Spring is in the air, and that means it's the perfect time to get out and get moving. In this episode, we dive into our city's parks and trails and discuss how we can meet our wellness goals while also exploring and discovering new places throughout the metro. We are joined by Marsha Funk, director of the Greater OKC Parks & Trails Foundation, KeepMovingOKC's spokesperson Leah Philpott and OCCF's Lanc Gross and Brian Dougherty.
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Dan Martel 0:32
A lot of folks right here in central Oklahoma are unaware of how many public parks and trails we have. Fifty-six percent of the citizens right here in Oklahoma City live it within half a mile of a park or a trail. That equates to one park for every 3,995 residents.
Hello, I'm Dan Martel and welcome back to Creating Impact Through Giving, a monthly podcast brought to you by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
Well, it's that time of year again when spring is in the air and people are antsy to get back outdoors and enjoy a little exercise. And, a good way for folks to be able to do this is by taking advantage of all the parks and trails we have right in the metro. Just to let you all know, if you're listening today, we have 170 parks in more than 80 miles of trails. I'm sure there's a lot of folks that probably didn't know that we had that here in our city.
Today we're going to be talking to Marsha Funk, who is the Director of the Greater Oklahoma City Parks and Trails Foundation. We're also going to be speaking to Lanc Gross, who is the foundation's Parks and Wellness Programs Manager. You may have seen her on television, but we also have Leah Philpott with us today. Leah, as is the spokesperson for the wellness initiative called KeepMovingOKC. In addition, we'll have Brian Dougherty on the program. Brian is the director of Parks and Public Space Initiative at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, and we'll talk about how the Rebloom Oklahoma initiative is going as it enters its second year.
So let's get right to it. First of all, I want to welcome Marsha Funk to the pod today, and I want to preface that by letting our listeners know that Marsha happens to be in Costa Rica right now. I think we're all a little bit jealous but welcome again to Creating Impact Through Giving, Marsha.
Marsha Funk 2:14
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it's pura vida as we say in Costa Rica.
Dan Martel 2:17
All right. Marsha it's that time of year when folks are heading back outside after being indoors throughout the winter months, and folks start to think about getting a little more exercise and it leads me to a few questions I want to have a neat little discussion about. How does Oklahoma City rank in terms of meeting our residents needs when it comes to our parks and trails?
Marsha Funk 2:38
Well, that's a really good question. Thanks for asking that one. The city has done a survey recently and the good news is that over 70% of its residents feel that we're really doing a pretty good job with our parks and trails. On the downside, an organization who surveys cities of 14,000 cities across the US have ranked our now 24th largest city in the US as quite a bit lower on the scale in terms of how parks and rec score. This year they've given us a terrible 99th ranking. Now the good news is we're doing lots to improve that so stay tuned, we expect good things in the months to come.
Dan Martel 3:21
Fantastic. That's excellent to know. Okay, as director of greater of the Greater Oklahoma City Parks and Trails Foundation, what role does your organization play in reminding folks of the resources that we actually have here?
Marsha Funk 3:33
Well, we work with community organizations and donors and central Oklahoma municipal, county and state agencies really to enhance our parks and trails and public spaces. We do that through several different ways, one through education, two through our programming and grant making opportunities and also through advocacy. It's our job really to be an advocate and a cheerleader for our parks and trails and to work toward enhancing them so that all of our residents will have a wonderful quality of life.
Dan Martel 4:05
We've got 170ish, I guess, parks here, are our citizens, our residents out there taking advantage of these parks?
Marsha Funk 4:13
Well, that's another good question. Some do and some don't, and I think it depends on where you live and how close you are to a park. If you took a glass and put it down on a map in the center of Oklahoma City, you would find that the central part of our city really has pretty good access to parks and certainly since the pandemic have spent quite a bit of time outdoors, which we're all thrilled about. But beyond that, in the areas of the new growth of the city farther west, you'll find fewer parks and citizens are further away, so not so much in some of those areas.
Dan Martel 4:48
Okay. The other thing I also discovered was that we had more than 80 miles of trails. I mean, to me, that's a great way to get folks to get out there and get some physical activity throughout the week. Are people aware of these trails?
