Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Never Had a Bad Day Foundation - 365 Days of 365 Smiles | Arthur Holmer

Most people, when given the choice, will try to do good in their lives. If you’re walking down the street and someone stumbles in front of you, I like to think that virtually everyone would lend that fellow a hand.

I’ve often wondered how an act of caring affects those who have witnessed a good deed. Much like the Liberty Mutual “Pay if Forward” commercial, does a kind word or small gesture somehow transfer and expand to those around us?

My friend, Erik Baylis, is a multiplier.  He’s one of those who can embrace small acts of kindness towards him with waves of good will towards others.  Though Erik is reluctant to share his back story, the loving husband, father and business leader he is today is the product not only to his indomitable spirit and hard work, but also the kindness shown to him by others.

Erik’s booming voice and physical presence sometimes hides a spiritual side that’s perfectly represented in his catch phrase, “I’ve never had a bad day!”

In 1994, while visiting a family member in hospice, Erik met an elderly man in a wheel chair whose spirit and outlook resonated deeply with him. Greeting the gentleman, who was nearing the end of his life, Erik matter-of-factly asked, “Hello sir, how are you doing?”  Expecting a similarly perfunctory reply, the man energetically responded, “I have never had a bad day in my life!” The effusiveness of the response took Erik surprise and he asked reflexively how that could be. The gentleman’s response was simple - maintaining a positive outlook will shape how you perceive life’s situations, even the most difficult ones.

Several years later, upon learning that he had been afflicted by a form of throat cancer, Erik was prepared to face this personal challenge surrounded by those he loved and a deep, positive spirit.  Erik was the embodiment and spirit of, “Never had a bad day!”

Through the grace of God and the skilled, caring hands of doctors at Northwestern, Erik has fully recovered from his bout with cancer. Never one to let a good deed end with him, Erik worked over several years on a plan to start a foundation that might help other cancer patients find support and a smile as they journeyed through treatments and challenges.

Erik had had a dream of building a charitable foundation and collectively we did just that. I’m privileged to have played an integral role in creating the Never Had a Bad Day Foundation.

The Never Had a Bad Day Foundation (NHBD) was founded last year with the purpose of
spreading 365 Days of 365 Smiles to pediatric cancer patients and their families in the greater Chicago area. We believe in the power of an optimistic attitude, and sharing the philosophy that where there is life, there’s the opportunity to have a great day.

Arthur Holmer & Robin Holmer at an NHBD Fundraiser in 2016

The NHBD goal is to inspire more reasons for children and their supporting families to smile. Our donations are directed at relieving the financial, material and emotional strains on a family, allowing them to focus on the treatment of the child.

The foundation works with local hospitals to connect with families who may benefit from a smile and a bit of help. Our goal is to touch 365 individuals and families each year through small gifts that include hospital parking fees, gasoline gift cards, a supply of groceries, and more! With one less thing to worry about, we hope to give families more reasons to smile. Each year we will continue furthering our mission to encourage positivity so others can say they have never had a bad day.

Of course, a foundation like Never Had a Bad Day survives and thrives on the donations of time, expertise and money from giving souls who support our endeavors.  Next month we are having our first official event, which will be a casino night held at The Lakewood on July 29th. There will be an open bar, plenty of food, and live entertainment. Lou Canellis from Fox 32 sports will be the host and guest speaker for the event.  If you are able to join us, please purchase your tickets here. If you are unable to attend but would like to donate, we have an open donation option on our ticket site.

Please visit our NHBD Website to learn more about the charity. You can follow our social media accounts to keep up with the progress from the onset of our newly formed foundation. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Not all anniversaries are celebrated out loud.

There are many anniversaries in one’s life. Typically they’re happy events marking a moment of love proclaimed, health restored, or goals achieved.  But there are other anniversaries celebrated with less fanfare, and because of their nature are approached with a deeper sense of reflection and contemplation.  Anniversaries like these often focus on a moment when the direction of one’s life has changed, when one takes stock in what they have done, or haven’t done.

