Millions of people around the globe have looked to motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins for personal and professional development over the past four decades. But for one 12-year-old girl from Northern California, watching just one of his videos about his childhood struggles with poverty and the incredible compassion his community showed his family was enough to inspire her to spring into action.
This past November, Danville seventh grader Caroline Oromchian founded a local chapter of Basket Brigade, the nonprofit program Tony Robbins founded to feed those in need. Within weeks she was responsible for leading her community to feed 121 families for Thanksgiving.
We talked to Caroline about her work with Basket Brigade and her aspirations for her local chapter’s growth in the future.
ML: What inspired you to start a local chapter of Basket Brigade? How did you learn about Tony Robbin’s work?
CO: I watched a video by Tony Robbins where he explained how when he was growing up, he experienced many Thanksgivings when his family didn’t have food and his father was too proud to ask for help. One day a couple showed up at his door with a basket of food without asking for anything in return. He was so moved by that act of generosity that he began Basket Brigades.
When I researched the organization further, I was blown away by the number of families that have been helped by various local chapters of the Brigades and I really wanted to be part of it, as it is the truest sense of giving – no strings attached whatsoever. Every ounce of our effort goes to feeding a family.
I am blessed to have been born into a family that has the means to provide for me and my sisters. This is my way of giving back with the one commodity that I have: energy. I hope to meet Mr. Robbins one day but I look forward to reading his books in the meantime.
ML: When did the Danville chapter start?
CO: This was our inaugural year! Danville Basket Brigade launched on November 17, 2018, but we are already planning for next year. I learned a lot about not only how to organize but how to manage the volunteers and donations. My dad is going to help me file to become an official 501c3 non-profit so we can get formal donations from businesses and other organizations. This year we fed 121 families. I want to double what we did this year and aim for 250 baskets for next year.
ML: Congratulations on feeding 121 families this year! How did you find the beneficiary families?
CO: Thank you! We were so thrilled about reaching that number since our goal was 100. We contacted numerous charities that work directly with families in need and we decided to donate to Shelter, Inc. in Concord. Their mission is to help homeless families find a home and jobs, and learn skills that can help them thrive. As a result of privacy concerns, they asked us to deliver the baskets to them and the families picked them up a few days before Thanksgiving. Feeding 121 families that would otherwise not have a full Thanksgiving meal is super satisfying.
ML: Tell me more about the food included in the baskets. Is it primarily pre-made or more like ingredients for the families to make at home?
CO: Some of the food we provided in the baskets was non-perishable, like canned gravy, and some were perishable such as cookies and pies. Additionally, we also put some non-food items that we thought they could use such as toothbrushes, crayons, coloring books, lotion and hair brushes. As far as the turkeys were concerned, Shelter, Inc. advised us not to buy frozen turkeys so instead we included gift cards so the families could buy their own turkeys.
ML: How has your community responded to your initiative?
CO: The outpouring of support we received from local Danville residents was incredible and beyond my expectations. Although it was a smoke-filled day as a result of the fires in Paradise, we had over 100 people including grandparents, parents and kids volunteer that day. And as word got out about our event, we had numerous other families reach out and ask us to keep them informed for next year.
ML: How did you get the word out to your community about your event? Did you know in advance of the packaging day what was coming as far as donations?
CO: I posted onto Nextdoor and Instagram, but the main way we were able to get the word out was talking to people about the event and also passing out some flyers that we made in advance. We additionally set up a Sign-Up-Genius which allowed us to track and monitor all of the donations we received.
ML: What do you like about helping other people? How does it make you feel?
CO: It made me so grateful when I saw all of the people at the basket brigade. It showed how many people want to give back to our community. I hope that in the future more people realize how many people we are helping and contribute too.