I wasn’t supposed to do this…I wasn’t supposed to care. I mean, five years ago I was living in Key West, Florida where I would spend the majority of my day on the beach playing volleyball. I spent more time in the gym than I did trying to advance my career. I really had no purpose…no drive to be great…or to do anything that mattered. There are no good reasons why a person accepts their complacency so I’m not going to sit here and try to justify it. It’s just like anything else…you have to hold yourself accountable if you want to change. You have to square your shoulders with the truth and face it head on…so that’s what I did. I slowly began to pull myself out of this state of indifference. I started to call my parents more, and the most important thing…I started to pray again. I would pray about a lot of things…I don’t have time to get into all of them…but I distinctly remember asking God to put someone in my life that would help me sort out all of the superficial things that had become so comfortable for me. Sure enough, about six months later I crossed paths with a woman that totally leveled me— a Latin woman, Judith Martinez, whose beauty was only surpassed by her sophistication and stubbornness. She was unlike anybody I had ever met…uncompromising in her beliefs and overwhelmingly passionate. She refused to let me be average. She would not accept anything other than my best.
One of the most pivotal moments in our relationship came in 2011 during a visit to her home country of Honduras. I had never been outside of the U.S. and had really never given thought to what it would be like to live in another country. During this trip, we visited a small village outside of Copan Ruinas. Even though Judith had told me what to expect it paled in comparison to the reality of the conditions. Mud huts, no running water, dirt floors, and poor hygiene…it was like I was in a National Geographic magazine. Its one thing to see poverty on television…it’s an entirely different thing to walk through it in real life. So after our visit, Judith shared with me her desire take initiative and try to do something to help these kids that were being held so tightly in the grasp of poverty. Obviously, I supported her. Whatever she needed me to do…I was going to get it done. Especially, after seeing it first hand.
We returned to the U.S. and Judith immediately began work on organizing Christmas gift packages with the support of her family’s leather company. Often times I would drive from Key West to Miami to see Judith and instead of going out to eat or going to see a movie…we would sit on her living room floor putting together these gift packages. Her passion for this project grew with each box we completed…as did our relationship.
In 2013 we were married and at that point had managed to put together several successful gift campaigns. Judith however, wanted more…she would often tell me that we could accomplish so much if we would just devote more time to it. Unfortunately, life has its own agenda… and when her father was diagnosed with leukemia in November of 2013, progress on our initiative came to a dramatic halt. Judith’s father was a man that had been a driving force behind her initial desire to start our campaign. He was a true patriarch in every sense of the word…an inspirational leader, a voice of reason, he was their shelter from the storm of the world. To see him weakened by disease was crushing. I had never seen Judith so vulnerable or so strong. She helped to take care of her father in the final months before his death. She would call me at night in tears and tell me how unbearable it was to see him fading. Despite the emotion raging inside her…she would never cry in front of him. I honestly believe if she could’ve done it, she would have given her life to save his. The torture of seeing a parent pass away never leaves you…although the wound may heal; the scar is always there.
After her father’s passing…Judith returned home to me still haunted by everything that had happened. I’ll never forget listening to her cry in her sleep night after night…and there was nothing I could do to help her. This was a woman that had done everything for me…she loved me at my weakest and most superficial moments only a few years earlier and now she needed me…but there was nothing I could do to make it easier for her. So when she approached me about resuming our humanitarian work…I was eager to get it started again. Although, this time it was different…Judith did not want our efforts to be just a nice gesture…she wanted it to be bigger…she wanted it to be a legal entity…and above all, she wanted to honor her father. You see, somehow, through all of the pain that she was dealing with, she had found a reason to be strong. She had found her drive to reach more suffering children than any of our other efforts combined. She had refused to settle for good enough…because life is short, so we have to make it count while there’s time to make it count. Seeing this new found drive to help the poor, I made a pledge that I would help her form a legal non-profit organization and that I would do whatever she needed me to do to help her keep it running once it was formed. Since that day back in 2014 the entire Danilo’s Cares staff has devoted countless hours to forming this organization, collecting resources, raising funds, writing letters to corporations, and doing whatever it took to aid helpless Honduran children that had fallen victim to crippling poverty.
On April 28th, 2015 the United States Coast awarded me with the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. This award is not a testimony to my devotion for helping underprivileged children…it’s a testimony to my wife’s devotion. She is the visionary. She is the motivator. She saw something in me five years ago and she has made me live up to that.