Mark Keener and his wife found a spot with a good view of the parade. They had just moved to Omaha and were enjoying a day out. They had no idea their lives were about to change.
At the parade, Mark and his wife saw a drill team perform. They had been searching for things for their children to get involved in after moving to the area – where Mark works as one of our Companion Animal Inside Sales Reps. They immediately knew they wanted to be involved, too. For over 20 years now, Mark and his wife have been directors of the drill team, taking youngsters from their community all over the country for competitions.
“We felt compelled to provide something that we felt the North Omaha community needed, and we wanted to provide guidance,” Mark said. “My wife and I became directors of the group and took these kids all over the country competing in competitions. This afforded these kids and opportunity to travel and see places they possibly wouldn’t have ever been able to.”
Last year, Mark won our Unconditional Award for Caring to Make the World a Better Place. He was nominated by Angie Miller, Executive Director, Sales enablement, who said for a long time, no one knew the scope of Mark’s work with the drill team.
“No one knew the amount of time, personal money, energy, and commitment Mark has made to hundreds of young, and many times troubled, kids,” she said. “What we knew was that he was traveling to yet another drum line competition.”
One day, Angie asked Mark to tell her about the drill team, and she said she was blown away by his passion and devotion. He told her story after story of young folks he’d taken onto the drill team.
“The drums and dancing were not the reason why Mark devoted himself to this activity. It was the kids,” Angie said. “Every weekend, Mark had a house full of someone else’s kids, drumline kids, who had a sense of family for that weekend and a hot meal in their bellies and many times clean clothes. Mark and his wife would feed them, listen to them, help them with their studies, make them feel loved and cared for, and most of all help them to have a sense of value and worth.”
Mark hopes his investment in his community causes a ripple effect. By propping up the kids on his drill team, he hopes they’ll go out and prop up someone else.
“My hope for the kids is that they would continue to grow and evolve as productive, prosperous adults who would become mentors in the community and role models for other kids, just as we’ve been for them,” he said. “If we continue this type of ‘pay it forward’ humanitarian service, it gives kids someone they can relate to, ask for advice, leadership, and guidance from; free from judgement.”
Mark said making your community and world a better place starts with a simple step: fine something you’re passionate about and get involved.
“Don’t always take the least resistant route, instead of looking for solutions, become the solution,” he said. “Find a problem and then be the one to fix it. Passion is a plus, but in the end, we should do what’s right because it’s right. What may seem like a little thing to you, in the eyes of others, may be a lot.”