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Jeremy Bloom: “Build your board first”

There’s an inaccurate perception — very inaccurate — that, as you age, your ability to chase your dreams, pursue your goals, and fulfill your lifelong passions goes away. We’re not only making an impact on people’s lives by fulfilling their wishes, but we’re making an impact on society by telling our recipients’ stories. We’re demonstrating that ageist perceptions of […]

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There’s an inaccurate perception — very inaccurate — that, as you age, your ability to chase your dreams, pursue your goals, and fulfill your lifelong passions goes away. We’re not only making an impact on people’s lives by fulfilling their wishes, but we’re making an impact on society by telling our recipients’ stories. We’re demonstrating that ageist perceptions of older adults are not true at all.

We’ve helped folks in the 90s jump out of a plane, write a book for the first time. We’ve helped 80 and 90-year-olds play in a symphony orchestra for the first time. We share these stories to show society all the incredible things you can do throughout your life.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Bloom, the only athlete in history to ski in the Olympics and get drafted into the NFL. He is a three-time World Champion, two-time Olympian, eleven-time World Cup gold medalist and the youngest member ever inducted into The United States Skiing Hall of Fame. He was also an All-American football player at the University of Colorado and played professional football as a wide receiver and return specialist in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While playing with the NFL in Philadelphia for the Eagles, he completed a business entrepreneurship program at Wharton Business School where he studied real estate and finance.

Today, he is Founder/CEO of the Marketing Technology company, Integrate where he has raised over 70 million dollars of venture capital. He is also the founder of Wish of a Lifetime, a charity that grants lifelong wishes to older adults. He founded Wish of a Lifetime on the premise that our oldest generations should be respected, honored and aided in our society.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, I enjoyed a close relationship with two of my grandparents.

My maternal grandmother, Donna, lived with my family until I turned 19, and was one of the sweetest people whom I have ever met.

My paternal grandfather, whom I’m named after, was a World War II hero and my first ski instructor. He taught me to ski by throwing miniature candy bars down the mountain. That was pure genius!

So I already had a soft spot in my heart for older people when, at age 15, I traveled to Tokyo for my first World Cup ski race outside the US.

On a bus in the city, I watched in amazement as people helped a very old woman, possibly in her 90s, come on board, then found a seat for her and bowed to her in respect once she was seated. I was amazed by this act of kindness and respect. The inspiration for Wish of a Lifetime, which grants wishes to older adults, was born on that day.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Wish of a Lifetime’s first wish recipient, Nancy Tarpin, made a wish to see her daughter, Lucille, who lived in Arizona and was dying of ovarian cancer. Mother and daughter lived far apart and hadn’t seen each in more than 10 years. I flew with Nancy to Arizona, rented a car, and drove her to her daughter’s house. Three days later, I picked her up, expecting that she would be grief-stricken — but instead, she glowed with joy and inner peace. She kept telling me how happy it made her to see her daughter, something she didn’t think she would ever get to do again.

When I got home, I called my parents and told them that I wanted to drop everything else I was doing, and focus on building Wish of a Lifetime. I thought then, and I still do think, that Wish of a Lifetime can make a big difference in the world, and in individual people’s lives. I see that every day.

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?

I had unrealistic expectations about how to get Wish of a Lifetime up and running! I thought. ‘Hey, start with your website, do a couple interviews on TV, and the rest will happen on its own.” Ha! I thought people would rush to be part of the organization and that the donations would come pouring in. That was a silly mistake! Of course, those things have happened through building a community of supporters, but getting to where we are today has taken a lot of hard work.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

There’s an inaccurate perception — very inaccurate — that, as you age, your ability to chase your dreams, pursue your goals, and fulfill your lifelong passions goes away.

We’re not only making an impact on people’s lives by fulfilling their wishes, but we’re making an impact on society by telling our recipients’ stories. We’re demonstrating that ageist perceptions of older adults are not true at all.

