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.

Monday, June 27, 2016

My First Bike MS: Tour de Farms in Dekalb | Arthur Holmer

Family and fitness are both very important to me and when I can bundle them together to serve a good cause, I jump at the opportunity.  Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited by my father-in-law to participate in the Bike MS: Tour de Farms charity ride in Dekalb, Illinois, which this year raised over $1.5 million dollars for Multiple Sclerosis research.  The two-day event draws more that 1,500 cyclists to the campus of Northern Illinois University where volunteers have the opportunity to bike up to 125 miles a day for this worthy cause.  Having been off a bike for over 15 years, I was a bit nervous about doing a “century” ride, but my father-in-law put the challenge to me and there was no way I was not going to accept.

My wife brought many incredible things to my life that I’m thankful for and one of those is my father-in-law who is kind, generous, caring and in really good shape! For the past several years he and a group of his physician colleagues, most of whom are in their 50’s, have participated in this biking event, completing 100 miles in a single day.

All smiles after my first training ride!
So as not to embarrass myself, or my sponsors, I began to train in earnest four weeks before the event.  I grant you that 100 miles around Dekalb County is not the same as climbing the Alpe d'Huez, but seven hours in the saddle in the summer heat still takes a bit of preparation!

As some may know, I’m a runner but I didn’t really know if running five or ten miles on a regular basis would translate into the ability to stay in the saddle for so many hours.  I started by choosing my mount, a Trek Domane which is known for both it’s ability to navigate well over rough roads, and as a bike that’s stiff and light enough to pull up some serious hills.  Nearly as important, it’s a good looking machine that I think can continue to inspire me to ride.

Most of my early training was done locally here in Chicago, but the lakefront can be very crowded and getting in distance work sometimes difficult.  About a week before the event I traveled up to Wisconsin where I was able to put in a 29 mile ride, which took about an hour and 45 minutes.

This past Saturday, June 26th 2016, was the day of the event.  The weather was very hot, as predicted, and I was a little nervous about staying hydrated.  Fortunately, the event sponsor's preparation and my father-in-law’s experience paid off and we were ready for the 100-mile event.  Now in its 35th year, Bike MS cares for riders at all skill levels with rest stops every 10 to 20 miles stocked with juices, snacks and comfort facilities, bicycle mechanics along the route, a SAG (support and gear) wagon that travels the route and pre-race training, if needed.  It really is an event in which everyone can participate whether they want to travel 10, 20 or 100 miles.

Our starting point was the NIU Convocation Center, located on the West side of campus. As you can see from the route map captured on my phone, the 100 mile path is similar to a figure-8 that loops its way back to the NIU campus.  One of the surprises on the route was that there actually was 2,300 feet of elevation change which was, for the most part was gentle, rolling hills.  However, at the 58 mile mark, there was a 100 foot incline that covered three miles.  After four hours in the saddle, it felt like it was much more than 100 feet in elevation and it’s when I appreciated the lightness of my Trek bike.

After seven hours and a few stops, we made it back to the NIU campus and the finish line.  I felt exhilarated at having accomplished my first century and proud that I had been able to do it with my father-in-law.  Next year’s event should be even more fun and we’re looking to top our donation pledges by eclipsing $1,000 in 2017.

If you’d like to participate in next year’s event, please feel free to email me or follow the planning for the event at

After 100 miles with my father-in-law. Arthur Holmer is a lucky guy to have married into this family!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reflecting Upon the Meaning of Freedom During Passover, 2016 | Arthur Holmer

For religious, observant and even lapsed Jews, Passover holds special meaning. Commemorating the exodus of Jews from slavery in Egypt, the holiday is meant to encourage contemplation about the sacrifices made and hardships endured so that Jews today might live and worship in freedom.

Freedom.  That’s a very special word that I have, at times, taken for granted.

As I sat down with my family to celebrate Passover this year, I thought about how very different my life - and more importantly the lives of those whom I love - might have been had I lost my freedom. Having plead guilty to a serious lapse in judgement for which I take full responsibility, there was the real possibility in March of 2016 that I would be sentenced to incarceration. It’s worth stating the obvious that everything but the love of family and friends seems trivial when the prospect of losing one’s freedom is both real and imminent.

My path to this moment really began with the emigration of my family from the Soviet Union in 1978.  The Soviet Union was a turbulent place during the 1970’s, especially as it related to Jewish emigration.  In the early part of the decade, during the period of détente when the Soviet government sought to improve relations with the West, a small number of Jews were allowed to leave under the guise of family reunification.  In these early years nearly all Jews leaving the Soviet Union resettled in Israel, motivated largely by their deeply held Zionist beliefs.

