Ann Ueno + Westin + Bright Pink + Giuliana Rancic = $5,000

Ann-Ueno-Bright-Pink-FabFestGood morning friends and happy hump day!  I am super-duper excited to share big news on the professional and personal front.

Professionally, I have recently {and humbly} helped to create an innovative, meaningful cause marketing partnership between The Westin Chicago River North Hotel and Bright Pink, the only national non-profit organization focusing on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women.  It’s partnerships like these that make me love my job and feel honored to work with and for such inspiring and talented people.  And for me, this is big because what it means is that via my day job, I can not only help create a business partnership that benefits both parties, but that can potentially save lives.

And personally, as a result of this partnership and together with my colleagues, I am part of a fundraising team to raise $5,000 for Bright Pink’s annual fundraiser, FabFest, hosted by the amazing Giuliana Rancic at The Westin Chicago River North Hotel in my very own city of Chi-town!  I am so excited to come alongside amazing women (and men) to raise awareness for the organization.  More importantly, I am honored to support a dear friend, Lindsay Avner and her amazingness.

Lindsay, at the age of 23, was the youngest patient in the country to bravely opt for a risk-reducing double mastectomy with reconstruction.  She lost her grandmother and great-grandmother to breast cancer before she was born.  She had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and a 54% chance of developing ovarian cancer.  She vowed to not let breast cancer strike and was proactive with her health.  And today, nearly a decade later, she is the founder of Bright Pink.

Lindsay is a walking inspiration every single day.  It’s people like her that make me want to do better.  To do something.  To do more.  To dream big.  And so, I am doing something small to make a big difference.  I am fundraising for this cause and I {humbly} need your help!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?  My ask of you is for a financial donation to help us hit our goal!  And one that feels right for you.  That could be $10 or $100, the amount doesn’t matter.  By supporting my FabFest fundraising page, you are helping empower women nationwide to advocate for their breast and ovarian health and supporting those at high risk.  Because of you, more women will detect breast and ovarian cancer earlier or prevent it all together.  That’s what matters most and therefore, every dollar counts so please click here to donate!

This is Addie, my colleague and me.  Help us hit our $5k goal!

This is Addie, my colleague and co-captain and me at our Starwood offices in Chicago.  Help us hit our $5k goal!


Continue To Be Bright Pink. And Love Your Boobs.

I have heard from at least five people today on how fast fall is whipping through the Midwest and I couldn’t agree more (I actually exaggerated this morning that I needed to go get my turkey out of the oven as Thanksgiving is about five minutes away).  Christmas music is now on that crazy Delilah radio station that I actually live for as I am obsessed with Christmas and fine, I MAY have listened to the Jessica Simpson Christmas album once or twice on my fall runs.  Starbucks launched their holiday cups today.   Wow, fall is flying by and I am not sure why or where it went.  Sigh.  For me, it may be because I was either on an airplane, attending 436 meetings, networking at TED,  on 320 conference calls, planning wedding showers, planning a charity event, celebrating my one-year wedding anniversary, running, reading Danny Meyers’s Setting the Table or sleeping.  Good excuses.  But, excuses nonetheless.  I did get to see amazing fall foliage in Galena, Illinois this past weekend so that’s a plus.

As I reflect on fall so far, there is one thing that stands out to me and one that I want to stop, pause and pray on:  A time  period that arguably is the most important in our country during the fall season that holds SOME place in everyone’s lives:  Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The extraordinary work of so many organizations, companies and people with regard to Breast Cancer Awareness  has, to me, been incrementally more alive, more visual and more social this year.  Linebackers in pink.  American Airlines website in pink.  Women wearing pink.  Buildings in Chicago lit in pink.  Celebrities supporting the cause (in fact, Bethenny Frankel just posted something today).  Pink cocktails.  Today is November 1 so technically it’s over, but how can we have that same level of momentum all year-long?  After meeting such incredible social entrepreneurs in the past month, I  decided that once or twice a month I will dedicate one of my blogs to one of these people or one of their companies with the hopes that even ONE person could be impacted and/or convicted to do something.

And this month in an effort to continue the momentum and support the cause, I wanted to write about an amazing woman named Lindsay Avner, Founder and Executive Director of Bright Pink.

