As President & CEO of Samsung Electronics North America, many circumstances have led me to where I am today. Hard work, perseverance, an incredible support system and a little bit of luck all played a part. But more importantly, this role has given me a platform to help others.
Last week, I joined Covenant House’s national annual Executive “Sleep Out” where I was joined by nearly 100 executives to experience what 2 million youth across the U.S. live through every single night – Homelessness. For more than 40 years, operating in 31 cities across 6 countries, Covenant House has taken in homeless, runaway and trafficked youth, and given them food, shelter, immediate crisis care and other services.
The Sleep Out not only raises awareness and money for the Covenant House, but it also has provided me with an eye-opening opportunity to meet Covenant House’s “Alumni.” These adult men and women have lived through heartbreaking experiences and with the organization’s support system, are now living a heartwarming story of positive transformation.
One of the young adults I met was Ainsley Brundage. Ainsley was homeless at 18 and danced in the subways to make money. He dreamed of going to college, but couldn’t afford it and ended up in a men’s shelter in New York City. He told us, “I came to Covenant House because I needed a place to sleep, I needed a place to shower, I needed a place to eat – but I got so much more – I got a support system that treated me like family.”
Covenant House runs programs to teach these youth life skills and coping mechanisms to confront their past and move forward in life. They are even beginning to create a database of their beneficiaries to help them understand how best to serve those in need. Tutoring, driver’s education and counseling are all available to the youth they serve, but they also receive the one thing we all look for and need – love.
Jim White, executive director of Covenant House New Jersey says the Sleep Out event allows executives like me and the homeless youth they serve an opportunity to “connect and get to know each other on a different level.” In my second year participating, through the cold and the rain, I had the comfort of knowing I had a warm, safe bed to return to. The harsh reality is that so many kids do not.
As we give thanks this week and throughout the holiday season, I am thankful for so many blessings in this life – the roof over my head, my family, friends, my company and colleagues at Samsung. This year, it includes the “Sleep Out” experience I was able to be a part of once again, knowing just how impactful the $514,000 raised through this one night will be for the next troubled youth that finds Covenant House.
Kids like Ainsley, who is now 22, working in a clothing store, living on his own and applying to college to study the performing arts. He has put in the hard work, he has persevered, and with the support system of Covenant House, he is creating a new future for himself.
He is the reason I chose to be homeless for the night—and helping kids like him is the reason it felt pretty good doing so.