Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mission iPossible

*MiP Editor's Note: This was one of the first blogs referencing Mission: iPossible from the blog called Blogzilly and has been transferred here for archival purposes, with comments turned off.

A brief preface to this, before I continue. Anyone who currently runs a blog site and wishes to copy this text below, you are by all means allowed, and even encouraged to do so. I want to spread the word, so to speak, to as many places as will have it.

On May 13th, in the digital pages of this very blog, I announced that I was the winner of an iPad in a contest hosted by a website known as Marissa’s Bunny. I was one of 40 other families, selected in a merit-based contest, to receive an iPad, $500 worth of free software and, if memory serves correctly, I think there was also a gift certificate to an Apple store for $70.00 that could be used for hardware, like a case for protection and so forth.

I say ‘if memory serves’, because the contest ended several months ago.

To date no one, to my knowledge, has received an iPad.

To be absolutely clear, I can only say with 100% certainty that I have not. No one that I have been in contact with on the winners list has said they have received one. None of the winners who have blogs have stepped forward to announce that they have received theirs on their blogs, and the other winners on the list, who do not have public blogs, I do not know how to reach out to.

If you follow the blog that originally hosted the contest, you will see mention of various delays in the shipment of the iPads, you will also see, now, the site has gone through some fairly major changes and the iPad contest overall has been suspended.

This is a very difficult thing to write about, let me assure you. It is very easy...VERY easy, to get sucked into a lot of negativity, suspicion and outright emotional chaos when situations like these present themselves. Many bloggers have been receiving e-mails from winners searching for answers, I have received them as well, and it can be hard to navigate waters that are as uncharted as these.

Many bloggers have already started posting about it. Some, unfortunately, in the structure of what they have written, are dangerously close to libel. I urge every blogger who writes a single word to be very, very careful about what you say about a person and how you say it. I am sure nobody wants to get entangled in anything that could cause you any kind of problem in the future.

I do understand that in times like these, questions bounce around like pinballs, you get a lot, and you feel the need to answer them. I get them myself. Is it true what that e-mail said about Mike, Ken? Do you think that the iPads are really going to ship, Ken? What should I do, Ken? Is this whole thing a scam, Ken?

The plain truth is this...when something like this happens; there is no easy answer to ANY question. At least, not one that anyone can give you that can be given with authority, certainty and fairness.

But the Internet is a large place, full of information. You do not need me, or anyone else, to tell you what or how to think. You don't need me or anybody else in order to draw your own conclusion about whether you think you will or will not be receiving an iPad. You need to do your own due diligence and research and come to your own conclusions.

Information is out there, you just have to go looking for it.

Hell, for shits and giggles, look up my name. If you type in Ken Lilly, or Ken Lilly Palisades, or Ken Lilly Blogzilly, or whatever, you will find a bucketload of information about me and all the stuff I’ve worked on, interviews I’ve done, toys I’ve designed. But please don't search for Ken Lilly Naked Dress Bachelor Party Emergency Room Gerbils. There's just no NEED.

My point here is this.

I am not here to smear anyone. I am not here to tell you whether I think Marrisa’s Bunny was on the up and up, or whether this was just something that got out of hand. I am not here to tell you what to think. Or how to feel.

It is not my place. Nor my responsibility.

I can only tell you what I think about how our community should behave, and what I, as an individual, plan to do. I can also share with you my experiences with this contest, as I was an active participant in the process.

It is my intention to proceed by this assumption, and that is that the iPads from the contest are not going to be forthcoming. And honestly, even if one showed up now, even though I believe it never will, especially in light of the latest statement from the website that any parent winner that has any involvement in the 'threats' is off the winners list, I would mark Return to Sender and give it back to the carrier.

I do not desire it.

That is not to say I have previously been involved in any of the suggested perceived 'threats'. But I fear that this post will be taken as such, even though I have said time and again that I do not have all the answers and that I urge you to reserve judgment and form your own conclusions. I am hopeful that this post is not viewed that way, but I am also a realistic man.

As realistic as I have been about this contest, as it has felt strange for a long, long time.

