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Nov 8th 2013

Paying It Forward... While Running the 2013 NYC Marathon

Nov. 3, 2013, marked the end point for a two-year mission for a group of individuals at AOL. Our feet hit the pavement beginning in Staten Island as we fought the bitter cold and wind running across the Verrazano Bridge – through the lively streets of Brooklyn – into the borough of Queens – down the three miles of Manhattan's party central 1st Ave. – into the quiet streets and bridges of the Bronx and then back into Manhattan for the torturous (and hilly) final four miles to the finish line...and we did it – all 26.2 miles for Rory!

AOL Marathon NYC

This mission started back at the beginning of 2012. The AOL Sales Team started out the new year with a Sales Conference kickoff during which I won the first Rory Wheeler Courage Award. Rory was a former colleague in the Detroit office who lost a 20-month battle with cancer on July 25, 2011. Winning the Rory Wheeler Courage Award was one of the proudest moments of my professional career. I had never felt so proud and honored in my life, and although Rory and I had never worked directly with one another – I knew this award would impact my life in some intangible way.

I began a rapport with Rory's parents Bob and Karen as well as his wife Kristen and after each email and conversation, I felt a lingering need to ensure that Rory's memory would live for years to come in a way that helped people, in a place that's special in nature and by doing something Rory would have loved. With that, I worked with the Ronald McDonald House in New York City in my efforts to "pay it forward." I created a NYC Marathon team to raise money for the operating costs of the house and renovations of their music room. Knowing Rory's love of music, I thought this would be the best place for his spirit to live on.

I recruited 29 AOLers from across four offices in the U.S. and our training began. Some of these runners knew Rory, knew of Rory or didn't know him at all – yet they were all committed to putting a lot of their personal life on hold to run this race for a great cause. Amid much anticipation, the 2012 NYC Marathon never happened due to Hurricane Sandy but the troopers on the AOL Marathon Team committed to training yet another year. In the end, I'm proud to say, with a handful of injuries, 22 of us ran and this AOL Team in total raised more than $115,000! (Our team site is still live.)

This week I had our final "team" meeting at the RMDH with our Architect, Designer, Construction Aids and Project Manager who confirmed we'll break ground within the next two weeks and start the creation of the Rory Wheeler Music Room at the RMDH in NYC.

Although I'll never fully understand why Rory has become such an impactful figure in my life, he's an angel on my shoulder who has helped me do something wonderful for my AOL family, the Wheelers, the RMDH in NYC and more importantly, for myself.


AOL Marathon Team

2013 AOL Runners:
Spencer Aungst; Lauren Damron; John Fox; Chelsea Johnson; Robin London; Jimmy Mayman; Julia McAndrew; Keith Morrison; Tom Simpson; Jared Smith; Renee Sturm; Brian Virgo & Christa Zambardino

Former AOLers:
Kenneth Jansson; Kelsey Kennedy; Feliz Pomerantz & Donald Rugama

AOL Friends & Family:
Alex Chalmers; Joe Hornstein; Bill Hoy; Ryan Mertz; Chris McAndrew & Dan Zambardino

Contributers:
Brad Elders; Chris Greenberg; Megan Heck; Liz Martinez; Paul Repola & Eva Rose

The AOL Marathon Team was supported by AOL's Community Relations 'Walk and Run Program', which supports employees participating as a team in races for a cause

Jan 30th 2013

Hurricane Sandy: Three Months Later and the Work Continues

This past October, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, destroying homes and lives in thousands of communities - including 329 Patch towns. Three months later, Forest Hills Patch's Local Editor Matthew Hampton traveled with the American Red Cross Disaster Relief team to see how efforts to help those affected in the Rockaways have continued months after Superstorm Sandy.

The Patch editor spoke with volunteers, locals and the Red Cross, getting a firsthand account of how residents have been making do during extremely challenging times. Lines of people deprived of food continue to rely on the emergency response vehicles that readily deliver food directly to those who need it most.

Patch is proud to support the efforts of the Red Cross and the many other organizations and individuals providing relief to those impacted by Sandy. Our editors and staff continue to provide around-the-clock coverage and essential information for those areas and beyond.

Watch as Patch rides along with the Red Cross in the Rockaways, on Forest Hills Patch!

Nov 8th 2012

Working at AOL...From Your Upper East Side Apartment

Given the catastrophic events that took place this past week during and following historic Hurricane Sandy, it seemed fitting to reflect on some of the things I learned while working from home (in my case, my Upper East Side studio apartment). Our offices were in the "dead" zone of Manhattan, and with that said, most of us with power and Internet remained holed up for the week in our homes, doing our absolute bests to keep business going as usual. Inspired by a Gawker post, I have decided to put together a list of a few things I learned while working from home (known as WFH) this week:

1. Mayor Bloomberg needs to take a Spanish refresher course -- Oh El Bloombito
2. Going to the gym twice (once to run, once to spin) saves you from complete and total isolation. While most of NYC shut down, Equinox remained open throughout the storm (minus downtown locations) with a normal class schedule in effect. And yes, people were there in full force.
3. Living on the Upper East Side during a downtown blackout meant the renaissance of uptown life...84th and 2nd, anyone?
4. When the news got repetitive the new "Pandora" became NetFlix. Saved by the Bell, The Hills, The Wonder Years, Dawson's Creek...never looked so good. This was, of course, once Full House and Boy Meets World morning reruns were over.
5. Once they resumed from being preempted by storm coverage, we quickly saw that no one on our favorite soap opera had aged a day since we watched it 5 years ago. Something's never do change.
6. Peanut butter and fluff is no longer something only kindergarteners can get away with eating. With two-hour wait times on Seamless Web, anything goes.
7. Getting dressed and putting on makeup after six days in pajamas is an incredibly difficult task.
8. Going back to a daily commute and being in an office never sounded so good. But, when you're almost at the subway, and you get an email about no heat or hot water at the office, It's back to pajamas you go, at least for another day.
9. While it's been a relaxing six days, I am seriously hoping WFH/WFA does not become the new normal.
10. We remain very glad our boyfriends have returned to Wall Street even if we were the only ones here on the UES that never lost power, and our friends who live on Wall Street still remain hurricane refugees.

Most importantly (with all kidding aside), I learned that I work for a company that truly appreciates each and every one of its employees and takes our values to heart – specifically when it comes to helping our fellow peers. While I heard talks of people potentially having to use their vacation days for the week they were unable to work, or having to walk 90 blocks in the cold as they had already waited an hour to squeeze on a bus just to get to their offices, we were told to work from our homes or wherever we could get things done and not be inconvenienced with the hour long commutes others were forced to endure, which continued into the week following power restoration. I don't know too many people who would tell you their CEO sent a company wide email offering impacted employees the ability to book transportation and hotels to areas that were not as burdened by disaster as the tri-state area was. All of this, in addition to our colleagues in Dulles and Baltimore rallying together to get supplies and necessities to the areas hit by this mass destruction, allowed me to emphatically say I have never been so proud to be an AOL employee - we truly are in the business of helping people, period, now more than ever in most of our lifetimes – helping ourselves.

Furthermore, our CEO and many of our executives organized tractors overflowing with donations from fellow AOLers to Long Island and New Jersey. Along with the tractors, large vans filled with AOLer's came along to help hand out the supplies.

Click here for more from our hyper local news source Patch.

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