Marsha Funk 5:04
Well, we certainly can do more to talk about them. Very few people know how many miles of trails we have. It's a great place to lace up your sneakers and get out for a walk and explore just what we do have. That's one of the things we'll be focused on more in the next 24 months is to talk more about those trails and the new trails that we're building and completing.
Dan Martel 5:24
That's excellent. Marsha, one of the stats I quoted earlier in the program was that 56% of the folks living here are all within a mile and a half of a public park. What else can we do to sort of get them out, to even consider visiting the parks if they haven't even done it yet?
Marsha Funk 5:40
Oh, that's a good question. I think that we can talk about our parks more, and we can invite friends to join us in the park. We're starting to see some of our parks have performing arts, children's theater in the parks, art in the parks, storybook walks through the parks, so good things are coming. I hope all of our residents will take advantage.
Dan Martel 6:02
So, are there other ways to promote the parks? The reason I ask that is that a lot of people here in Oklahoma City know the big parks. We're familiar with Scissortail because there's been a lot of publicity around that park. A lot of people may know about Will Rogers Park. It's been around for a long time. They've made some incredible improvements and strides in that particular part but what about the other parks?
Marsha Funk 6:24
Well, we have, as you know, actually about 170 parks, but there are different classifications of parks. Some are what I call linear parks and some are pocket parks, which are fairly small. Then you have neighborhood parks and regional parks. We really just, I think, need to talk about things a lot more. We need to get out and participate in what's going on. When we look at some of our smaller neighborhood parks, you may not have taken a walk around Memorial Park. There's a park in the center of the city. It's at 36th and Classen. It has tennis courts, basketball courts, a wonderful walking trail. It's just on the other side of the Oklahoma City Boys and Girls Club, and many people don't know it's there. And, of course there are Lake Hefner Trails, a place that lots of people love to go to walk and bike and run. I would highly encourage everyone even to get on our website, which let me just throw in promotion for that okcparksandtrails.org/. Please visit our website, take a look at the interactive map and find and pick a trail to explore.
Dan Martel 7:30
One of the things that attract people to any park, whether it's a neighborhood park, a little pocket park, or one of the larger ones is the shape of the park. Do you feel like the city is doing a good job maintaining our parks?
Marsha Funk 7:44
Well I will tell you that probably depends a little bit from park to park, but a recent survey indicated that about 70% of our citizens feel we are doing a good job. Now they're not resting on their laurels and there are great improvements planned. You probably know a little bit about the MAPS 4 excitement that's coming, but we are all very excited about the funds that will be spent on parks and trails as a result of our MAPS 4 passing.
Dan Martel 8:12
Thanks again and what's the best way, again, for people to find out where our parks are located?
Marsha Funk 8:16
Dan Martel 8:20
All right, well Marsha, you and your team do a great job. I want to thank you for being on our program today, Marsha Funk, the Director of the Greater Oklahoma City Parks and Trails Foundation. If you have a desire to get out there and get in a little physical activity, you don't have to belong to a fancy gym. You can hit one of the many trails right here in the city. We've got over 80 miles worth, and we encourage you all to do that. Thanks again, Marsha.
Marsha Funk 8:45
Dan Martel 8:47
Now we want to bring in Lanc Gross, who is the Parks and Wellness Programs Manager at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Welcome Lanc.
Lanc Gross 8:55
Thank you. It's great to be here.
Dan Martel 8:56
Glad you are. We were just chatting with Marsha Funk earlier, who is the Director of the Greater Oklahoma City Parks and Trails Foundation. We were talking a little bit about getting people out to see the parks and taking advantage of the trails, not just for the beautification, but for the physical activity. Now that you head up the parks and wellness area of the Community Foundation, tell us a little bit about what you do and maybe what else we can do to encourage folks to get out there.
Lanc Gross 9:23
Sure, primarily manage the wellness activities initiative and also the parks and open space initiative. One of the things that we've run into that I'd say is difficult for individuals is accessibility to some of the park facilities. When you think about it, in order for people to use these spaces they have to be convenient. They have to be in good locations, say in the middle of a neighborhood or say for instance, along the river. People drive north and south and they go by the trails that are along the river quite often, but say, when you're driving over and you see the trails, you kind of think to yourself, how do I get to those trails? Well, the city's worked really hard to try to put parking areas and also sidewalks so that people can actually get to them. They're actually making a really strong effort to try to make them convenient to get to.