Okay, moving right along.  Here’s the deal.   About 6 months ago, my friend JR said to me, “Ann, I have a woman you have to meet.  Her name is Lindsay and she runs a non-for-profit called Bright Pink to help prevent breast and ovarian cancer and you will love her…”  That was the simplified version, there were many more superlatives and reasons behind why I should meet her, according to JR.  Wow, I thought.  She sounds amazing.  Time went by, I didn’t meet Lindsay.  And then, two weeks ago, Lindsay Avner magically appeared in my network for the TEDx Midwest conference.  It was clear to me God was telling me I needed to meet her 🙂  So, I connected with her through Facebook and told her who I was and that JR Kerr thinks we would like each other.  So random and sort of stalker-esque.  But if you know JR, he’s usually spot on with this stuff so I trusted him.  And low and behold, I see Lindsay in the midst of over 1,000 people at TED.  I made sure to grab her (not literally…come on, people), introduce myself in person and I instantly could sense why JR spoke so highly of her.  Her energy, her poise, her sweetness and the fact that she has dedicated her life to trying to help women all over the United States be proactive about understanding their risks of getting breast and ovarian cancer.  Wow.

As quoted from Bright Pink’s website, “Bright Pink is a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. We arm young women with knowledge, options and a great attitude, and offer companionship and empathy during their journey. We empower them to take control of their breast and ovarian health and in turn, grant them the freedom and peace of mind to live a beautiful and fulfilling life.”  There is an amazing video that explains this even further…I strongly encourage you to check it out.

So, a huge round of applause to Lindsay Avner and her incredible team at Bright Pink.  They offer loads of education, support (PinkPals – I know I would need many of these if I was going through something as tough as cancer) and a huge community of people and sponsors to help the cause.   Everything from networking events, becoming a sponsor, speaking with a genetic counselor, online forums, outreach groups and so much more, Bright Pink has truly done an amazing job being an innovative non-for-profit organization.

And the ask of you (ladies) today is:  Do some homework about your boobs, give them love, for a brighter future.  Get involved.  Educate yourself.  Donate your time.  Be Brilliant, Be Bold, Be Bright Pink.

[photo credit:]

My Week That Took a Week to Recover.

I am 31.5 years of age and I can officially say, October 9 – 17 was  a time in my life I will never forget.  A week that was invigorating.  A week that was exhausting, mentally, physically and spiritually.  A week that was inspiring and filled with ideas.  A week where I was sad, challenged, excited, tired, awed and fulfilled.  A week that took me a week to recover and sit to type this.  Why?  Well, for this note, I am going to “summarize” the insanity.  Enjoy.

Sunday, October 9

My husband woke up at 6am and decided he would run the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Now, he did train.  But, half-way through training he was injured.  With.  Shingles.  Yes.  His body was rejecting 26.2.  So for the past two months, there wasn’t any running for Rick.  So when he got up Sunday morning and decided to ‘try’ it, my response, as any supportive wife’s response would be, was ‘text me if you need me to come run with you…’  Low and behold, I received the text and went in for the rescue at mile 16.  We walked to mile 17 and Rick demanded I buy him a Coke.  We stopped, sat down and Rick chugged a Coke.  He claimed his legs wouldn’t move anymore.  So as we neared mile 18, we stopped.  Rick was sick, it was 84 degrees.  I had no idea how to get him home (no cabs, no public trans and thousands of runners and people everywhere).  15-20 minutes had passed and I thought, “hmmm…I can’t carry him…will we just die here together, in love, in Little Italy?  It will be a nice love story.”  And then, low and behold, our friend, Mr. Jimmy Lee (otherwise known as a gift from God), pulled up out of nowhere.  We hopped into his car, he drove us home, Rick puked and passed out for 3 hours.  Good times.

Monday, October 10

  • Work.
  • Noon:  Social entrepreneurship talk at Chicago Ideas Week.  Wow, wow and wow.  I felt alive and inspired and wow’d by this panel of people.  Dave Gilboa, co- founder of Warby Parker, Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of Charity: Water, Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource…and more.  People changing the world, one idea at a time.  Literally.  This was one of my favorite sessions of CIW.  Will blog further about these incredible people.
  • 3pm:  Prayers and tears as I said good-bye to a special, special women.  My best friend’s mom had passed from pancreatic cancer and Monday was her wake.  Cathy O’Connor is now in heaven with God and no doubt, enjoying her time there and smiling down on her husband and children.
  • 6pm:  International Mayoral Event at The Oriental Theatre in Chicago.  Mayor Bloomberg from NYC, Rahm from Chicago and Reed from Atlanta.  Rick and I arrived, exhausted.  30 minutes later we left and went to Chipotle for dinner.  Here’s the deal.  We just aren’t political people.  Period.

Tuesday, October 11

A celebration of Mrs. Cathy O’Connor.  While funerals are very sad events, this one was different for me for some reason.  It truly was a celebration of her as a mom, a servant for the world, a wife and a friend.  My heart was happy in hearing Father Tom talk about her, about what it means to be a follower of Christ and how we have a choice:  We can choose to move on, live life and follow her lead and live joyful, serving lives.  Or we can die a bit, hide and be angry.  My prayers are for her family and friends to choose the former.  Mrs. O’Connor build her house on rock and the story of the Three Little Pigs will forever remind me of her and her family.  And then, to witness my best friend give her mom’s eulogy in such a real, humbling and brave way was truly a moment in time that will remain in my heart forever.  Love like you want to be loved.