I’m coming up on an anniversary in a few months that won’t be marked with a celebration, but rather with regret, humility and a determination to do something positive and lasting with the opportunities afforded me each day.

As part of my court supervised probation, I am required to perform a set amount of hours in service to the community. What I’m determined to do is to not just be physically present, but to be fully engaged in each moment that I serve.  My motivation comes not only from a sense of responsibility, but also a desire to seize these moments as an opportunity to learn and to grow.

There’s little doubt that if I had not acted in a way that put me in front of the court that I would not have become acquainted with Franciscan Outreach.  For over 50 years Franciscan Outreach has helped the homeless to sit in front of a hot meal, be sheltered for a night, and to enjoy, at least for a moment, a sense of security that cannot be found out on the street. 

Located at 1645 West Lemoyne on the west side of Chicago, the program was founded in 1963 by Father Phillip Marquard, a Franciscan Friar, who wanted to help ex-offenders with housing and preparation for re-entry into society.  As the needs of the community changed, the mission of Franciscan Outreach evolved to focus on the plight of the homeless.  Today, Franciscan serves hundreds of those in need with food, shelter and counseling.

Like many, I often do not see the homeless, even though I pass these men and women every day.  I reflexively avert my eyes from the body lying on cardboard at my feet to my phone with an intensity that’s superficial and transparent.  I don’t want to engage because I don’t want to be asked for money, I don’t want to be slowed from my walk and I don’t want to be forced to acknowledge the disparity between them and me.  I avoid interaction with the homeless because it’s just easier.

My fledgling period of service at Franciscan has helped to re-focus my eyes, open my mind and soften my heart to the guests of the outreach program.  At Franciscan, the volunteers are taught that the most important part of the service is not the efficient ladling of food, but the interaction that one allows between themselves and those whom they serve.  It’s not about becoming friends, but rather acknowledging that no matter how different our circumstances, we share a common humanity that deserves respect, empathy and understanding.

The plight of the homeless is a complex issue often involving mental illness, substance abuse and more often than one might imagine, a run of bad luck.  As the anniversary of my court hearing approaches, I’ll be quietly remembering the forgiveness and generosity I was shown and will endeavor to be worthy of those gifts.

(If you'd like to learn more about Franciscan Outreach and considering the possibility of donating or volunteering to this worthy cause, please visit

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Stand Up 2 Cancer Charitable Event at Fatpour in Chicago - Arthur Holmer

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years it’s that life has a way of coming at you very fast. Sometimes the challenges are of one’s own making. Other times, the hurdles seem incredibly, mind-numbingly random.

One of my dear friends, Erik Baylis, has persevered as a card-carrying member of the latter category, inspiring me and many others along the way.

My relationship with Erik began when he was hired to manage the existing BOTG properties and to help grow the business. Truth be told, I was not particularly involved in his hiring or working with him early on. I did not get to know Erik well until the Wells Street Companies partnership dissolved, putting us in regular contact.

I had known that shortly after his hiring that Erik had battled throat cancer.  What I only learned as we became friends were the challenges he faced early on in his life, his unique spirit and his determination to provide others with the help and opportunities that he might not have enjoyed.

One of the ways Erik expresses his spirit for giving is by sponsoring an annual fundraiser at Fatpour to support Stand Up to Cancer.  For obvious reasons, Erik is passionate about helping those working to find a cure for cancer. This year the annual Ugly Holiday Sweater Party raised over $17,000 on a snowy night to support cancer research and, locally, the Lurie Cancer Center’s amazing oncology nurses.

The evening, which featured photos with Santa, a silent auction and the ugliest holiday sweaters in Chicago, was a great success as the photos below suggest.  In the months ahead Erik will be sharing the details on a new foundation he has founded which will provide young people with opportunities for personal, educational and professional growth.  Sporting Erik’s personal motto, Never Had a Bad Day, the Baylis foundation will embody Erik’s loving and relentless approach towards life.

It is an honor to serve on the foundation’s Board of Directors and to help Erik realize his vision for the Never Had a Bad Day foundation.  I’m excited to work with him to make the success it deserves to be.