Towards the later half of the decade, the motivation and destination of émigrés began to shift.  It’s important to remember that being a Jew in the Soviet Union was to be considered a second class citizen.  This had both economic and religious implications.  Practicing their faith often left Jews with fewer career and economic opportunities. This situation was amplified in an economy largely controlled by the government, graft and “favors.”

With the increase in economic motivation, Soviet Jews began to look past Israel towards one of the handful of countries that would accept immigrants, including the United States.

It was during this time that our family sought to leave the Soviet Union.

The path out of Kiev to the United States began with the sacrifices of my maternal grandfather, Peter 
Holomyansky.  (He'd Americanize that name to "Holmer" upon arrival in the U.S.) A skilled shoemaker, my grandfather was able to find good-paying work in Italy, a country that had, at the time, amicable relations with the Soviet Union. For two years he labored to save enough cash to allow four generations in two families, including one-year-old Arthur Holmer, to leave the Soviet Union in 1978.
My grandfather, Peter Holomyansky in front of his shoe store.

The first stop in our journey was in Vienna, Austria where we spent two weeks.  From there we traveled to Italy where for three months we regrouped and saved a bit of money before we ventured off to America.  Our final destination, Chicago, was chosen not because we had family in this city, but because it was a large city.  That alone not only suggests the level of planning that went into this adventure, but also how eager and passionate my family was to find a new life.

My maternal grandparents in West Rogers Park, Chicago
We arrived in Chicago on November 1, 1978 and with help from Jewish charitable organizations our family was able to find an apartment in West Rogers Park at the corner of Claremont and Devon.  West Rogers Park was, during that time, an enclave for Soviet Jews searching for a place to call home.  The twenty-plus congregations in the area supported a thriving community of kosher butchers, bakers, restaurants and markets. For a family that spoke no English, being able to walk down Devon and to commune with others who shared your language, history and experience was comforting.

Ilya and Galina Holmer, my parents, in Italy
During our years in West Rogers Park my father, who was 26 when he left the Soviet Union, worked in a factory, delivered pizza and sold shoes.  My mother found work as a manicurist in a salon, an occupation she would hold until present day. Despite these humble occupations, both were grateful for the work, clinging to the belief that they could offer their children a better life.

As I was finishing elementary school, my grandparents and parents pooled what money they had saved and purchased a modest home in Skokie where I would spend my days until leaving for college.  One of my most vivid recollections of our Skokie home was the time when it housed nearly fifteen people.  The Holmer’s, as many Jewish-American families did, sponsored relatives in the 1980’s, allowing them to leave the Soviet Union as we had a decade ago.  Without sponsorship it was very difficult for Soviet Jews to emigrate to the US.  For my parents, welcoming nine members of their extended family into their home of 2,500 square feet seemed a small sacrifice to make for freedom.
The Holmer household of 15 people in Skokie in 1988 with sponsored relatives from the Soviet Union 

Freedom.  That precious word.

As I look forward to future Passovers and to writing the next chapter of my professional and personal life, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to honor the sacrifice my family has made on my behalf. Foolish and often selfish decisions of the past will not be repeated. I’m determined to make the most of the freedom that I have to be the best version of Arthur Holmer that I can be.
Arthur Holmer, Robin Holmer and grandmother Asya

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Arthur Holmer Wedding and Robin Holmer Wedding

Robin and I were married in the Summer of 2014. Belatedly, I thought that I would share some details and photos from that most wonderful of days.  Robin, the artistic half of this marriage, developed and orchestrated a "Boho-chic" theme that captured not only the essence of who she is as a creative talent, but also her sense of wonderment and awe at the beauty of nature.

Our wedding venue was Stout's Island Village Lodge which is located on Red Cedar Lake in Wisconsin.  Situated about 240 miles northwest of Chicago, the lodge is about as different from our lives in Old Town in Chicago as you might imagine.  Quiet, contemplative and serene, this part of Wisconsin is the antidote for someone whose professional life doesn't lend itself to moments of introspection.  Robin could not have chosen a more appropriate location for us to focus on who we are as a couple and how our lives will unfold into the future.

Here's a short list of some of the people and businesses that helped to make our wedding so special.
  • Planner: Jessica Wonders
  • Photographer/Videographer: James Netz Photography
  • Floral: Martha's Gardens
  • Venue: Stout's Island Lodge
  • Hair/Makeup: Spa Beauty MN
  • Dress: Inbal Dror
  • Rentals: Apres Party & Tent Rental
  • Entertainment: Insphyre Fire Performers