It is almost that time of the year again! When the Holiday season brings us together, we remember how important the small things are in life. From sitting across the dinner table to wrapping gifts to sharing a conversation with a friend: these small moments spark feelings of warmth, joy and carry into long-lasting memories. Rising Star Outreach emphasizes the importance of these small moments by recognizing it is often the little things in life that seem to make a big difference. Every time someone supports Rising Star Outreach, whether through donating time or money, their influence truly reaches India and impacts a life. We see it every day. Brian Varner is an excellent example of someone who felt compelled to act in a seemingly small way that has since made an impact. He shares his story of how he first connected to Rising Star Outreach through our annual golf tournament and the far-reaching and unexpected effect that it has had on his life since then.

Golf has always been a “connector” for me. It has introduced me to friendships, jobs, clients, and chances to make an impact.

A few years back, while working in the golf industry, a friend invited me to play in a scramble at The Red Ledges golf course as part of a tournament for a charity named Rising Star Outreach. At the time, I mostly picked things to play in based on the course and the group of people I’d be playing with. So, reluctantly… (does sarcasm carry over as much when writing vs. speaking??) I headed up with some buddies to load up on some good food, find a few birdies, fire a golf ball with a cannon, and enjoy a beautiful day in Heber. As the tournament finished, we came back for lunch, where I first learned what Rising Star Outreach was doing.

I couldn’t tell you what was said, or what video was played I can’t remember much about any of the specifics shared, but I remember feeling for these people. I was learning about those affected by leprosy, feeling heavy for a group of people that didn’t choose their circumstances but still had to find ways to rise. I was also young and naive at the time and left without acting on my gut. With a new family myself, I remember I headed down the canyon thinking about the impact that others could help create for these people while I was still working to “make my own way.”

As is life, things got moving and shaking, and soon I was in my own lane and didn’t think much of that day until 2 years later when a buddy of mine was going to provide lunch for this very tournament (shout out Cam, at Bam Bams BBQ) and invited me back up to play.

This time around, I decided to act on that feeling to do something. In reality, I think I was inspired to help just for the sake of helping. I had remembered that there would be mason jars around the tables with a picture of a child and their bio who you could choose to sponsor. I felt excited to know the person I was helping. An individual with her own thoughts and feelings, likely trying their best with the circumstances given to them.

Brian decided to do something seemingly small, by picking up the mason jar. For $30/month – just the cost of two meals eating out – he became a sponsor for Kiara and has since committed to helping her receive an education with the help of Rising Star. Though she and her family live across the world in a leprosy colony, Bryan was able to do a small thing that would ultimately help change her life forever.

In full transparency, what I wouldn’t have admitted then, but easily see now,  was that I was not only helping Kiara, but I was also helping myself. Learning lessons but also finding connection and common ground.

We knew a few things about Kiara from her bio. When we started sharing the pictures she colored and other things she sent to us with our daughter, the real lessons… the ones that should just be common sense, were right there for all of us. 

Sponsoring Kiara reinforces the connection between us. Kids live wildly different lives but with the same feelings of wanting to be safe, feel loved, have direction, and the same interests of liking pictures of puppies, reading books, and coloring. This is a reminder that we can’t control some things, but it’s nice to know we can control the things we do and the ways we respond. And watching my own kids learn and connect through the program has been great! 

I wish I could’ve shared this in person and had a conversation about some of the pictures, videos, and packages but can’t, and so I would encourage anyone to “pick up a jar” (in a sense) and meet one of these children by choosing to sponsor. The donation funds are too inexpensive not to contribute, for something so beneficial and rewarding.

This past year has been wild; full of change, anxiety, and worry, but also positive with lessons to be learned. Maybe a global pandemic was the right thing to make all of us realize just how alike we all are. A small window of time to live with something outside our own control seems to be relatable enough to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else halfway across the world. 

Who knows what kind of impact Kiara and other future generations will have because of this program? I don’t, but I did decide to act, and that child was the one we decided to love, who has had an invaluable impact on my little world already.”

As of today, Kiara is studying at Peery Matriculation in Tamil Nadu as a first-generation student. Her favorite subject in school is English, and she hopes to be a dancer when she grows up! Kiara loves her family and especially likes it when they all go to the beach together. She is receiving a quality education, is being kept healthy, and is being provided with opportunities to change the trajectory of the future of her entire family, current, and future. All because of a simple donation by someone who decided to act. One small decision that is changing a life forever, the support of amazing teachers, staff, and donors such as Brian and his family.

The seemingly small things in life make a surprisingly exponential difference. And just like Brian, you can make a difference too. Even if that first step is just sharing this message, or clicking the button to donate, every effort is worth it and every dollar counts and makes a real impact. Just $1 screens 5 people for leprosy, potentially saving and changing a life forever! Make a difference today by donating here, or choose a more lasting relationship and impact by sponsoring a child here.

*Name has been changed in this post for privacy reasons

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