it is a few hours a week or a change of careers, we all have the capacity to give.  We all have the capacity to not only make a difference,  but to be that difference.  I encourage you to dig deep and be proactive about doing things that have a positive impact on our community.

In the words of Oliver Holmes, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

- LOB 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Embraced: Creativity comes from....a treadmill?

Embraced: Creativity comes from....a treadmill?: "A friend recently told me that I am funny because I tend to do everything backwards. Besides, putting my nouns in front of adjectives,..."

Creativity comes from....a treadmill?

A friend recently told me that I am funny because I tend to do everything backwards.  Besides, putting my nouns in front of adjectives, friend good, I tend to just do things, well, differently.  I account this, very scientifically, to my astrological sign of rebellious water bearing...its really rebellious, I tell you.
Doing things backwards, like starting a non-profit organization because it is a calling versus a way to shelter money, requires, well, quite frankly, a ton of....creativity.
But, just like any entrepreneurial endeavor, it  takes resourcefulness, a bit of endurance and a ton of creativity.

Sometimes I wish I could record all the thoughts I have on the treadmill....well, okay, not all of them.  I try so hard to not think...but the neurons keep firing.  I think about all the crazy, out of the box ideas that will get Embraced more funding, so that we can continue to grow and help provide more orthopedic and prosthetic equipment to those in need. 

However, every time I start into a new festival idea or think about Battle of the Burgers 2011...I keep remembering a non-profit training seminar where they preached about not focusing on special events as a source of funding.  I somewhat agree and understand that lesson. However, grants are few and far between right now-what in the world is a non-profit supposed to do with the fact that grants right now are so entirely competitive?

Now, I understand why special events should be taken with care and caution.  A lot of the time overhead costs  pile up and  before you know it, you need a huge turnout to even break even.

This is where creativity comes in.  It is an absolute must to make a profit.  Even though you might operate a non-profit, money is still needed.  So, here are my suggestions and things I learned,  should you be planning an event for your non-profit:

1. Get creative- do whatever you have to do- run on a treadmill :),  read the NY times, and do not be afraid to do something different.
2. Trade- with such an array of businesses in financial stress right now, it is a perfect time to trade.  I highly suggested using this when deciding to plan your next event.
3. Facebook is great-  Use it.  If you don't believe it as Goldman Sachs, they just invest $550 million.
4. Waste is bad! - Ask my interns.  I make them use the backs of every paper- yes, every square inch.  Not only is it good for the environment, but we are not hear to waste donors money.  Not even a penny.  Think like that about everything as much as you can within reason.
5. Think big- the only thing holding you back is, well, you.  Reach as far as you can imagine and then add a foot.
6.  Have fun-Attitudes are contagious.  If you are excited, people will get excited.  And, your event will be exciting.

If all else fails, just hop on a treadmill.

-O'Brien, Lauren