“Moms + Social Good” One-Day Event Review by Andrea Santo Felcone

On Thursday, May 4th, I had the privilege of attending the “Moms + Social Good” event in New York City, presented by the United Nations Foundation and Johnson & Johnson. The event was shaped around the question: “What Do You Wish Were True for Every Family, Everywhere?” Johnson & Johnson and the United Nations Foundation put together an all-star line-up of top-notch speakers to address this question and a corresponding digital marketing campaign to help raise money for five humanitarian organizations. This digital marketing campaign, the “Global Moms Relay” as it is known, is the video form of what I witnessed in person. “Global Moms Relay” is a collection of personal stories from celebrities, experts, activists, mothers, etc. answering that central question. Each time one of these videos is “shared”, “liked”, or “commented” on, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1.00 to five humanitarian organizations (up to $500,000). So, in essence, a second question was being asked that day: “Can social media be used for social good?” By the looks of the energy in the room, I would say the answer is a resounding “yes”.

laura dern

Laura Dern

I wish I could walk you through each and every presentation, but what I learned that day will not easily squeeze into one blog post. I won’t lie, when I first heard of this event—I was very excited to see the celebrities. But, oddly enough, as the day went on, two things happened, 1) I learned I can be star-struck by a MUPPET—there was an unexpected appearance by Sesame Street’s Elmo. (Thankfully, it wasn’t Grover, or I would have rushed that stage.) And, 2) the “non-celebrities”: the doctors, mothers, activists, etc. captivated me just as much (if not more) than the fact that I sat six rows away from Laura Dern, Zoe Saldana, Rachel Zoe, Jaime King, Kimberly Chandler and her husband NBA-star Tyson Chandler, Dr. Vanessa Kerry (daughter of John Kerry), and Dr. Luz Towns Miranda (clinical psychologist and mother of Lin-Manuel Miranda—my personal creative hero).

dr. alaa murabit

Dr. Alaa Murabit

There was no shortage of inspiring people on stage. In answering the question, “What Do You Wish Were True for Every Family, Everywhere?” many spoke about healthcare, clean air, education, empowerment for women. Included in that last wish, was Dr. Alaa Murabit’s presentation. I was very taken with the physician and United Nations High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth. She is wise beyond her years, and is a wonderful speaker. (Note: Her TED talk online is a must-see.) She made the point that women reinvest into their communities at a very high rate and strong leadership positions for women means strong leadership for everyone.

Another standout, was Minda Dentler.

minda dentler

Minda Dentler

Minda is a Polio survivor, speaker, and vaccine advocate. She began life in India without access to the Polio vaccine. Adopted by a sports-oriented American family, Minda pushed herself and eventually became the first official woman handcyclist to complete the Ironman World Championship, by swimming 2.4 miles, handcycling 112 miles and pushing a racing wheelchair 26.2 miles. That day is as special to her as the day she had her own child vaccinated against Polio.

A very sincere Irene Nkosi, an HIV positive mother, lost a child to the stigma of AIDS, even though the child was HIV negative. Irene is now a Mentor Mother and spokesperson for “Mothers 2 Mothers,” an organization that believes mothers can help stop the spread of pediatric AIDS through education and mentorship. These were just some of the amazing women who came to share their personal stories at this event.

As the morning went along, I realized I was unprepared for how emotional the day was going to be. I knew many people have been brought to social action through tragedy, but I’d never been in a room with so many examples. Two American women shared the stage to relay very personal and detailed stories of the last days of their daughters’ lives. Each girl lost her life to the flu. These women have now gone on to be vaccine advocates, giving their daughters’ lives a deep purpose. I don’t think anyone listening to these heart-wrenching stories will ever forget those two women and their children. I heard a gentleman behind me say he was “never going to skip his flu shot again.”

Catalina Escobar, also lost a child, and set up an organization in his name: the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation in Colombia. Ms. Escobar is a force of nature and within the first five years of her work, she helped reduce the infant mortality rate at a Colombian hospital by 67 percent. In her words, a terribly sad event became “a love story of social transformation.” She is now focused on reducing teen pregnancies.

Zoe Saldana

So, if you are asking yourself, “Can one person really make a difference?” Story after story confirmed the answer is “yes” and there are still very good people in this world working in service to good causes. The “Global Moms Relay” (at the time of this writing) has raised almost $104,000. From May 3 through June 16 videos are being posted by celebrities, mothers, activists, sharing their personal stories. In essence, you will see what I saw, except instead of live on stage, through the comfort of your home computer, or mobile screen. And as I mentioned, every time you “share”, “like”, or “comment” on a post of one of the videos from this “Global Moms Relay”, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1.00 (up to $500,000) to help support these five life-saving initiatives: shot@life.org: (an organization that works with the UN to ensure children around the globe have access to vaccines); UNFPA: (United Nations Fund for Population Activities—in part ensures childbirth is safe for women and children); GirlUp: (A United Nations Foundation organization committed to empowering generations of girl leaders); UNICEF: (United Nations Children’s Fund—saving children’s lives by providing healthcare, immunizations, clean water, nutrition, etc.); and NothingButNets.net: (the world’s largest grassroots campaign—created by the United Nations Foundation–to save lives by preventing malaria).

The idea of a digital marketing campaign to fundraise for worthy causes seems like a truly inspired way to celebrate Mothers all over the world. Happy Mother’s Day, Motherhood Later community! #GlobalMomsRelay #JNJ

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