OK. So this one unfortunately has to start with major disclaimers. I’m so eager to have you get to the meat of my message, that I have to start with all the caveats that will get you past all the potential roadblocks (if there are any).
This is not a political post. I want you to read this post no matter whom you voted for President, or how you may feel about our current political landscape. I have said before that I think there are some things, some human conditions and experiences, that can draw us together despite whatever other views and opinions may wedge us apart. And now more than ever, I find myself only able to focus on the needs of my immediate world, the needs of my friends and family when I find myself feeling incapable or unable to effect change on a larger scale. So, as it often has been in my adult life, I spend my energy on how I can improve things for my family, my kids, and especially for my daughter Caitlin who has battled Systemic Juvenile Arthritis since the age of 3. I expect that you love your family too, and that you spend your energy in much the same priorities, even if we choose different tactics.
So – Celebrity Apprentice. Some of you may love the show for who is famous for creating it and some of you despise it for the very same reason. I’m not trying to convince you either way.
This show has been on for years and it has had tremendous benefits for the charities associated with it, both in terms of money and awareness. It’s this very reason that I used to long to have one of the contestants choose the Arthritis Foundation as a beneficiary – because the awareness those in this world crave would be given a huge boost. For those that are tired of explaining that kids get arthritis too, or that RA is a real disease even if you “can’t see it”, and that there are more than 100 types of arthritis and 2/3 of those affected are under the age of 65…having somebody tell the story in primetime on a national broadcast is very validating and wonderful. It is a gift. I have even written about this in the past, when Lou Ferrigno was on this show and chose a different charity (though obviously very worthy) – I wondered if any celebrity would ever be willing to step up to the plate, to bat away misconceptions, and hitch themselves to us knowing that doing so may cause people to think of them as not young, not able, not marketable…not whatever they want to be. I wrote that post most almost five years ago.
And now – somebody has done just what I and so many other wished for all those years. Matt Iseman, host of American Ninja Warrior and Sports Soup, actor, stand-up comedian and actual doctor is appearing on this season’s The New Celebrity Apprentice. Matt was diagnosed with RA when he was 31 years old and he has not kept that a secret, despite the fact that it could impact his career. He has worked not only with the Arthritis Foundation, but with other organizations to help improve the lives of people with arthritis – because he is passionate and feels it is the right thing to do. These same qualities are what led Matt to leave his career in medicine to follow his heart to comedy. He has often used humor and his talents to help people with their own experiences. Matt is all about inspiring people to live their best life, no matter what challenges they face.
This season on The New Celebrity Apprentice has been no exception. Matt has been a tremendously hard worker and such an all around good guy that many of the other celebrities have jokingly asked is he is for real. He described himself as the “least famous” on the show, and certainly came on as a bit of a dark horse running. He has displayed such dexterity in using empathy to process other people’s perspectives in order to open meaningful conversation with them, he seems a perfectly rounded leader. There didn’t seem to be anybody who didn’t like him, or didn’t appreciate his energy, humor, tenacity and perseverance. He certainly led by example throughout the season, and often was the sweat equity behind a winning project manager. He even successfully led two projects of his own and gifted $100,000 to the Arthritis Foundation because of those efforts. I was there the day they filmed that check presentation, and let me tell you – that man played with our kids for hours in the hot sun, and did so honestly and with such fun in his heart and generosity of spirit… it was not for show.
I guess that is the meat of my message. This is not just for show. Not just for A show. This means a tremendous amount to Matt Iseman and this means a lot to me. Now that Matt is in the finale, he has the opportunity to raise a phenomenal amount of money for our cause. And if he is chosen as the winner of the final task, he will win an additional $250,000. I am a fairly consistent and successful fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation. With all my raffles, and restaurant nights, and cookies sales, and letter writing and plain straight out asking everybody I know – it took my entire team TEN YEARS to hit $250K raised. And Matt could very well be about to do that in one shot.
So, is that more important to me than who is listed as Executive Producer on the credits? I won’t claim to even understand what that actually means. This show was filmed a year ago, and we had a very widespread field of politics ahead of us at that point. I just know that the celebrities who signed on had no idea of what was to come, how it would affect the editing, the airing, the ratings, the public response, that trying to raise money for an important cause would become controversial. And I understand if it is that important to you – if the politics have created bigger needs than this cause or perhaps added urgency to this cause. I understand if you feel I am displaying too much privilege by supporting a show you could never support.
But I guess what I am saying is… whether you disagree or not, I don’t see it as supporting a show, or a political view, or an executive producer’s bankroll, or an ex-governor’s acting career- I see it as supporting a man who is using his hard-won time in the spotlight to shine awareness on a reality for more than 300,000 kids and 65 million adults. I see it as trying to help a warrior who is leading the same charge in the battle I have been waging for 15 years make some progress towards the research breakthroughs we want.
I am so very very grateful for Matt Iseman. I am honored to have met him several times (and he is even better looking in person- you touch his arms and they are steel! No wonder the kids think he is a super hero!) and he always remembers me and asks how Caitlin is doing. He is just a very down to earth, generous man with a servant heart….. trying to be the change he wants in the world. I support his efforts and I am rooting for him all the way.
I don’t want to convince you to support a show, or the show’s creator, or its hosts past or present- I just want to ask you to support a man. I’m asking that you root for the good guy, the underdog, the Celebrity Warrior who stepped up to the challenge for people with arthritis. Send your cheer and hope up for Matt Iseman and his quest to do really good things! Drop him some love or thanks through facebook or through Twitter @mattiseman….and send some energy for a win his way tomorrow night. #GoMattGo You can also donate or vote to support Matt here.
P.S. In case you think I don’t also love Boy George –
Because they filmed this show in Los Angeles this season, we were able to lend support when they filmed local challenges. My Mom and husband (photo bomb on the left) and I went to Sees Candy to give a donation (did not know who the project manager was, or who would get the $… but Matt asked through facebook so we went. It ultimately went to Vince Neill’s terrific charity). Boy George was so charming and welcoming to everybody, and took this selfie with my mom, whom he lovingly called “pretend English lady”. He is also a wonderful soul, playing for a great cause, and any win for him is a good thing as well:)