The Generation Excel Foundation (2004 – 2014) was a 501-c3 non-profit dedicated to creating uniquely uplifting wellness events,”impact campaigns”, inspirational initiatives, educational multi-media, nutrition education and physical fitness programs to help children and adults live healthier lifestyles. The foundation’s creative wellness campaigns & award winning multi-media projects – inspired by the remarkable personal story of founder Gary Marino – “wowed a nation” according to the Boston Herald. A first of it’s kind initiative – Gen Excel (a positive spin on Generation XL) produced 4 National wellness campaigns, over 200 events across the country, an award winning film (including a congratulations video from U2’s Bono!) educational and motivational PSAs, meetings with CEO’s of major HMOs to meetings with former Presidents of the United States. During it’s run the foundation received national media from FOX News, ABC’s Live With Regis & Kelly, USA Today, People Magazine and over 300 radio stations nationwide.
In a country where nearly 70% of Americans are overweight and millions give up on their health if they struggle to lose weight, Gen Excel’s was to get and keep people engaged in their health regardless of what the numbers on the scale may read. Unfortunately after doing amazing work the economic downturn and passage of Universal Healthcare caused funding issues for Generation Excel and the non-profit was dissolved by the end of 2014. For more details see the announcement below:
FINAL MESSAGE FROM GENERATION EXCEL FOUNDER GARY MARINO:
The Long Goodbye…
Dear friends and supporters,
This will come as a surprise to some, disappointment to many and a “that still exists?” to a fair amount of you as well. Yes Generation Excel still existed and we did amazing work and should all be proud. Even after the economy crashed. Even after our health struggles continued. Even after Obama Care wiped out our partnerships and funding from HMOs. We “marched on” and fought the good fight folks.
But I’m sorry to say it’s time to say goodbye to our non-profit as we wrap up a decade of more highs than lows. After 6 incredible years (2004 – 2010) working for the cause of health & wellness for children & adults followed by 4 years of funding struggles, the time has simply come to wind things down, cease operations and say goodbye and thank you to everyone who’s worked with us and supported us over the last ten years.
The never ending tough economy (and a President who proved exactly twice he has no ability to fix it) and the passage of Obama Care (which indirectly knocked out funding and partnerships with Blue Cross and other healthcare companies) as well as other factors I’ll go in to below have brought me to the decision to dissolve our struggling non-profit. Anyone who knows me knows I always said I did NOT want to be an organization which spends all of its time fundraising (as opposed to working directly in the cause). Since that seems the only way to continue to exist here in 2015 I’d rather call it a day (or a decade) and move on rather than fight on for donations, grants and positioning in a world of too many non-profits. No thanks on that. I suppose being in the event business I could have trudged on, spending all our time running golf tournaments, comedy nights and 5K’s – but aren’t we all deluged with enough of that all year long? We’re asked to give and give and we do. But being a part of that whole thing just isn’t where I want to exist these days. The cynicism and burnout that exists on fundraising is justified…unfortunately.
Besides – that simply wasn’t how we operated following our initial Florida to Boston campaign in 2004 (which was funded by the amazing philanthropist Todd G. Patkin). By early 2005 we fortunate enough to be funded by healthcare companies and HMO’s who partnered with us on campaigns & events which did exactly what we set out to do – work directly in the cause of education, motivation and awareness. Beyond our campaigns we were funded by sales and screenings of our award winning documentary “Million Calorie March: The Movie”, the book “Big & Tall Chronicles” and over 200 keynote speeches and presentations I was honored to do across the country between 2004 and 2010.
However -after 4 years of trying to reinvent who we are and how we are funded (special thanks to Steve Bailen who generously gave of his time to create a new model) we simply cannot prove a negative. The energy and spirit just isn’t there where it once was…and I’m ok with it. There are new universes to conquer and new and more important causes that need our help. I know that for Generation Excel and everyone who worked with us across the country there will always be people and issues out there that we can use our unique and invaluable experience with to help make the world a better place.
