Advice altruist

Meet Marco Foster - Chicago's Own Altruist

Saturday, December 27, 2014 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

“Taking advantage of every minute life gives me and living without regrets” is the mantra of self-proclaimed computer geek by day, event planner by night Marco Foster. After an eye opening experience battling brain cancer, this Chicagoan is living life to its fullest while managing to help others along the way. This year marked the fourth year of his The Grinch That Gave Back Christmas event, an amazing evening on December 12th, mixing seasonal style and charity, benefitting the Brain Injury Association of Illinois. He is Chicago’s own altruist and took some time out of his busy schedule to share his journey in this latest issue of Halfstack. Read on to be inspired.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got your start in your career? 

I have always had a great passion for giving back, as I have experienced so much in my life and consider myself extremely blessed. My foray into planning philanthropic events began in 2009, and actually started out as my own birthday party! I had just gone through a life changing event, having been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and it really opened my eyes to helping others. I teamed up with the amazing organization, One Hope United, which benefits foster children and ensures each child has a safe and loving home. I was actually a foster child myself, so I knew that this charity was something that I could really get behind. In lieu of gifts, I asked all of my guests to make a donation to One Hope United. The evening, which has now become my annual White Party, was so special and it inspired me to begin planning even more charitable events. From there, I got really involved in executing these events and working with organizations that are close to my heart, such as the Brain Injury Association of Illinois, which is the feature charity for my annual The Grinch Who Gave Back Christmas event on December 12th!

How has your battle and defeat of a brain tumor changed your outlook on life, work and your connection with the community? 

It really put everything into perspective for me. Getting through that ordeal had a profound effect on me, and I knew immediately that I beat that tumor for a reason. Throughout my life, I have experienced immense support and kindness, and I felt that I needed to put this positivity back into the community. Not everyone has the happy ending that I had, and it is extremely important that I do all that I can to help those struggling with the many difficulties that I have faced myself.

What was the hardest challenge you had to overcome when facing your battle? 

The hardest challenge for me to overcome during my battle, was that I had to accept my fate. What was going to happen was going to happen, so I think facing that reality was tough for me. Luckily, my fate was to overcome this challenge, which has kept me here to help others that aren’t so fortunate.

What do you feel has been your greatest success so far? 

Although I am extremely proud of the events that I have produced and the awareness and funds raised for the charities I work with, I don’t think that I have a greatest success so far, because it is really an ongoing mission. I’m always trying to think of ways to make my next project more successful than the last, so I’m constantly looking forward to what’s next!

Have you always been involved in charitable works with your community or was it after your journey that you started your mission? 

I have always given back through giving my time to charitable organizations, however it was after my journey that I began my larger mission. By bringing the community together through events that combine style and altruism, I realized that I could make a big difference. Although my main goal in planning these events was originally raising money, I have also been able to bring these causes to the forefront of so many minds, which to me is truly priceless.

Can you tell us more about the Brain Injury Association of Illinois and how others can get involved with it? 

The Brain Injury Association of Illinois is wonderful not-for-profit statewide organizations which connects those affected by brain injuries while also spreading awareness and education. Whether it is a family member, or someone who is suffering themselves, the organization aims to bring people together and create support systems, which is so important to anyone going through a tough time. There are many ways that Chicagoans can become involved with the Brain Injury Association of Illinois. From becoming a member themselves to sponsoring a child to help them attend special summer camp programs, any donation, large or small, makes an impact.

People have this inherent need to connect with and to help one another, but it seems so often that we feel we do not have the means to do so. What are some ways that you feel people can get involved in making a difference in their community and the lives of the people within their community? 

Although it is amazing to donate funds, it is just as important to donate your time and efforts to charitable organizations. It can be as simple as mentoring a child, which I love to do through One Hope United, or even just spreading awareness for a certain cause. The greatest thing about charity is that it stems from goodwill and no matter what you give, your contribution will make a difference in someone’s life.

Can you tell us more about the events that you organized and how they benefit the charitable organization you work with? 

Throughout the year, I plan multiple events that benefit organizations that are personally very meaningful. From my annual The Grinch Who Gave Back Christmas event which fundraises for the Brain Injury Association of Illinois, to the yearly White Party which partners with One Hope United, to the Red, White, and Blue Fundraiser which benefits the Wounded Warrior Project, my events are planned around each organization. Funds are collected through ticket sales and great raffles, but even more knowledge for each charity is raised through the events themselves!

Can you offer any advice for those interested in pursuing a professional career in charitable work or event planning?

Event planning is hard work, and planning charitable events is no exception. Make sure that you are prepared for a big challenge and that you are fully committed to your causes. Although it takes a lot of effort, nothing is more fulfilling that executing a successful event that raises funds and awareness for an organization that is close to your heart.

Do you have any thoughts or words of encouragement for those facing a hard battle (whether it be health, mental or personal) that you could share? 

My biggest advice is to tap into your support system. Whether it’s your family or your friends, going through a tough time is scary, and it helps so much to be surrounded by the people you love. Being alone is always tough, especially if you are facing a battle, so I am extremely thankful that I was constantly surrounded by the love and support of my amazing friends and family.

If you could go back and tell your 20 year old self one thing, what would it be? 

Give back every day. I would never be where I am today without the goodwill of others. Because of my many blessings, I was be able to find a way to give back to those in need and the great city of Chicago, and at 20, I never guessed that I would be able to plan annual events that benefit these causes. I am very lucky to be able to successfully execute these events yearly, and am very thankful that I’ve been able to make them bigger and better each year.

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