SideKicks Giving Back: Pencils of Promise


Mai is one of the SideKicks here at SideMark, and for the last few holidays, she and her husband John have had a problem.


“We have three boys: Dylan, Dennis, and Dalton. And we have a large family. So every Christmas or birthday, our house becomes awash in gifts and toys. We were beginning to look at things that never got played with and thinking about what a waste it was”, said Mai.


She and John put their heads together and came up with a plan. “We explained to the boys that though it was great to get presents, a little could go a long way. And there are so many people we could help if we got a little creative with how we accepted a gift.”  Mai and John started to ask friends and family members to send them a check instead of buying a gift. “We take all the money and give it to a charitable organization. Last year we gave it to Pencils of Promise.”


Pencils of Promise is wonderful organization that started with the founder, Adam Braun, handing out a pencil. He shares his story on the Pencils of Promise website.


The website states:


It began with a question. A small boy begging in the streets of India.


“What do you want most in the world?” Adam asked.

“A pencil,” he replied.


Adam reached in his backpack and handed him a pencil and watched as a wave of possibility washed over him.

“A smile erupted and his eyes brightened. I then saw the profound power and promise brought through something as small as giving a pencil to just one child. Over the next five years, I backpacked through more than 50 countries, handing out thousands of pens and pencils across the six continents. These pencils, these small pieces of potential, led to powerful conversations with local parents and children across countless cultures and languages.”


Pencils of Promise now has over 400 schools they have built across the world, as well as programs that provide teacher support and promote sanitation and hygiene education for children.


And if you are wondering how Dylan, Dennis, and Dalton took the news that the money for potential gifts was going to be given to charitable organizations, that is just what we asked Mai. “They loved it!”, she stated. “They truly grasped the concept of the world not being all about them and serving others. That Christmas, they had us standing in line for the Angel Tree at church (a program that provides gifts and clothing to children who have a parent in prison. They were so excited to pick out gifts for kids who needed a present.”


One of SideMark’s Core Values is ingenuity. Mai and her family came up with a creative way to give to others. SideMark encourages a culture that is built upon the value of giving and serving. When cultures and teams are built upon this core value, we believe great things can happen.   


Pictured Below: Adam Braun, Founder of Pencils of Promise