Believe me, this is not a game. I really mean follow the leader. Whether that’s following in the footsteps of the organizations that these TEDxCAE speakers are representing or inventing your own way to improve the lives of our community – get to it. Need some inspiration? Then check out this quick synopsis of this eclectic group.

“Life is a shattered glass… we’re the ones who help put it back together.” That’s how Bedrija Jazic from the Office of Refugee Resettlement at Lutheran Family Services spoke about her job. As the first speaker on stage, she really set the tone for the day by asking us all to figure out ways that we can help our own community. Something as simple as volunteering your time to show a newly relocated refugee how to shop at a grocery store is one way to start. Want to hear more?

Watch out Bill Cosby! Dr Stuart Hamilton is in the house. His quick wit, wry smile and colorfully loud tie caught my attention right away. As the founder and CEO of the Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center, he has changed lives here by providing healthcare to those that have no where else to go. But it was the very end of the talk I loved the best. He requested that we – the audience – take his baton of good will and keep on running. He’d be a great one to follow, that’s for sure.

Dr John Zubizarreta is about to blow! He’s tired of the trash talk in regards to education in our state. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes our politics and media coverage get in the way of seeing the good strides we’re making in educational pursuits. His nomination as “U.S. Professor of the Year” for undergraduate baccalaureate colleges from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) is proof of this statement. His work at Columbia College is one that we should all be proud of. And if that’s not enough for you, check out SC Minds @ Work. It’s something Chernoff Newman worked on to showcase the positive strides we’ve made as a state in education improvement.

I had never heard of Christine Johnson before. This kind of makes me wonder if I’ve been living under a rock. But maybe not – maybe her moving here from Utah where she served two terms in the House of Representatives was not covered by mainstream media. She came to Columbia last fall to lead the reins at SC Equality. And her quiet insistence to say yes to what moves you provoked a resounding roar from the room. If you want to hear more about how she is leading a charge for Equal Means Everyone, then visit

Dr Julius Fridriksson got a standing ovation. It was obvious he didn’t know what to do with it. Even though he’s a rock star at the University of South Carolina for his Aphasia Laboratory, it’s clear that he’s uncomfortable with the praise he receives for his findings. Stroke can be debilitating in many ways and aphasia is one symptom that causes speech impairment. Dr. Fridriksson has found a way for people with aphasia to speak aloud by mimicking others. And it does it with the use of an iPod, a set of ear buds and a prerecorded video message. Not kidding. He showed us a man who has suffered from aphasia for years repeat what someone else was saying by following their mouth and listening to their words. It brought tears to my eyes (again!). This really hits home. I suffer from severe migraines. Luckily, it’s something that only happens every once in a while. But two times in my life I have gotten a migraine so severe that during its onset I lost the ability to say what I was thinking. THIS. WAS. DEVASTATING. Not to mention scary as all get out. The first time it happened I was in middle school. My Mom freaked – she’s a nurse, so she knew it was bad – and took me to a neurologist who told me I was having symptoms that are akin to mini strokes. So – I know that I’m not a stroke victim, but I also know a little about what this man’s research means to a population of people who suffer from aphasia. He is indeed a rock star. And I hope he keeps on discovering ways to improve the lives of stroke victims. And… did I mention this is happening right here in Columbia??? More info on his research.

You can’t be in the world of advertising today without knowing about CreateAthon. There are 73 agencies across the US, Canada and Puerto Rico that participate in this 24-hour creative marathon for local non-profits that have little or no marketing money. It’s also made its way into Universities across America through CreateAthon on Campus. Teresa Coles from Riggs Partners spoke to us about how CreateAthon came to be, how it’s grown and how it has impacted more than 1,100 non-profit organizations, delivering 2,500 projects that are valued at more than $11 million. MILLION. Yes, you read that right. And it all started right here in Columbia, SC back in 1998. Being in the ad business myself, I understand how you pour your heart and soul into a new project – especially one that benefits people who are really in need. If you are working for a non-profit and need some marketing help, find out more about CreateAthon and what it can do for your cause.

I tweeted that Jay Bender was killing it when he spoke last Monday. I wasn’t joking. This guy made me want to go back to school – and I hated my media law class back in the day. He was last on the docket and he spoke with vim and vigor on free speech. I was truly inspired. It made me think that I am just far enough removed from college to have forgotten what kind of spirit a great teacher can incite. It doesn’t hurt that he is funny as hell. Just take one look at his University of South Carolina page and you’ll see what I mean. Note: Read the last paragraph and the caption to his motorcycle picture. Jay Bender woke up my mind and made me remember that there needs to be a continual and constant fight for what’s right. And I truly thank him for that.

So there are your leaders, Columbia. Take note – and the baton. I’ll be back later in the week with a host of entertainers you need to see.