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May 22, 2005

Strengthening The Good: Susan Tom & The Tom Family Education Trust

Update (11/6/05): For those coming here for the first time (and after seeing the Extreme Makeover Home Edition about Susan), please visit this latest update after reading the post below, and please note that we're currently accepting donations for the Red Cross Katrina Relief fund, not Susan's education trust. If you'd like to contribute to Susan's fund, the post below will send you there.


~ Alan


It's been roughly one year since the post that started it all: My call to strengthen the good of Susan Tom, over at Command Post on May 11th, 2004. As I wrote then:

Tonight, I finished watching the HBO documentary My Flesh And Blood, which tells the story of Susan Tom, a 53-year-old single mother in Fairfield, California. Susan is the mother of 13 children, 11 of whom she has adopted, many of whom suffer from handicaps and diseases. Teenagers Hannah and Xenia were born without legs. Anthony has a degenerative and usually fatal skin disease. Eight-year-old Faith has disfiguring scars and no hair from being badly burned as an infant. Joe, 15, recently passed away from cystic fibrosis. Margaret, 18, helps Susan raise the family. (You can learn more about her story here, here, here and here, you can read about the documentary here and here.)

Hers is a powerful and wonderfully inspiring story. It left me moved by the grace, love, and caring Susan Tom exhibits to these children … her children … children whom, without her, may very well have gone throughout life without love, without tenderness, without a chance … without having really lived at all.

stc.jpgI turn from that documentary to The Command Post, where I see posted the photographs of Nick Berg’s beheading, and I’m struck bluntly by the complete antithesis of Susan Tom: murder, brutality, and disgusting inhumanity. In moments, I went from having tears in my eyes to having bile in my throat. And I’m left wondering, as I’m sure are most of us are, what exactly to make of it all.

Well, I’ve decided what to make of it all, and what I’m going to make is some good. Susan Tom is a hero … one of millions … waking each day with a commitment to make the lives of others better through love. Hers is an example to which humanity should aspire. So my response to the murder of Nick Berg and the inhumanity it represents is to use it as motivation to give to Susan Tom and the humanity she represents.

All of Susan Tom’s children save Katie plan to attend college. Susan will have education bills to pay, and toward that end she’s established the non-profit Tom Family Education Trust to assist the Tom children with college tuition and book expenses (according to the stipulation of the trust, the monies can not be used for any other purpose).

For the next three days, between the time stamp of this post and Midnight EDT Friday night, Michele and I will contribute all donations made to The Command Post PayPal account to the Tom Family Education Trust ...

... How do you win the war of Good and Evil? You fight Evil, and you strengthen the Good. And it's something we should always do: as we move to eradicate Evil, we should also move to strengthen the Good.

I’ve already given $50. In the name of strengthening what’s Good, let’s help send the Tom kids to college.

Those who remember that post also likely remember what happened next: The initial response was good enough that I set the bold goal of raising $10,000. It turns out I was off base in that goal: In three days we did not raise $10,000--we raised $15,000 for the education of Susan's kids.

susanandalan.jpgIn the year since, some things have changed: Susan's son, Anthony, finally lost his battle to cancer just days before Christmas, 2004. And some things have not: Susan continues to raise her family, giving these kids who would otherwise have no shot at all, all the shot in the world. (I also had opportunity to meet Susan last Summer ... there's a shot of me trying to get her to mug for the camera with Faith in the background.)

It was the experience of raising those $15,000, and the good they created for Susan, her kids, and the bloggers and readers who participated, that ultimately led to my creating Strengthen The Good. So, in a sense, Susan's not just responsible for the good she's done for her children--she's also responsible for the creation of this nonprofit, and for the good it's done for others ... for the victims of Hurricane Charley, for Debi Faris, for the Brent Woodall Foundation, and for the students of Petrzalka.

So today, Strengthen The Good is pleased to profile Susan Tom and the Tom Family Education Trust, as I hope to do every May until all her kids have graduated college. She's my hero.

The usual disclaimers: STG is not just an encouragement to donate; it's also an attempt to create awareness. So to learn more about the Tom Family Education Trust, visit Susan's site.

If you do choose to donate, you may do so via PayPal at her site, via our PayPal button in the right-hand column of this page (donations to STG are tax-deductible; as of my last inquiry donations directly to Susan's Trust were not), or via check to:

The Tom Family Education Trust
P.O. Box 2236
Fairfield, Ca. 94533

Now ... be responsible. Just because I've satisfied my qualification of this charity does not mean you've satisfied yours. You are responsible for satisfying your own qualification of this or any other charity STG may point to, and while I am profiling this charity, I do not guarantee its legitimacy, its use of whatever funds you might donate, or the accuracy or of the information on its web site.

Hopefully that's satisfied the attorneys, and we can get back to the business at hand.

Thank you for reading about Susan. She's a remarkable source of inspiration for me, I hope she is for you, and thank you for working to strengthen the good.

Posted by Alan at May 22, 2005 04:32 PM

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I too did what I could do. Nothing means so much to me as to know the Toms. Sometimes my reach fell me, but I got to hug Susan and the girls when they visit me two summers ago. Susan, thanks for letting me do my part.

Love and hugs to all,

Posted by: John Storrs at October 29, 2005 04:37 PM