The silent auction drew strong interest and participation

Having fun for a very good cause, Stand Up 2 Cancer
Erik Baylis, Chairman Baylis Foundation and Stand Up 2 Cancer event organizer

Robin Holmer and Arthur Holmer, Director, the Baylis Foundation and Never Had a Bad Day

Lindsey Hom of Boardwalk Capital Management

Monday, November 28, 2016

Arthur Holmer Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year as it’s the opportunity for Robin’s and my family to get together, share a meal, and reflect upon things that our combined families are thankful for.  2016 could have been a year of many challenges for Robin and me, but it’s turned into a time of learning, growing and to cherishing the small things that bring the greatest joy in life.

This year was my mom and dad’s turn to host the gathering in their Skokie home.  As you can see by the photos, the table was packed with all of the foods that one might expect at a Thanksgiving feast. One of my friends asked if we had any traditional foods from the Ukraine in honor of the Holmer family roots.  The truth is we didn’t, but I can definitely see Varenyky, a traditional dumpling filled with mashed potatos and minced meat fitting right in at next year’s Thanksgiving table!

I hope that you and your family had a Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, joy and good food!

The extended Holmer family fully invested in Thanksgiving Dinner!
Mom and my lovely sister-in-law!

My lovely wife, Robin, and her dad.
Arthur Holmer and Robin Holmer in the Holmer home in Skokie.

My incredible physician-for-a-sister!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hill Country Half Marathon 2016 - Arthur Holmer & Robin Holmer

I’ve never been much of a runner, but Robin, my wife, certainly is.  If you know Robin you know she’s incredibly fit. Her positive energy and attitude is, she’s often suggested, due at least in part to how running makes her feel.

In the past I have thought running to be somewhat monotonous and, frankly, a fairly inefficient way to exercise. I thought that what I could accomplish in the gym in 45 minutes would take twice as long running along the side of a road.

Over the past two years I’ve made a conscious effort to widen my view and to experience things that I might have previously avoided or dismissed. As Steve Jobs often intoned, the journey is the reward.

Recently, I suggested to Robin that we visit Austin and the hill country of Texas. Sharing a love for nature, I thought she would find Austin and the surrounding area both fun and soul-satisfying.

The Texas Hill Country is located in the Edwards Plateau region in the central part of Texas. It’s known for canyons, rock-strewn hills and hundreds of brooks and springs. The topographical range is from a hundred feet to over 3,000 feet above sea level, creating several micro-climates that are home to any number of rare plants and wildlife.

As luck would have it, Robin found a half-marathon event taking place in October - the Hill Country Half Marathon. As both a fun and semi-serious running event, Robin thought it would be a terrific opportunity for her to challenge herself while I participated in my first timed event, a 5k.

The Hill Country Half Marathon is a Halloween run supporting the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas.  Attracting primarily locals, it’s the type of event that attracts runners of various skill levels in support of an excellent cause.

Robin’s goal, in addition to cajoling me to run with her, was to best her most recent time for a half marathon. My goal for the Hill Country Half Marathon was a bit more modest.  I just wanted to finish!

In preparation for the event, Robin went about her normal, strenuous, daily training schedule.  For my preparation, I embarked upon a new training regimen of running 3 or 4 miles, three to four times a week.  At first, I found the training boring.  Within a few weeks, my forty-five minute runs became an eagerly anticipated time when I could free my mind and become totally involved in my surroundings.  As a result of my new appreciation for running, and the progress I made, I decided to attempt the half-marathon, rather than to do just the 5k. 

I’m proud to report that Robin came in third in her age group with a time of 1:48:15, that comes out to an incredible 8.14 minutes a mile over 13 miles!  How did I do?  I finished with a time of 2:30:18, nearly 45 minutes behind Robin but with just as big a smile on my face! 

Running the half-marathon made me feel great and I have Robin to thank for encouraging me to have that experience.  In a small way I helped support the Austin families who live and love with a family member with Downs Syndrome, while also enjoying a wonderful extended weekend in Austin with my beautiful, fleet-footed wife.

Here are some additional photos of the many who found joy running this Fall day for a good cause.