Dan Martel 10:15
That's interesting. I noticed for awhile there it seems like when they were building neighborhoods across the Metro, sidewalks was one of the things that they forgot about. Is that sort of a thing that's coming back now in neighborhoods that they're building?
Lanc Gross 10:26
Definitely. Yes. It's part of the ordinance right now that they've updated, probably the last five or 10 years, to actually require sidewalks to be installed. You think about this, for the longest time throughout the eighties and nineties, in the early 2000s, there were no sidewalks really built because they weren't required.
Dan Martel 10:47
Wow. There's also this Wellness Alliance that you partner with here. I want to ask a little bit about what this group does and how did you become associated with these folks? Fill me in on some of that.
Lanc Gross 11:01
Sure. Working under Tracy, she's been a great help, and she's really introduced me to a lot of different people. The Wellness Alliance is made up of a large number of different professionals from health care to city planning basically. There's a lot of people that concentrate on how do we make things easier for people to obtain health care, but also encourage people to have healthy lifestyles?
Dan Martel 11:34
Yeah, well it's funny, back in January, we were talking about the latest OKCGetsFit, the wellness grants that the Foundation is now involved in and encouraging folks out there to come up with ideas to maintain a healthier lifestyle. I know that this past year, last year the Foundation launched, KeepMovingOKC, which is an online platform that will give people a listing of free and low-cost physical activity ideas. How is that initiative going since the success of the launch last year?
Lanc Gross 12:09
It's going great. The numbers keep increasing and it's really interesting because you go out there and you look, and there's a wide range. I mean anything that you're interested in it's out there.
Dan Martel 12:20
That is outstanding and really good news to hear because it just proves that it's working. I think the more you push an initiative like that out there, the more it makes people understand it. I mean, let's face it, we're the city, Oklahoma City, that was voted dead last in a fairly recent study on the healthiest cities in America. That's not a good place to be. I appreciate the Foundation doing everything they can and folks like you getting people out there and getting them active and trying to erase that statistic. Tell me a little bit about who some of the partners that the Foundation engages with to keep not only to KeepMoving going, but some of these other wellness initiatives too around. Tell me about some of those partners, who are they?
Lanc Gross 12:59
We try to coordinate with a lot of the different cities to see what type of activities they have through their parks and rec programs. We try to put those out there. OKC Beautiful, they've got trash pickup, LitterBlitz and stuff like that. Those are really popular and they've been around, I believe since the late sixties, so that's a very active program. But we'll also be working with Visit Edmond because they've got a lot of different activities and programs that are going on, and we're just trying to promote everything. If there's one location to access all these things, all these activities and these different programs, it makes it convenient for people to get to.
Dan Martel 13:39
Excellent. If you're listening right now, we would encourage any of you to check out KeepMovingOKC. I think it’s exciting that you're seeing the numbers go up, which means more and more people are starting to use the platform. Lanc Gross, thank you so much for being with us today. We appreciate all that you are doing to keep people moving and getting a little more exercise.
Lanc Gross 14:03
Great. Thanks for having me.
Dan Martel 14:10
Now I want to bring in Leah Philpott. I know a lot of you out there may have seen Leah on television appearing in those fun KeepMovingOKC commercials. Leah, welcome to our podcast today.
Leah Philpott 14:20
Thanks Dan. It's great to be here.
Dan Martel 14:22
Glad you're here. Leah, you were hired as the spokesperson for the Community Foundation's wellness initiative called KeepMovingOKC. How did that come about?
Well, I first heard about it when they were looking for their new spokesperson, and it spoke to me as a person because I've had a lot of health issues in my past. What I, long story short, discovered is that as long as I keep moving, then I don't have as much pain. And, they were looking for someone pretty much to promote that very thing. I mean, not necessarily pain, but just active living and keeping healthy and getting your heart rate going and staying active. I don't think I necessarily always looked at myself as a spokesperson type, but when it's something you truly believe in then it's easy and it's fun and it's something active. We obviously throw a little comedy in there which is really fun.
Dan Martel 15:18
I think that's great because I know that being a professional actress, and you do like to do a lot of comedy. I thought that your comedic skills certainly added to the idea behind KeepMoving.