It has been stated on the website that the contest has been suspended indefinitely for reasons that do not, to me, make any rational sense. But a lot about the contest doesn't make sense and hasn't from the very beginning, in my opinion.

There is no timetable. And there never was. It has already been months. The contest never had a verification process that I had to fill out. I never had to sign a thing. I never had to send in paperwork to prove I had a Special Needs child.

Then $500 in software was added in later, instead of a handful of new iPads for Special Needs families. To me, and again, this is just my opinion, this was a bit weird. It didn't really pass my own sniff test, but again, who am I to argue someone's generosity? I just felt like even questioning it made me feel like a complete asshole. But I kept thinking that it would make much more sense to, if you are donating something, to donate a few more iPads to cover more kids, not $500 in Apps for EACH winner.

While generous and of course I was EXTREMELY gracious and grateful in my communications (which I would be more than happy to share if I was asked to, BTW), this was just odd, since apps are usually free or $.99 - $1.99 and that served to delay the iPad shipments even longer as families struggled to fill an Apps list, with some people finally giving up and saying 'We can't THINK of any more Apps, just keep the rest of the money!'.

As far as the shipment of the iPads, we had been told iPads had shipped several different times, in quantities whose numbers kept changing, then told they did not. I was told that mine had DEFINITIVELY shipped. Later told it had not. Again later we were told that 25 people absolutely, positively had their iPads shipped, and that UPS picked them up. Then told that UPS had screwed it up. Later still came the message that 'Everything has shipped.'

Still, as of today, July 9, no winners have stepped forward that I know of.

Of course, the question always remained about the corporation...I kept wondering to myself...why would a corporation that was so magnanimous, so willing to give of itself to families of Special Needs children, NOT want to take credit for that publicly? The answer to that question was always that the company did not want other groups coming to them hitting them up for more charity. I've never heard of any company, EVER, that afraid of confrontation in my entire life.

I have also never, not once in my entire life, seen a company not take advantage of that level of giving from a PR perspective, especially when you are talking about this kind of expense and this particular community. ESPECIALLY in this particular climate when, nationwide, special needs kids are getting CREAMED by state governments and their revisions to their benefits. What BETTER time to become a savior to a community that is currently being slammed to the canvas?

And the corporation would not be WRONG to do this. To me, remaining anonymous does not grant them some higher moral standing. It is natural, it is normal, it is expected that they would do so in the corporate world, and I doubt there are many rational thinking Special Needs Mom's and Dad's out there that would begrudge that. I certainly would not.

But in this case, they did not want any attention whatsoever. You know how I feel about 'corporations', so I have to be sure I don't let my personal anti-establishment feelings cloud my perceptions here. But why WOULDN'T they want the publicity? Could it be because despite their massive success they couldn't find one person among them capable of shipping a single pre-packaged, already-ready to ship iPad out of 40 while I, out of my house, can ship over 287 INDIVIDUALLY sold loose Star Wars figures in a single day (my personal best record on eBay ever, 'natch) and regularly ships items from all three major carriers out of my house each week with no help whatsoever?

How does a corporation with this much power, this much money and this much generosity screw something up this badly?

There are just too many inconsistencies in the information I have received over the last couple of months via website and e-mail, and so much continued and, in my opinion, deliberate vagueness. And do I ever mean 'continued'...(on blogger's comments sections), because even as of this afternoon as I finish writing this, it is ongoing on Ellen's blog.

All of this, in combination, has helped guide me to the conclusion that from this point forward, I no longer have faith in anything regarding this contest, and I no longer WANT to care about it.

It is not relevant to me anymore.

And I will say this...I am still reserving FINAL judgment that this may have nothing at all to do with Mike until all of the facts are in. It could still very well be the company he works for, or some third party, or the 'mysterious person who was fired'. And that's why I am trying to make sure everyone understands...this is a commentary about a CONTEST.

Not a MAN.

This is based on MY belief, MY researched opinion.

It is still going to be up to you to draw your own conclusions.

But I assure you, that every step I take from here forward will be based on my belief. What else is a person left with other than that?