Besides the funding issues – the world in 2015 is certainly not the world it was back in 2001, 2002 and 2003 when we designed our non-profit and the blue print that would eventually become Generation Excel. The obesity issue back then was still a stigmatized and misunderstood condition in the early 2000’s. The majority of awareness being done was by the diet and weight loss companies lining their pockets selling solutions that rarely had long-term success. Think about it: when “The Million Calorie March” launched there was no “Biggest Loser” on NBC, no presidential “Let’s Move Campaign”, NFL Play 60 or community-wide health and wellness campaigns like the ones we produced from Rhode Island to Texas to California to North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In reality there was very little awareness at all pre-2004.
All of that changed during the years we traveled the country producing our unique “impact campaigns”, events, PSA’s and our unique documentary film as well as working with families and individuals from Los Angeles to Boston. If our initial plan was to increase awareness than we certainly accomplished that and inspired, educated and motivated. Today there are realty TV shows, presidential initiatives, company-wide, state-wide and community health challenges as well as weight loss contests. I hope in both small and large ways we helped get it there. As Dan Jones – assistant road manager for the Million Calorie March – said in 2004 “it was gratifying knowing we were affecting an issue nationally”.
The Obesity issue itself certainly got the media treatment it deserved and was the media darling for many years – but ultimately we live in a world where you are “here today and gone later today”. There is media fatigue and push back out there among people on the issue and I understand it. A national health crisis should not run its course in a media cycle until it is resolved – but unfortunately in the sound bite world we live in this is the reality. Adding to this is the cold, hard reality that the statistics have only continued in all 50 states and people are frustrated out there with their continued struggle. I’m frustrated too. And it’s only human nature to deal with this by pushing back psychologically or learning to accept the reality (95% failure rate on long term weight loss?) and try to live the best life we can. All of these factors have led me to the decision I made recently.
Other factors certainly have played into this decision as well.
The world is a mess. Unfortunately we have returned to the post 9-11 environment where issues such as this take a back seat to everything from Ebola, to terrorism to war to wondering where the next paycheck is going to come from. I get it. But isn’t a shame though that billions of dollars – dollars that could be going to all our causes – get wasted on “preventative’ wars, welfare fraud and defective and unnecessary government programs every year?
As for my own continued struggle – I always thought that working in this issue and being a spokesman, speaker, campaign producer and non-profit director would help keep me engaged. Little did I know my impetus would become my albatross. It only added stress to the delicate process of maintenance. Still down from my heaviest and much more knowledgeable than the old days I certainly continue to be in awe of how complicated this condition truly is. Where does the future lie for the millions of people still struggling from this epidemic? I strongly urge you to take a good, long look at the new surgery out there known as Vertical Gastric Sleeve. It’s the real deal and I’m someone who has been publicly opposed to bypass and Lapband surgery. This however is a good, clean surgery, the 5 year research on it is terrific and I will certainly consider it in the future and hope you do too.
These days I’m a father and a husband first, and after that I’m in my 20th year running Harmon-Marino LIVE. When I’m not doing that I tour the New England states playing drums and performing with my show “World Gone Crazy: The Comedic Rock & Roll Circus”. I know there are other causes I’ll get involved in the future and some great chapters still to be written – and I look forward to it all!
This site will continue on as the official movie website – as the film will go on and be released on different platforms in the years to come. No matter where it all ended – the movie still serves as an inspiration to anyone looking to get ideas out of their heads and into reality and we remain very, very proud of it. Also I have been working in recent years on a follow up book to “Big & Tall Chronicles” titled “After The March: Confessions of a 21st Century Health Crusader”. The book takes readers on the road for our 4 campaigns across the country between 2004 & 2009. The manuscript is 70% complete and I have no completion date…but will finish it at some point down the road when the time is right and publish it. I think it is heads and tales above the first book and has a very unique insight.
As for the Generation Excel experience – especially 2004 – 2010 – how can we not smile? What a ride. What memories. How lucky were we do be traveling the country having those experiences? I loved every minute of it and have nothing but gratitude.
Special thanks to Dave McGillvray (who helped keep us around longer than we most likely would have been) and of course my wife Julie Marino, Russ Surette, Dr. Howard Rankin, Todd Patkin, Kevin Fusco and our board members thru the years. Also thanks to our teams from all 4 campaigns as well as countless others who helped and worked with us along the way…you know who you are and I’m truly grateful.
Keep it healthy. Keep smiling. And keep on Marchin’ my friends,