Kevin from Heaven
Podcast #63 — Aired June 8, 2015

During life’s most difficult challenges, it helps to “Keep the Phaith.” That’s the message the Kevin from Heaven foundation hopes to share through acts of kindness for people facing life altering events. Our guest this week is Ken Johnston, a board member at the Kevin from Heaven foundation. He’ll tell listeners how a tragic event inspired a community to help others in need through hard times.

 

 

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Ken Johnston
Boardmember, Kevin from Heaven

Ken was invited to serve on the board of the Kevin From Heaven Foundation soon after its formation. As a board member he helps to promote the foundation in order to raise funds and then disperse them to those in need as part of the overall effort to keep the memory of Kevin Flach alive.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Hi, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio. BetterWorldians Radio is a weekly broadcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. Now this week were introducing a new feature called, BetterWorldians Spotlight, the content you know and love formatted for quick and easy listening. Im Ray Hansell and today our Spotlight focus is on the Kevin from Heaven Foundation. Kevin from Heaven was founded after the tragic death of a six year old little boy named Kevin, in Glenside, Pennsylvania. While the family and community struggled to make sense of this senseless loss, an idea was proposed to establish a foundation to assist Kevins family and others who were struggling with traumatic life changing events. That idea eventually became Kevin from Heaven Foundation. Joining us today to discuss the Foundations terrific work, is board member Ken Johnston. Ken thanks so much for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Ken
Thank you Ray for giving us an opportunity to talk a little bit about the Foundation.

Raymond Hansell
You bet, you bet, were looking forward to it. Tell our listeners a little bit about Kevin, the little boy who the Foundations actually named for.

Ken
Yeah, so you mentioned that Kevin was six years old, he was actually the middle child of seven, born to Dan and Denise Flach, very good friends of ours. And Kevin was a pretty quiet child, and spent a lot of time with mom, and shed always called him Kevin from heaven. So, when the accident occurred, it wasnt long after that, that a bunch of us had gotten together and already had the name for the organization, Kevin from Heaven, thats what his mom called him up until the time of the accident.

Raymond Hansell
Now how did the idea actually come about to start doing good deeds for other families in need?

Ken
When the accident occurred, it occurred on the familys property, and soon after there was over a hundred people that got together, it was friends, neighbors, contractors, businesses that found out that we wanted to do a sort of home makeover. And within a couple weeks, there were literally hundreds of people that were there for a couple days and completely renovated the house and property, and we saw such an outpouring of generosity and faith, and what have you that we knew right away that we had to build on what had started with just this first event. And, out of it we realized some of the people who came forward had suffered similar tragedies, and we realized that we could then do the same thing and try to help others that experienced tragedy in their lives.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah, thats wonderful. What were some of the other first acts of kindness preformed by the organization?

Ken
Because of the timing, there was, it was in August of that year. By the time we really got started we were into the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Donations had already come in through a t-shirt sale that we have. If youre in this area, in the Glenside area, and even around the country, around the world now we have pictures of people wearing what we call Phaith Gear, p-h-a-i-t-h, and we sell shirts and magnets that say Keep the Phaith. Kevin was a huge baseball fan, and so we incorporated the Phillies logo into the p in p-h-a-i-t-h, in that Keep the Phaith. So we had a little bit of money coming in and had already recognized some of the needs in the area. So whether it was Thanksgiving turkeys, or families that could use a little help at Christmas time to make a better Christmas for their kids. We saw some of those types of things going on, and then we would learn of other situations. Whether it was people in the neighborhood that were laid off from work, or sickness, death unfortunately. So we would try to do a little bit here and there because our resources werent that great. And then it was once we really got started we had a beef and beer that raised quite a bit of money, and then we came up with the idea for the Night at the Ballpark. Which is our single biggest fundraiser. And we were able to raise, I think more money than anybody on the board ever thought we could. And as a result were able to help more families, and with substantially more money, so.

Raymond Hansell
You mentioned Thanksgiving, I understand that you present anonymously during the holiday season, how does that work?