We’ve helped folks in the 90s jump out of a plane, write a book for the first time. We’ve helped 80 and 90-year-olds play in a symphony orchestra for the first time. We share these stories to show society all the incredible things you can do throughout your life.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I’ll never forget Tom’s story. He lived in Alabama and had end-of-life emphysema. He was in hospice care; doctors said he had just six months to live. He wrote to us a wish to receive postcards from other cities. He’d always dreamed of traveling throughout the US, but never had the opportunity to do so. He’d rarely been out of the state of Alabama and now, with emphysema, he couldn’t fly. So he wished for postcards to help him travel in his imagination.

We found beauty in the simplicity of his wish, and decided to try to help make it come true. We posted on our social channels and the response was overwhelming! During the next couple of months, Tom received thousands of postcards from countries all over the world. Many people took the time to write him meaningful messages about what it was like to live in their city. This was truly remarkable — these were strangers who didn’t know him.

I was blown away by this generosity and kindness from people who didn’t know Tom. It meant the world to him to get all those cards. And, can you believe it? He had been given six months — but he lived for almost five more years! The doctors couldn’t explain it. But if you believe that a happy life and engaged mind can have a positive impact on your health, it’s not impossible to think that those cards helped prolong Tom’s life. This was one of my favorite wishes that we’ve ever granted.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

1.We’ve joined forces with the best organization possible to help address the health needs of older people — AARP, with 38 million members. There’s a lot that AARP is doing to give dignity to everyone, and to make sure that our older adults are respected, cherished, and supported.

2. Ageism in the workplace needs to be addressed. We need to reframe the concept that being old is a crutch, when in fact it’s an asset. People who have gone around the sun more times have more pattern recognition in life. They have experienced more, and that experience is priceless.

3. We in the US need to up our level of respect and patience for older adults. We need to recognize the contributions that this generation has made to our planet; that they fought for our freedom; they pulled us through the Great Depression; they built our national infrastructure; they gave our grandparents and parents — and us — life. We need to grow our understanding and appreciation and respect them more.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

The best leader isan educator: someone who helps others evolve. A leader helps somebody grow, helps them understand their blind spots. A great leader asks questions, and those questions lead to growth. It’s more important for a leader to ask great questions than to dictate great answers.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1.Build your board first. I did things backward, forming a non-profit organization, making some social media posts, arranging media interviews, and then expecting the donations to pour in. But now I know that, with non-profits, building a board of committed people who can help the organization grow is the most important first step. Once I did so, Wish of a Lifetime’s “tribe” — its community of people who truly care about our elderly population — started to really grow.

2. Volunteer management is critical to success. Make sure your volunteers feel supported and appreciated. Go the extra mile to make this happen — your volunteers are your organization’s lifeblood.

3. Prioritize development. Fundraising provides the oxygen to a non-profit. If you’re not fundraising, you can’t pay to grant people’s wishes or hire the staff you need.

4. The paperwork for starting a non-profit is hard. The Internal Revenue Service can be very helpful. I spent many hours filling out the 501(c)(3) forms for WOL, in between football practice sessions.

5. Changing the world takes time. I founded WOL 10 years ago and we’re still dealing with ageism. But when I feel impatient, I look back at all the individuals we’ve helped and I feel confident that we are making a difference is the most important ways.

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. 🙂

I would love to start a global movement toward kindness. We sometimes forget how to agree to disagree, for example, and how to discuss differences with respect for the other. I’d like to inspire people to step out of the “echo chamber” we can so easily place ourselves into now, where everyone agrees with us. This insulation doesn’t help us grow or connect with others. I want to live in a world where we all treat one another with decency and kindness, as we would want to be treated. It would be nice to close the divisiveness in our society today with understanding of what makes us different — and what makes us all better.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The journey is more important than the result.” We tend to focus on achievement — and, in doing so, forget to really enjoy the ride. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in athletics and building companies, it’s to think not just about the end result, but to appreciate the ups and downs, twists and turns.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to spend some time with Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. Not only is he an accomplished entrepreneur — but he’s an amazing philanthropist. Among his many contributions to the world, he is helping to eradicate polio in Africa. Wow!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m @Jeremybloom11 on Twitter.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about one of my great passions — Wish of a Lifetime.


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