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Accountability and generosity

Matt Pais

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MDRT members share personal connections to MDRT EDGE charity partner.

As a kid, Daniel P. Smith, LUTCF, RHU, loved watching “Boys Town,” a 1938 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney inspired by Father Edward J. Flanagan’s work with underprivileged kids in Omaha, Nebraska. The 23-year MDRT member from Sheffield Village, Ohio, admired how Flanagan built his operation from the ground up and longed to contribute to that type of mission.

When he met Alex Sheen, the founder of 2020 MDRT EDGE charity partner because I said I would and recipient of an MDRT Foundation $25,000 grant this year, Smith thought, “This is what I’ve always wanted to be part of.”

It started with a flight home from the 2014 MDRT Annual Meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where Sheen spoke on Main Platform about his organization — dedicated to character-based education and accountability, the latter driven through customizable “promise cards” that say “because I said I would” at the bottom. (That can be something as small as a child promising to clean their room, or as large as someone promising to testify against an attacker.) Smith recognized Sheen and waited for him after he got off the plane.

The two shared a car from the airport to their nearby offices, and Smith soon learned how high school students share their difficulties with Sheen and the impact of making promises as heavy as to survive addiction or not to attempt suicide again. Smith began to make charitable contributions to the organization, and his office would also bring food to Sheen’s staff during the holidays.

Eventually, Sheen asked Smith to be a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors. After a year or two on the board, Smith spent a year as the board’s chairman, developing committees and striving toward diversity for an increasingly international organization that has distributed close to 10 million promise cards to more than 153 countries since 2012.

It’s also why Smith, a big basketball fan who still plays every week even in his 70s, donated a signed Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers jersey for because I said I would to raffle off in an effort to raise funds during the pandemic. And this was no ordinary collector’s item; Smith acquired it after shooting hoops with the basketball legend himself. Johnson was the guest of honor at a company event, and Smith defeated him in a contest of best-of-10 shots on stage.

“I was glad to donate the jersey; it wasn’t doing me any good sitting in a drawer in my house,” Smith said. “I always knew one day I’d give it to a charitable operation, and I can’t think of a better place than one that gave me the opportunity to help an important organization grow.”

And you don’t need to have been involved directly for the organization to have made an impact.

Aaron L. Hammer, LUTCF, was also there for Sheen’s Main Platform presentation in 2014, and on his way out, the 13-year MDRT member from St. Cloud, Minnesota, and his father, Steven L. Hammer, CLU, ChFC, a 24-year MDRT member, received a stack of promise cards. They embraced the concept and used the cards around the office from time to time for small tasks or projects, as a reminder of doing what you said you were going to do.

On September 29, 2017, the elder Hammer was leaving an office party and asked his son, “Hey, bud, do you have everything under control?” The younger Hammer said, “Yeah, Dad. I got it.”

The next night, Steven went to sleep and never woke up. The following day, Aaron went into the office and found one of the promise cards.

“Dad, I got this,” he wrote on it, feeling the importance of continuing to serve their clients, manage their team and take care of his mother. “Because I said I would.”

“It’s been in my wallet ever since, and it travels with me every day,” Hammer said.

Hammer hasn’t given out a promise card since his father died; the meaning of them has changed, and he’s waiting for something that feels large enough. But he carries the because I said I would mantra through his actions, making sure to get the little things done as quickly as he can.

“I like history and the Old West. When somebody gave you their word, it meant a lot,” Hammer said. “And I think in this day and age, it still should and it still can.”

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Aaron Hammer

Danny Smith


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