Ken
People can put requests in through our website, its Kevin from Heaven dot org.

Raymond Hansell
Right.

Ken
And requests either come in through the website or somebody will get in touch with somebody that knows a board member, and well try to do things without necessarily letting people know where the request came from. Or that were actually going to make the donation, or drop off the bag of gifts, or drop off a Thanksgiving dinner. So part of its fun because you get to see the excitement in peoples eyes when you can help them out at times when theyre really struggling. And some folks know that its coming, but when were able to surprise somebody its really neat to be a part of.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah. I can see. This tragedy, so often we hear about situations like this, and we feel the loss. But somehow when something so good comes of this, it helps I think to ease some of the pain. We had a personal impact from a story from a young girl named Katie Brandt that did Katies Kids for the Cure, when she lost her life after a years long struggle to leukemia. She basically gave back by creating something that would help kids with brain tumors, etc. And thats since been absorbed into another Philadelphia based wonderful organization called Alexs Lemonade, which started with the loss of a little child, Alex by the way, and that most people have heard of that as well. So its great work that you guys are doing, I commend you for it.

Ken
Yeah and you mentioned the young child with leukemia, and we had a similar situation, and youre right Ray, its sometimes just the smallest things you can do for some of these families, bring such an incredible benefit. Because Im involved with the board and often will, we hear about these tragedies that are going on. So its kind of a mixed blessing, its a blessing to be on the board, but you also get to hear of so many tragedies, and that take place in other parents, or other peoples lives. Id just like to relate one story with this little girl that had leukemia that we found out about. And, you know, we wanted to do something for them, and the person that brought that to our attention just said, anything will help. And I had the opportunity, and we put together what we called these Phaith Bags, and so we give them some Keep the Phaith hats and t-shirts, especially if theres a bunch of kids in the family. And there was a little girl that I got to go visit, and we brought the bag, she was there with her brother, mother and father, and you know, so I gave them the bag, the t-shirts and hats which they thought was fabulous. And the mother said to the little girl, tell Mister Johnston about your beads. Well with that she pulls out this long strand of beads, it had to be five foot long, it was taller than she was, and it was all different color beads, and whenever she would go to the hospital she would get one color bead, whenever she got a needle she would get another bead, whenever she had a chemo treatment. So all these beads represented everything she under went since she had gotten sick. And it really was incredible, and before Im leaving, of course I hand the father the envelope and I said, you know, this isnt life changing, but we hope it will help you. And he turned to me and said, you know Ken, as long as theres enough in there for my wife and I to go out to dinner, it will be a blessing. And I know there was more than enough in there for them to go out. And here the situation where the mother was the one with the benefits, even though she had the lower paying job, I think she was the one with the medical benefits, and he actually had to quit his job in order to take care of his daughter and take her for all the treatments. So it was such a blessing to be a part of and to see what just a little bit can do for some of these families.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah, it is very impactful. What impact does reaching out to those in need have on Kevins loved ones as they continue to deal with their grief from the loss of Kevin?

Ken
Yeah, in the beginning it was, they werent significantly involved with that, they were going through enough of their own recovery, if you will, from what had happened. So, they knew that there was a lot of good going on, but they kind of stayed in the background. And its been five years now, we just had our fifth Night at the Ballpark last month, and Dan and Denise are much more involved with the Foundation today. Even to the point where on one occasion, there was a young boy in Northeast Philadelphia that had drown and we had actually found out about that case via the newspaper and the news, and we decided as a Foundation to do a little something for the family. And Denise actually went with me that day, when we went to drop off the package and the check. So, what they get to, what I think they get to experience is theyre not the only ones who have gone through this.

Raymond Hansell
Right.

Ken
And at the same time realize that even though theyve lost their son, that its through that loss that, with them and the Foundation we can do so much to help these other people. And it really does prove to us that, you know, what happened that day wasnt the end of Kevins life and his ability to bring joy to peoples lives. That as long as the organization exists and the Foundation continues to flourish, we keep his name alive and he is the one that actually brings the benefit to these people.