Leah Philpott 15:31
Dan Martel 15:31
I know noticed in one of the ads that you're actually at a park, and I believe it's Martin Nature Park.
Leah Philpott 15:37
Dan Martel 15:38
Where there are a lot of trails and things like that. How important is it for folks to get out there and have a little fun while engaging in physical activity?
Leah Philpott 15:45
Physical activity is really undervalued. We're so busy in our everyday lifestyles with our gadgets and devices and sitting all the time that more than ever, it's really important to get out and honestly just walk. All of these parks and trails that are available to everyone in Oklahoma, one, they're beautiful, there's lots of nature. Just getting the oxygen into your lungs and being out in nature, walking, getting your muscles moving and just being anywhere except for in front of a screen for a while is kind of detrimental to having good health.
Dan Martel 16:24
You know another one of the ads I like to talk about is you did an ice skating ad. I know that they premiered during the Olympics. I know it's a popular sport. Tell us a little bit about that, because I know the team wrote the ad we're kind of going, Hmm, we have to have this actress skating. We don't have a clue if she knows how to skate. You kind of surprised people. Tell me about that.
Leah Philpott 16:57
I think they lucked out a little bit because I had assumed that was written based on looking at my special skills on my resume. When we got to the rink, I laced up my skates and said, Hey, do you mind if I go for a little warm up? No, that's fine. I went out and started doing some laps. Apparently while I was doing those laps, there was a bit of a conversation like, Hey, did you ask her if she could skate? No. Did you. No. Oh, I guess we're lucky that she could skate. Yeah, I used to skate as a kid back in Canada. Like most kids did, I guess.
Dan Martel 17:30
That's excellent. Well, yeah everybody at the Foundation lucked out because of that. Then, I noticed that you also have a new commercial that's getting ready to launch mid-March. Tell us a little bit about that.
Leah Philpott 17:41
That's right. We filmed it a little while ago, but we're holding off for its release for the March Madness that is coming up this month now. It was a lot of fun to film. It is a basketball commercial. I haven't played in a long time, but I used to play. It was really fun to get out there on the court. We have our special guest Aunt Betty returning. It's it's a really fun one. I think everyone's going to like it a lot.
Dan Martel 18:07
Good. Well, we're looking forward to seeing it on television again. I know that in addition to the ads that they have you working on for KeepMoving, you're involved with other things with KeepMoving. What are some of the other things that the foundation has you involved in?
Leah Philpott 18:20
Yeah. Outside of filming, we also have appearances that we like to do when there's any special events going on around the city that we want to encourage people to come out to, or to put a spotlight on really so we can get some people who don't normally do these activities to come on out. I mean, I don't do all of these things myself. I like to stay active, but some of them are new to me. There are bike rides that happen in the evenings for all ages. They're absolutely incredible to witness because all these people, about 10 minutes before the event, just show up with their bikes, ready to go and have a really nice ride around the city. There are races. Even in the winter there was a Christmas themed one out in Yukon that was absolutely beautiful to see and really fun too, because they had mascots like the Grinch and Santa Claus dressed up and whatnot and lots of fun activities for the kids.
Whenever there are events like these happening around the city, I like to be available to promote them and make the people who aren't so aware that they exist more aware of them. The latest one we did was at Riversport. There was an indoor rowing competition and that was a lot of fun, not exactly my forte, but I might give it another go because it's a full body workout and really fun and the people at Riversport are just awesome.
Dan Martel 19:49
Well, I know Leah, you have been an incredible sport, no pun intended, a great sport with all these activities and the ideas that we really want people to understand that getting out there and having a little fun is really what it's all about. We've certainly enjoyed watching a lot of your ads on television and out on social media. I know that being a face for that particular initiative is very important. I know you've got some other things coming up. Let's see, I understand you're going to be at the Integris Hospital, sponsored Hispanic Health Fair in April, as well as we have Festival of the Child coming back up in the Yukon.
Leah Philpott 20:29
Dan Martel 20:29
It's coming back out as well. For the first time you're going to do the Red Bud Classic this year, which is exciting. They reached out and asked us about you and having you there. That's exciting and because of that, Leah. I know that the foundation is going to get everybody probably t-shirts that and have a big team walk at the same time. That's going to be quite exciting.
