…To Prepare my heart: I feel like sometimes if I could do more than I maybe I could have prevented a child’s heartache. We need to get children to break their silence, but we also need to end bullying, child abuse, and childhood illness ultimately. This isn’t an easy task, but the more that join this movement, the more impact we will make to create positive change.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Erdman. He is nineteen years of age and the founder of the T.E.K. Foundation CC, Inc. operating as Give a Child a Voice. With only a few months to live, Eric has accomplished more in his nineteen years of life, then people who live to old age. July 13, 2016, age sixteen, Eric Erdman was diagnosed with an aggressive form of advanced brain cancer — Anaplastic Grade III Ependymoma. He has endured four brain surgeries, sixty‐one sessions of radiation, and a round of chemo, and there is no further treatment available. Eric, once very shy and introverted due to being abused and bullied as a child, remarkably found his voice when diagnosed with brain cancer through the support of his community. To witness a community come together, for a kid with cancer, Eric feels is something beyond words. It has forever transformed his perspective on life and inspired him to use his voice to help other children find theirs.
While some children battle critical pediatric illness, others face challenges such as bullying and abuse in their schools and homes; these difficult experiences can cause long‐term emotional suffering. It is Eric’s dream and mission to haven other kids who experience difficult situations receive the same kindness he received at one of the most vulnerable times of his life. He started the movement, “Give a Child a Voice,” to engage the community and get children the help they need. Each day Eric has left on this earth will be another day he will continue to raise his voice to help the many boys and girls who suffer in silence.
His dream and movement have become a reality, thanks to work being done through his foundation. He is committed to making sure his legacy lives on to continue to reach more children for many years to come.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Early on in my life, I faced so many unfortunate and horrific things; it made me feel like I was on an island all by myself. Being closed off like I was, was very unhealthy, I was allowing my past to define my future. When I was thirteen, I began to go to the gym before and after school. I started to build courage one day at a time. The gym allowed me to shut out the noise in my life and helped me concentrate on myself. Then at sixteen being diagnosed with advanced brain cancer, it opened my eyes due to the support I received from the community. Among the support I received was an organization, MI Doors, and Windows, they have a foundation within their organization, the MI Charitable Foundation. The impact they were making in people’s lives was incredible. I realized I needed to do the same, start a foundation. I wanted to reach children so that they didn’t need to suffer in silence as I did. I decided to make it my mission to let other children know they are not alone; people want to help and that there is power in having a voice. I found out that it’s more painful being silent than it is to break the silence, and if I could help one kid not suffer the way I did, then creating a foundation would be worth it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
When someone launches a company or a foundation, there isn’t a guarantee that it will be successful. Still, for me, the most interesting thing that happened to me since launching the foundation is hearing kids share their stories and find their voice. It has become a significant motivation for me to keep fighting as long as my body will allow me too. I set out to inspire others, but others are inspiring me in return.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest story would have to be when I was down in Houston, Texas to get my first round of radiation. With a generous donation to the foundation, not mentioning any names, lol (my Uncle Mike Ruch), I decided to give to the children of MD Anderson Cancer Center and Shriners Hospital for Children while I was in Texas. So, my mom, my brother, my cousin, and I all went to Toys ‘R’ Us, and we filled six shopping carts of toys. We walked out of the toy store to the car and realized we took an uber to get to Toys ‘R’ Us, and that we didn’t have a car. Lol. I think we were so excited to shop for the kids that it completely slipped our mind on how we were getting all the toys to the hospital. We ended up having to call four different ubers to pick us and the toys up and take us to the hospital. Lesson learned, don’t forget about transportation when you are planning to deliver a car full of toys. Lol.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Children are beginning to speak out; they are becoming the author of their story. Their voice is taking power away from their abusers, the bullies, and their illness. We are helping to encourage our future leaders to lead. Schools are taking part in our efforts, as well as businesses. We are creating positive change!
Can you tell me a story about an individual who was impacted by your cause?
Honestly, I am honored to say; there are hundreds of individuals who have impacted by my cause. The number of children and adults who have reached out is so moving. Many of the stories that are shared are truly horrific. But what is incredible and means the world to me is when they tell me, “since finding the courage to find my voice, my story is just beginning.”
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
This is a great question. What is great about leadership is that it isn’t defined by age, race, or money.
Leadership, in my opinion, is defined by honesty, loyalty, integrity, and, most of all, leadership is standing up and helping to guide others. Leadership is taking the extra time to truly listen.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day: My desire to reach children throughout the U.S isn’t an easy task; it takes time to grow and expand our reach.
- To Prepare my heart: I feel like sometimes if I could do more than I maybe I could have prevented a child’s heartache. We need to get children to break their silence, but we also need to end bullying, child abuse, and childhood illness ultimately. This isn’t an easy task, but the more that join this movement, the more impact we will make to create positive change.
- That I would be on borrowed time: My work here isn’t done, as there are so many children that need help. We must all come together to help. Please.
Regarding foundation components:
- Grants Exist — This is something we are yet to accomplish. Apparently, there are grants out there that we could apply for to help us make more of an impact on children’s lives. I’ve learned there are grant writers and a lot that goes into grants. But these are areas that we haven’t even tapped into yet due to our lack of knowledge in this area.
- Employee Match Programs — I was unaware these even existed, I am now, and we are a part of several, which is fantastic, but we have a great deal of work to do here.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The Give a Child a Voice Movement!
I always say we start each year with 365 blank pages, waiting to be written. Since I found my voice, I finally have become the author of my story, and I am writing my story now. My story is to help children realize and know they are not alone because their story matters. Let’ s not let our abusers, the bullies, our illness take control of our life. Although I have a terminal illness, it doesn’t mean I am not the author of my story; it just means I will have fewer chapters than others.
The Give a Child a Voice Movement will create positive change in children’s lives. Children, our future leaders, we must help them not be defined by unfortunate circumstances.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If nothing around you changes, change the things that are around you.” I felt something drastic had to be done to help children, so why not create a foundation that stands for children.
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 just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Ryan Reynolds — Ryan Reynolds supports children and Parkinson’s, I watch all his movies, and his acting and talent inspire me, but I would love to learn about who he is as a person, regarding family.
My hero is my Uncle Mike, my Godfather. He was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, which I found it sort of ironic that Ryan Reynolds, someone who has inspired me as well, father had passed away in 2015, who had Parkinson’s. Ryan had raised money for the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research, and recently donated to help protect the rights of children, he is one person in this world that I would enjoy having lunch with.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
For further information visit https://www.giveachildavoice.us
I’m currently seeking the next school to be the recipients of a gym transformation with our “Give a Child a Voice Fitness Center Give-A-Way.” We want students to nominate their school and tell me why their school should receive the transformation.
How to nominate link: https://www.giveachildavoice.us/nominate
We’re also raising money for the transformation.
GoFundMe link: http://bit.ly/GiveaChildaVoiceFitnessCenterGive-A-Way
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!