Raymond Hansell
Thats amazing, amazing. Were going to take a short break right now. But well be right back to talk to Ken Johnston from Kevin from Heavens Foundation. Before we do, if youre a fan of BetterWorldians Radio then you should check out our popular social game on Facebook called A Better World. Its a social game that rewards players for doing good deeds while helping to raise money and awareness for charity. So far, we have had thirty five million good deeds done by people around the world, playing A Better World by more than three million people. In the month of June were supporting the Dr. Phil Foundation in support of the Casa program, which has a mission to support and promote court appointed volunteer advocacy for children in need. And in the process were challenging our players in the game to complete three hundred thousand good deeds, and as they do so, and the goal is reached, well release funds for I Am for the Child campaign, which recruits volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children. Well be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Welcome back to BetterWorldians Radio Spotlight. Were talking right now to Ken Johnston from the Kevin from Heaven Foundation. Ken can you tell us a little bit more, a story or two about people who were helped specifically by Kevin from Heaven Foundation?

Ken
Yeah, I mentioned the one young man that had drown in Pennypeck Creek a summer or two ago, and in that situation, again, Denise was able to join me that day and actually sit with the mother of that child. And there were a lot of tears, I know it brought back a lot for Denise as to what happened in her situation. But she was able to relate to somebody elses tragedy and help them understand a little bit about Denises experience. And of course, you know, through the financial help that we were able to do, help them with some of the funeral expenses and you know, the brothers and sisters all had the Keep the Phaith gear that we gave them. In other situations we had a woman that got in touch with us through a physical disability, had been unable to work for quite a while, was on the verge of losing her apartment, and actually got in touch with us as a foundation, because she learned from a friend of hers that was involved. And actually called crying for help and if there was anything we could do, and unfortunately when youre in this business sometimes, and not that its a business, but when youre in this kind of activity, there are people out there that try to take advantage of you. So we do investigate and we learned that she really was in need of like emergency help, and we were able to help her out a little bit with her rent, kept her in her place with her kids, because she really didnt want to have to move and uproot her kids from the schools they were in, and those types of things, so.

Raymond Hansell
Thats really great, thats great. Its a wide, wide, wide brush of that you cross a lot of different areas thats interesting. You sound like youre very opportunistic to look for situations where you can be of some assistance, wherever and whenever thats possible. Whats some of the feedback that youve gotten from the families? You mentioned a little bit earlier in the show, but tell us a little bit more about how people have reacted to the help theyve gotten from Kevin from Heaven?

Ken
I think its, first of all, most people are afraid to ask for help. Theyre either embarrassed or they dont know that these foundations, and that theres organizations out there that really do want to help. And in some cases, you know, well have a family member or friend that will let us know about what is going on, in other cases like you said, well just try to reach out on our own. But just the tears that you see, the tears of joy when people realize that theres somebody out there that is trying to make a difference, that theres people out there that really do want to help without asking for anything in return. Especially when they find out all the people that are behind us, you know, and we talk about, you know, what happened to Kevin and the Foundation and the people that are behind us, the hundreds, if not thousands of people that get involved in the different events that we have, those that make the donations and really do want to make a difference in other peoples lives.

Raymond Hansell
You mentioned earlier in our conversation that Kevin from Heaven has a night at the Phillies ballpark to help raise money for the Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about that event?

Ken
Yeah, and when I mentioned it earlier I talked about how much Kevin loved baseball, and a lot of what we will have a baseball theme to it. And we started working with the Philadelphia Phillies to try to put together this night at the ballpark. And we knew from the beef and beer that we had early on, which sold out in a matter of days, that a lot of people would be behind something like this. So we went to the Phillies thinking maybe we would get two, three, four hundred people to show up, and the Phillies offered us a nice little package and we had some people who were in the restaurant and bar business that were behind us. So, we thought maybe wed do a tailgate before the game. So we get over in the jet row parking lot, down there by Citizens Bank Park around five oclock. And the first year I think we ended up with over five hundred people.