Leah Philpott 20:52
Yeah, I believe that there's the 5k race and the two-mile walk. I will be participating in the two-mile walk, not the 5k race.
Dan Martel 20:59
Which is probably what I'll do with you. I don't think I'll do the race as well.
Leah Philpott 21:02
The importance is that we get out there and we get active and we socialize not necessarily that we be the best at everything.
Dan Martel 21:08
Absolutely. The website, again, just for everybody is KeepMovingOKC, correct?
Leah Philpott 21:15
That is right KeepMovingOKC.
Dan Martel 21:17
There you go.
Leah Philpott 21:18
There's an online calendar, and you can find all these awesome things that we're talking about listed right there.
Dan Martel 21:23
There you go. Thank you for being with us today, Leah, we sure enjoy seeing you in the ads on television. We're looking forward to the new one that starts in a couple weeks and on social media. We will see you out on the walking trails or at some park or perhaps ice skating somewhere in the city.
Leah Philpott 21:39
Thanks so much. It's always a pleasure. Keep moving.
Dan Martel 21:44
Finally, with spring in the air, we've noticed that things are starting to bloom again. This past year, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation brought back their Rebloom Oklahoma initiative to help beautify our city. Today we've got Brian Dougherty with us to tell us a little bit about that. Brian welcome.
Brian Dougherty 20:00
Hello. Thank you.
Dan Martel 22:01
Glad you're here. Brian, last year the Oklahoma City Community Foundation decided to give away 65,000 daffodil bulbs to various organizations ranging from neighborhoods, churches, libraries, and so forth. It was a huge success, right?
Brian Dougherty 22:17
That's correct. As we hear, people are still talking about the last year's bloom.
Dan Martel 22:22
Right. Let's remind the folks one more time, how did this whole initiative get started, Brian?
Brian Dougherty 22:27
Well, there was gentleman that left part of his estate to the Community Foundation for beautification. As with some people it could be just generic beautification. He really had kind of a focus on bulbs and those flowers and a lot of times it's how somebody remembers it. He would talk about how he remembered his mother's flower gardens here in the city. As a tribute to this in trying to stay true to what he wanted, he had talked about hyacinth bulbs, he had talked about tulips, he had talked about daffodils. In this area daffodils are our most sustainable bulbs. If we're really wanting to do it in the spirit of kind of an endowment that you put something in and you keep getting more and more benefits, daffodils kind of the endowment type of bulb.
Dan Martel 21:14
Excellent. I know last year you gave away 65,000 bulbs, the Foundation. This year you decided that because it was successful last year, you wanted to do it again. Tell me why you wanted to do it again. How many did you give away?
Brian Dougherty 23:28
I think it's just value added. You turn around and do it. We had a group, we had a big group that had done part of an entry. They had done a park, they had done a green belt and they wanted to do another one, but we had a lot of people that said, we heard about this, or we saw the bulbs blooming last year. Can we get in on it next year? So, we had a big group of brand new neighborhoods, libraries, parks that wanted to get in on it. We turned around and we looked at what was available out there. We had a little over 70,000 we distributed this last year.
Dan Martel 24:02
Outstanding. I'll bet you had some repeat customers.
Brian Dougherty 24:04
Oh yeah. About 50% were, but again, a lot of times maybe they just needed another 200 or 300 to finish off that frontage or because once you see them come up and you see them bloom, sometimes you say, wow, I wish I would've just done a few more at the end. We had some that was just kind of completion. Again, it's a value added. These Daffodils are going to come up year after year and they're going to multiply and they're going to do it. We kind of worked with groups on how they could really do it. Not only looking at the immediate right now, but looking at two or three or five years down the road.
Dan Martel 24:43
You bet. I know there's some specific instructions on the best time of year to plant these. The Foundation gave these bulbs away last winter.
Brian Dougherty 24:53
Yeah. We're kind of in that Thanksgiving time. What you do is you try to catch it before the grounds are frozen, but the bulbs are there and these were all pre-chilled. These were all number one grades. These weren't something that hadn't been pre-chilled, they're held, they come in. Our goal was to get them all in basically between Thanksgiving and Christmas, is really the optimum here. Then they're going to continue to chill in the ground, then they'll be coming up so that you are seeing them coming up all over the city now.
Dan Martel 25:23
Now here we are in March. We're going to start seeing these?