Late afternoon on Tuesday I attended a Fast Company Creativity Sessionfor Chicago Ideas Week and was able to see  Doug Ulman, president & CEO of LIVESTRONG, Robin Willner, VP at IBM, Jeff Semenchuk, Chief Innovation Officer at Hyatt…and more.  I then trekked to a Time Magazine Innovation and Influence panel at Northwestern.  This was Brad Keywell interviewing Suze Orman (two thumbs down for her, no offense…she’s loud, instills fear, somewhat phony and has a distorted view of the world.  I’m sure you are probably thinking, “wow, Ann, tell us how you really feel!”  This obnoxious-ness was followed by a panel of incredible people including Michelle Rhee, Founder & CEO, StudentsFirst, and Rob Bell, author of Love Wins and Founding Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church

And yes, I was inspired.  But nobody could have followed Eileen’s words for her mom and the love that permeated all day among family and friends in Mrs. O’Connor’s honor.

Wednesday, October 12

  • 9am:  Live Social Media event for Chicago Ideas Week, LiveLab at Suite Partners:  how to get your fans to go from liking you to loving you.  Words can’t describe this session, but let’s just say it was a live taping, the next generation of social media and I felt like I was on the Jetson’s.  More to come on this.
  • 12 noon:  Lunch with dear friend Audra, amazing women and professional who works for Oprah Magazine.  Brainstormed on how to change the world.  I’ll vote it a success.
  • Work.
  • 4pm:  Great discussion with my boss [continuation of changing the world]
  • Work.
  • 7pm:  Intelligence Squared Debate live broadcast through NPR:  “Too Many Kids Go to College”  This was a great debate, two-on-two (for: Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, Charles Murray, author, against: Henry Bienen, President Northwestern University, Vivek Wadhwa, entrepreneur turned academic, reserach for Duke University and columnist for The Post and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.  After almost 2 hours, the audience voted and agreed with the ‘for’ team, too many kids DO go to college.  I know, sounds crazy.  But, you had to be there and frankly, the education system in America MUST change.

Thursday, October 13

  • Work
  • Lunch with dear friend, Vaneesha Pause.  Ahh, always learn and grow and feel lots of love with V!  [continuation of changing the world]
  • 4:3pm:  TEDx Midwest!  I will be doing a series of “TED Notes” as part of my blog to go deeper into who I heard, what I learned and how incredible TED is.  But to summarize, this first session was on Courage and 5 people talked:  Alison Levine, Jerry Mitchell, Kevin Bacon, Amory Lovins and Bill Strickland.  Brilliance, bravery and bold leadership.
  • 6:30pm – 8:30pm:  TEDx Networking.  Met some awesome people, had some wine and was definitely outside of my comfort zone, believe it or not.  Being in a room with hundreds of brilliant people is intimidating.  Everyone is doing something amazing and to have the privilege to meet and get to know some of them was very humbling.

Friday, October 14

9am – 6pm:  Full day of TED.  Sessions included Nature, the Future, From Fear to Love and Anything’s Possible.  Morning networking, noon networking and you guessed it, afternoon networking.  Talks on how to make the world suck less (literally was the name of his talk), the ridiculous humor of John Hodgman (“I’m A PC”), first-time powerpoint user, Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Sreet), inspiring talk from Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Photojournalist and more.  Minute by minute I felt more inspired, intelligent and confused, all at the same time.

6pm – 10pm:  United Way Women’s Leadership Council reception and dinner at The Pump Room and the Public Hotel.

10pm – 1am:  Intimate gathering at Nomi at Park Hyatt of amazing people like Mike Gogis, Lindsay Avner, JR Kerr and Jill Felska [continuation of changing the world].

Saturday, October 15

Rest. Time with Rick.  Reconnect with everyone I met this week.  Tommy and Charlene Lee’s wedding.

Sunday, October 16

Sleep.  Get caught up with life.  Church.  Grocery store.  J. Crew.  Run 4 miles.  3 loads of laundry.  Sprinkles Cupcakes.  Make dinner.  Prepare for wedding shower for dear friend Christina.  Blog.  Bed.

Monday, October 17

Work.  6pm guests arrive at my house for bridal shower.  Skinny Girl cocktails, amazing food, great conversations.  11pm minor meltdown with dear friend Vaneesha.  11:30pm bed.

Happy to report now that it is Friday, October 21,  I am recovered, I feel a little smarter and I feel VERY blessed to have met so many amazing new people.  I look forward to a low-key weekend with friends and family.  The End.

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