Raymond Hansell
Wow.

Ken
Over the last five years weve probably had anywhere from seven hundred to a thousand people who have showed up for the game. And they put us all the way up in those top seats back in the left field corner, but those three or four sections, if you look back there on the games where, that we go to, its just a sea of Keep the Phaith shirts and theyre red, and gray, and navy and white, its just incredible. All the kids that are there, you know, Kevins classmates from school who are very active with some of the things they do at the school. And we had this huge tailgate, we usually have music, and food and just a bunch of people that want to hang out and get to know a little bit about the organization, or theyve already been involved and this is a chance to get together and share information and talk about what weve been doing. Gives our sponsors a chance to join us and see the work that were doing. And its just turned into an incredible event. And like I said last month it was our fifth year that weve done it, I think we had seven hundred people despite how the Philadelphia Phillies are doing this year, which is incredible. I think we doubled the attendance in the stadium that night, but a.

Raymond Hansell
I was going to say thats not a small chunk, that could be a pretty big outing for the Phillies this year, right?

Ken
Yeah, right, exactly.

Raymond Hansell
Absolutely.

Ken
But its nice. They let us throw out the first pitch, so the first year it was Kevins grandfather that threw out the pitch.

Raymond Hansell
Oh boy.

Ken
And now were working down through Kevins siblings, so his brothers Collin, Danny, and Michael got to throw out the balls, like three years running, and the past year his younger brother Joe, it was just awesome. I think Joes in second or third grade, got to throw the ball out, it was pretty good.

Raymond Hansell
Oh, thats terrific.

Ken
Yeah.

Raymond Hansell
So tell our listeners, how can they help support Kevin from Heaven?

Ken
The easiest way right now is via our website, the Kevin from Heaven Foundation. You can go out there and hit the donate button and theres, you can donate very securely through PayPal. Theres also a phone number and address there if youd prefer to mail a check to us. Also whats out there is, what I mentioned earlier that request for benefits so if folks know of somebody that might be able to use a little help, they can put requests in through the website as well.

Raymond Hansell
Thats terrific. So this is a question we ask all of our guests on every BetterWorldians episode. How do you hope that the work youre doing here with Kevin from Heaven is helping to make the world a better place?

Ken
I think one of the greatest things that has come along in my lifetime has been the idea pay it forward. And I think what happens is, and we see it all the time now, is that through the little bit of generosity we do in making a little bit of a difference in individuals life or a families life. To see the little bit of joy that it brings to them, to let them know that theyre not alone, that there are people that understand their situation and really want to help. And many of them have come back to us and become part of the organization, or when they get back on their feet theyll turn around and make a donation back. But we know for certain that many of them are able to pay it forward in one way or another. And I think in doing that, we get to see a little bit of what we do, or maybe the start of, through our action of what can happen. And we really dont always know what the ongoing benefit of that is. And I think if more and more people, more and more organizations do that, that it definitely makes the world a better place when we see that person to person, organization to organization, that were helping one another.

Raymond Hansell
We totally agree. Youre giving a little slice of hope to these people, regardless of what is involved in it, its, it picks them up, even for a little bit. And then they get the opportunity to pass that along as you say pay it forward. We have in our game on Facebook that exact philosophy, we call it cause gaming. Effectively were gaming for a cause, the same way that cause marketing years ago. So we leverage that by basically getting people involved and getting people to express their gratitude, or hopes or dreams or what have you, and having them get these good deeds moving, and then in turn following up with support of charities we sponsor on a monthly basis. So were right behind you on all that. For our listeners out there, you can find out more about Kevin from Heaven Foundation by going to Kevin from Heaven dot org. Ken thanks so much for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Ken
Ray thanks for having us.

Raymond Hansell
Youre very, very welcome. As we end our show each week, we like to share our BetterWorldians mission. We strive to make the world a little bit better by encouraging the very best in everyone. To do so we focus on positive thinking, positive values, and positive actions. In short our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everyone, so that we can all make it a better world. Until next time everybody, please be a BetterWorldian.