Brian Dougherty 25:27
Yeah, we're seeing some of the earliest varieties blooming now. I went down one neighborhood the other day and I saw in front of somebody's house, a bunch of yellow ones. Those would've been some of the very earliest, but a lot of them are probably up four inches, six inches tall. Some people get real concerned about the ice last week and all, it's going to set them back just a little, but not really. They're going to pop right through it. Now the minus 15 last year really did some serious burn on them but like I said, we'll just move right on through.
Dan Martel 25:57
Fantastic. What kind of response have you received from the folks? Are you guys getting calls?
Brian Dougherty 26:03
Oh yeah, we get calls. We get people that are just thrilled about them that are just showing a spirit of appreciation but on the other hand, we get a lot of pictures sent back to us because they're so excited. Our daffodils are starting to come up and all. I think this is really an opportunity for Oklahoma City. There's different cities that will have different kind of branding that happens. I think daffodils in little way, because it works. Some bulbs, rodents want to go into them and all. Daffodils, you don't have that. It works well with our climates. It works well with a lot of things. People are just ready for spring.
Dan Martel 26:43
Absolutely. You bet.
Brian Dougherty 26:45
Every year you come from this unknown winter and then you come out in spring.
Dan Martel 26:50
That's right. So, the daffodils pop up, what's the lifespan of them once they usually start to populate and they start beautifying the city, how long do they stay up and look good?
Brian Dougherty 26:59
Oh, I think they're going to come up and they're going to do their thing with the blooming. Of course, with some of the different varieties, you're going to extend it. You realize that you had some of them bloom a little earlier than others, and the amount of sun. Sometimes people will say, well, mine aren't blooming when they're on the north side of the street instead of the south side. The south side's going to warm up a little more and it's going to bloom a little earlier.
Basically, we're going to have three, three and a half, four weeks of good yellow that's going to be spotted around the city. Then on the long term, as long as somebody doesn't tear up the bulb and dig all the bulbs out and throw them away, which we don't want to happen, they're going to turn around and multiply and that band of bulbs is just going to get thicker and thicker. Then eventually they can divide them. There's some old estates down behind the zoo and all, and they're just this sea of daffodils that are out there where people planted them probably back in the thirties and forties. Eventually you would like that type of thing to happen around the city.
Dan Martel 28:05
Well, I think you guys have really done a fantastic job with this initiative. Do you think you guys will do it again next year?
Brian Dougherty 28:10
I think so. I think it is so positive, and we've done a couple of pretty major permanent plantings. Putnam Heights we have a lot of bulbs in different places, around the old Memorial Park Fountain. In that Memorial Park we have a big display of bulbs, a big display of bulbs at Will Rogers Park. It's kind of something that grows on you. The more people will say, wow, we didn't know OCCF was who was doing those bulbs. I think it will go as long as you can find the bulbs and get good bulbs it's a fun thing for people to do in the fall and then realize the benefits in the spring.
Dan Martel 28:51
Well, that about wraps it up. Brian, thank you so much for being with us today. You're listening to Brian Dougherty who is the Director of Parks and Public Spaces here at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Brian, if there's a voice in the community that knows about daffodils and all things that go into the ground and sprout it's you. We thank you for being here.
Brian Dougherty 29:09
Dan Martel 29:13
Well that about wraps it up for us today. I want to thank you all for listening, and I hope we've enlightened you a little bit about our parks and trails here in central Oklahoma. I encourage you if you're a runner, you ride a bike or just want to get out and walk while taking in some fresh air, check out all of the parks and trails we have right here in the metro. It's a great way to get out, get some exercise, have a little fun at the same time. We look forward to seeing all of those daffodils sprinkled up around the city. Thanks to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation for helping to beautify our city.
Join us again next month, as we talk about some of the ways that Community Foundation supports opportunities for children, services for the elderly, and access to health care through something called iFunds. That should be a lively discussion. We look forward to having Kelley Barnes who oversees the programs division at the foundation, and we'll have a recent recipient of one of those grants. I'd like to wrap it up by thanking again, Marsha Funk, Lanc Gross, Leah Philpott, and Brian Dougherty today. We look forward to having you tune in with us next month. Until then I am Dan Martel and we'll see you again on Creating Impact Through Giving.