That is not to say that nothing is being ‘done’ about looking into the matter or that I just wash my hands and turn my back. I do not want you to think that not answering questions or being elusive with questions I have received does not suggest inaction. But please, I am asking you, as a matter of trust, which I know is extremely, EXTREMELY, hard for you to do at the moment, to have faith that the correct and just steps are being taken to look into this contest that are 100% legal and 100% above board and 100% fair to all parties and are not threatening any harm to anyone, especially Mike's family, as he has stated.

If you are a reader of my blog, you know I am an open book.

Some would say too open. I have always disagreed with that. I always hoped one day that this...tendency of mine would serve a greater purpose. Please allow it to serve me now. Trust that what I am telling you has merit, and then let this part of it go. Do not let this become something ugly, something that tarnishes our community.

It's inevitable and I cannot stop this, but already I can see on various blogs and comments sections battle lines being drawn and sides being 'chosen', and that is a disturbing prospect.

But if you can, before you suit up and grab a weapon, let things run their course.

Be dignified.

There is a real danger here. A danger of getting swallowed up by the negativity, the darkness, which this entire situation could possibly generate. Therefore, a different response, a different approach, is absolutely required. It is extremely important; no it is paramount to remember that, in the end, this is only about one thing and one thing alone. There is only one 'side' you need to choose.

Our kids.

Nothing else matters.

For the past few days, via telephone, I have been speaking at length with Heather, who writes Little Wonders about her daughter Zoey and the rest of her beautiful family. And direct from the Credit Where Credit is Due Department, this is 100% her idea, I am just the one writing this statement because...well...verbosity and me? We get along.

But it is our intention, along with some friends of hers and possibly others who might wish to participate voluntarily, to make the attempt to finish what has been started that both of us think will not be completed.

Our mission?

We are going to make every effort possible to get these children their iPads. And I don’t mean the contest iPads. I’m talking about this from an entirely different angle, because like I said, as far as I am concerned, those iPads don't exist, because the website says they are not going to ship until this is sorted out, and I do not see that happening.

Now, should I be wrong in this assumption that they are not coming and should the contest iPads show up to the other 38 people at the same time that we hope to be successful in our restoration efforts? So be it, the kids will have two iPads and they can sell one of them, give them away, whatever they please. The iPads will be theirs to do with as they choose

But that is irrelevant to me at the moment, because all that matters to me, to us, from this point forward is restoring some kind of balance, remaining positive, and staying focused on what matters most.

And that’s exactly what we hope to do.

We are, currently, smack dab in the middle of figuring out various ways of exactly how to accomplish this task, which we are calling Mission iPossible!, and as we know more you will know more.

I can tell you that it would take months to establish our own Non-Profit Organization as a 501(c)(3) through the IRS. We do not want to wait months, so we are looking into alternatives. Possibly piggy-backing with an existing 501(c)(3) organization, something like that.

Why do I bring this up? Trust. Because if it comes down to some kind of fund-raising campaign, a 501(c)(3) will provide you with a legitimate tax deduction for larger donations and a record of its existence will be reviewable through the IRS and also through GuideStar, THE source for verification of legitimacy for non-profits. If you want to know if you can trust it? They are the place to check it out.

BUT...other avenues are being explored first, asking for money from this community? That is a LAST step. Not the first. But each step we DO take will be done with full transparency, full disclosure, at every single stop along this road.

As part of that, it should be noted up front that because Heather and I were both contest winners originally, and because we are now both a part of this mission, it is essential that the two of us now, as of this moment, officially remove ourselves as iPad recipients in this restoration effort. It would be a conflict of interest for us to remain as such and also be involved in the process of trying to raise funds or find some other means of procuring iPads for these disabled children.

Like I said.

Full transparency. Full disclosure.

We are going to need to do a lot of things like this on the journey, like the creation of a verification process for the winners, since in the original contest no such process existed, and so on. And like any project, it is very possible that we may fail, but I prefer not to consider that as an option and to remember the old adage of nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Besides, no one ever got anywhere without trying. We certainly, if nothing else at the moment, have a great deal of determination to get us going. It may take some time, but as you know, the clean-up after any disaster is usually a time consuming process.

You should also know that the best way to get through it, the ONLY way, is to put the disastrous event behind you, and move forward.

So that’s what we’re going to do.

OUT.

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