Walk With Sally was founded by Nick Arquette in 2005, naming it for his mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer and after many years of treatment, died when Nick was sixteen. After attending both the American Conservatory Theater and Boise State University, Nick moved to Manhattan Beach 25 years ago to pursue a career in the film industry and has worked as a professional actor ever since. With an entrepreneurial spirit, Nick created and founded a series of companies beginning with a niche’ business within the film industry. For the part 20 years, Nick has been a broker to this industry, negotiating deals for major productions shooting on location in LA and throughout the United States. In 2006 with a new passion for aiding the aging population, he cofounded Adia InHome Care, support services which enhance quality of life for the aging, and recently started Assisted Preferred, a local information site and customer support service for placement services, quality senior care referrals and ongoing support. Nick never forgot how challenging and isolating the years of his mother’s illness and loss had been for him as a child. Wanting to keep the legacy of his Mother alive while seeking to serve youth facing similar circumstances, Nick searched for mentoring opportunities in the community only to discover that no organization was filling this critical support gap. After careful research, he launched Walk With Sally and began mentoring a youth who had recently lost his mother to cancer. From that first successful friendship, Walk With Sally’s core Mentoring Program has expanded, having served hundreds of families throughout the South Bay over the past 10+ years and today actively serving 63 children, boys and girls ages 7–17, with trained volunteer mentors throughout Los Angeles County. Additional support programs now include the Junior Mentoring program; quarterly Friendship events; Hope for the Holidays; and scholarship and assistance programs. As the only known organization providing this specific service within Los Angeles if not beyond, Walk With Sally has partnered with school districts, hospitals and health care providers, and local cancer and grief support organizations for referrals to the program and to facilitate access to additional services as needed for mentees and their families. With all his work throughout the community, in 2011 Nick was awarded Citizen of the Year by MB Chamber Women in Business and was a finalist for the Daily Breeze Most Philanthropic in 2012. Nick Arquette currently lives in Manhattan beach with his wife Megan and 2 children Charlotte and Delilah.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was a young entrepreneur who moved to Los Angeles to get into the Film Industry. I built a niche business representing locations for filming opportunities and after a successful 10 years in the industry I started to look for more projects, like my company supporting senior home care. In my early 30s I woke up and realized that I wanted to put my skills toward a larger purpose. I wanted people to remember my mom, Sally. I lost her when I was a teenager and knew that I could have used some additional support during her sickness and after she passed away. So, I decided to start a mentoring program for children who have parents suffering from cancer. I was the organization’s first mentor and here we are today, 12 years later, wrapping our arms around the whole family when they come face to face with cancer.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
The story that sticks out in my mind is from our fundraising event, White Light White Night, in 2015. WLWN is our largest fundraiser of the year and truly what keeps Walk With Sally going as we continue to diversify our fundraising strategy. The event is held outdoors every year and we host 1,000+ attendees for a food and wine festival and live music concert. In July of 2015, in Southern California, there was a very rare tropical storm that came through from the tail end of a hurricane that was near Baja California. The storm was acting unpredictably in the week leading up to the event and we thought up until the 11th hour that it was going to miss us, well, it didn’t. Just 45 minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, we finally had to pull the plug, there was thunder and lightning and we just couldn’t put our guests at that type of risk. Our community completely banded around our organization and just one month later we were able to come back and recreate an incredible event. The support we received from vendors, donors, attendees and the community was heartwarming and life changing for the kids and families in our program. We were so humbled.
Yitzi: So what does Walk with Sally do?
We offer free mentoring programs and support services for children whose parents or siblings are battling cancer or have succumbed to cancer. Our cornerstone program is matching children with a mentor who understands what it’s like to personally have cancer impact a close loved one, someone to “walk” them through this difficult time. We also offer a quarterly Friendship Activity program to bring together the children, mentors and families to create this sense of community. The feeling of being a part of something is huge for these children. We are currently helping families in Los Angeles and Orange Counties by are strategizing for our scalability right now, we hope to be in every city nationwide very soon!
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I really wanted to use my skills to take an idea and create a business outside of the typical focus on a revenue stream. This idea, if inspiring thousands, could change the life of a child impacted by cancer. In addition, my aha moment is watching all of these adults, our mentors, sharing a similar story who are also healing and together creating this awesome community.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me Before I Launched My Non-Profit” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
I wished people told me it would take a lot longer than you planned. I was inspired by the idea of this mentoring program children impacted by cancer, but ultimately had to be the person that had to go beyond the inspiration to deal with all of the obstacles and realize the key to success was hanging in there for a long period of time to build this thing out. Nobody told me I was going to need to go 12 years before I could get to a place where I could really see the potential for where this could go.
People come and go. There are a lot of people who are untrustworthy, dishonest or don’t fulfil on their word. and you just have to work past that to surround yourself with the good people who are playing the big game.
Continue to have trust and faith even when that will be tested. The more you put yourself out there, the more people will challenge your purpose. I never thought that helping children was going to mean that I would be criticized, or that people would challenge me, it took a lot more tenacity and thick skin than I ever knew.
You will deal with crisis. There are times where you will have high expectations and put good energy out and yet the unexpected can still happen. You will need to persevere. In 2015 we worked for nearly 10 months to put together our largest fundraiser of the year scheduled for July in Southern California, you would never think rain could really affect our outdoor event. But, there was a hurricane off of Baja California that created lightning and thunder like we haven’t seen in this area for nearly 100 years. It was moving in an unpredictable pattern so we thought we might be able to watch it pass right by, but it didn’t. When there was thunder and lightning striking less than a mile away we knew we had to cancel the event for 100 people with just 30 minutes until the event started. We were able to reschedule for a month later and the community really surrounded us so that we could bounce back from this storm, but it could have been catastrophic for the organization. You set your sight on a certain objective, pour your heart and soul into that objective and yet you can’t know that 45min before the event starts you would have to disappoint hundreds of people.
Understanding time management. You are not going to have enough time in the day to do everything yourself. Every day you need to recognize that you will have to give tasks away and continue to find people who are inspired and trust that you can delegate to in order to be successful. You need to find employees with leadership who can support you and your vision. Building this support structure is the only way to be able to take your vision to the next level.
My love of my mother would not be enough to make this thing go. Emotion and passion will only get you so far. Many charities start as a passion project, but to create longevity you have to find new ways to stay motivated. You will shift from relying on the passion alone to recognizing other reasons to continue the mission of this work. Charities fail because they rely on the mission and passion and do not focus on the business.
Yitzi: I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
The head of Charity: Water. He’s such an innovator in the new nonprofit and the way that the evolution and innovation and his ability to grow this company into a successful and growing business not just a nonprofit. It’s incredible to have the funding necessary to do everything he wants to and be able to push it to the limits.
Originally published at medium.com