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"Are You OK?"

Broken windshield

It should have been a 10-minute stop for a physical damage field adjuster of my experience. The vehicle was a total. I needed to secure two signatures, review the settlement numbers and issue a payment. Simple!

I knocked on the door, and the customer invited me in. She was a pleasant, older woman and quick to laugh. We’d talked on the phone about how lucky she had been. A truck had lost a big piece of pipe. It flew through her windshield, and damaged the roof of her car. A few inches either way, and she wouldn’t have been there to talk about any of it.

As we sat, she relayed more of the story. The trucker hadn’t realized he’d lost the pipe. Bleeding and injured, she chased him down. He has insurance. She has an attorney. It will all get worked out.

I noticed that she was badly bruised, and asked if it was from the accident. She nodded, “The swelling has gone down. But I’m still picking bits of glass from my hair and neck.”

I shook my head, and simply asked, “Are you OK?” 

She began to cry. “I’ve talked with a million people since this all started. I’ve never had anything like this ever happen to me before. I had to hire a lawyer. I don’t know anything about how all this works. But, you’re the first person to ask if I was OK.”

I was stunned. Tears welled up in my eyes. I told her how very sorry I was, and we just sat there for a bit. All the confusing insurance stuff went right out the window. It was just her and me, both in tears, just very happy she was still there to tell the tale.

The moment passed. We got everything done.  As I headed out the door she apologized for breaking down, and thanked me for being so nice. I told her everything would be OK and asked her not to cry as we’d both be in tears, again. Thankfully, she laughed.

She will be OK.

Maya Angelou said it best: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Sometimes, it is we, who learn from our customers. I’ve done this for a long, long time and asked, “Are you OK?” many, many times. But I will never forget those few minutes, and how quickly a very special woman reduced everything we do into a moment of just being human.

Dreams come true on #DreamDrive

Green Bay Packers Dream BikesBorrowing from the style of the now famous “apparently” kid, whose commentary to a television reporter that described his experience on an amusement park ride, “Apparently” the Green Bay Packers have a tradition whereby kids with their bicycles “apparently” wait outside the Lambeau Field exit from the team’s locker room.

With any luck, they’ll be chosen to “loan” their bike to a player to ride the quarter mile to the practice field. For the lucky kids chosen, they get to walk alongside and even carry the player’s helmet. It’s a long-standing tradition believed to have begun more than 50 years ago with legendary coach, Vince Lombardi.

Unfortunately, not every child – especially those with special needs – owns a bike or has the opportunity to participate in this storied tradition. On July 26, that all changed for Mimi Fogarty’s two special needs children when American Family Insurance and the Green Bay Packers unveiled five new bicycles with unique side cars available for kids like Nathan, 12,  and Garrett Fogarty, 13.

Green Bay Packers Dream BikesFor the first week the five new bikes were put into service, it was announced that children involved in local non-profit organizations could sign up to use them. Kids from the Miracle League of Green Bay were among those chosen to kick off this new part of the tradition.

Through arrangements made by Ally and Ryan Welnetz, whose child was also chosen to ride on one of the new bikes that week, the Miracle League was given the opportunity to submit names of kids to share the special ride with a Packer for the entire first week’s morning practices. So when Mrs. Fogarty learned about the opportunity for her boys, she jumped at the chance. Luck held out and she – along with Garrett and Nathan – were chosen.

Garrett got to ride with linebacker, A.J. Hawk, and Nathan with fullback John Kuhn.

When thanking everyone responsible for making this happen, Mrs. Fogarty described the experience as the thrill of a lifetime for her boys.  Hawk and Kuhn were great hosts too, posing with the boys for photos. Her sons even got to carry “their” Packer player’s helmet. For Mimi, whose husband is a disabled U.S. Navy veteran and whose family sometimes has a hard time making ends meet, she says that she would never have dreamed that her children would ever participate in the traditional bike ride with a Packer. The experience will always be in her memory as she says that it is the “closest she will ever get to a real live Green Bay Packer’s player”.

A Dream ride (for two) for sure. Thank you, American Family Insurance.

Editor's note: The Miracle League of Green Bay is a non-profit organization that provides an opportunity for kids ages 4-19 to play baseball in an organized league regardless of their abilities. Find more information at http://www.greenbaymiracleleague.com. American Family Insurance is the official insurance partner of the Green Bay Packers. 

Commitment to a Dream

De La Salle jersey

I can remember freshman year, and I don’t think I’ll quickly forget, my defensive back coach making it clear to me I couldn’t hit.

And if you can’t hit, you sure as heck can’t play football.

From then on I made a commitment to myself to prove him and everyone else wrong. While he was right about my performance, he was wrong about my ability and my commitment.

This promise I made to myself drove me to give full effort on everything we did. Another coach and close friend told me that same year that football may not be my calling, and if not, he would be just as proud to see me play baseball, but if I wanted to play football, he promised to work with me as much as he could after practice to hone my game. He gave me my first look at what it meant to commit oneself to a goal and to work towards it no matter what seems to stand in the way.

While I didn’t always finish first, make the most plays, or even look the best, I always gave it my best, determined to achieve the goals I had set for myself.

At the end of that very long season, at the football team dinner, my father told a good friend of mine that I may decide not to play next year. My friend was shocked and asked my father, “Where is he? I’ll make sure he plays. He’s gotta play next year.”

Sure enough, later that night, my friend made me promise to play football the following year. At the time, this promise seemed to hold little importance, but it ended up being one of the major factors that encouraged me to play, and drove me to get better each game.

After deciding that a lot of me did, in fact, want to play, the promise I had made to a close friend gave me an extra kick in the butt to simply go for it. At that point, not only had I made a promise to myself to be the best football player I could be, I had also made a commitment to a teammate to do so.

For me, this was a big step – keeping commitments to myself and to others.

Commitments made to others on the team form the basis of Spartan football. Whether it’s something as simple as the unspoken rule of not drinking soda, to something as important as making your block so the runner can score in a big game, commitment is what makes the team flourish.

The more football I played for De La Salle, the more I realized the value of these commitments. 

  • A commitment in the weight room to always compete with another player pushes me to constantly get stronger and lift harder.
  • A commitment to my quarterback to give it everything I have to catch what he throws my way forces me to think outside myself and focus on simply catching the football, reinforcing the trust we have with one another.
  • A commitment to a close friend to make plays that only he thinks I am capable of making, drives me to play with excitement, something that is essential in this game. 

Whether it’s running the next “gasser” or studying for a final, the commitments made to those whom struggle alongside you are the ones that fuel you to keep going. The determination not to let someone down is stronger than most people think. In this way, a commitment to another whom I respect and whom I am willing to sacrifice for ensures I can achieve what I set out to do and much more.

Commitment cards

Editor's note: Declare a commitment to your dreams
The De La Salle Spartans football team knows achieving dreams takes dedication. At the start of every season, players fill out commitment cards declaring what they will accomplish during the coming months. It’s an approach you, too, can take as a first step to achieving your dream. Get started now by downloading a commitment card, just like the ones the Spartans use. Then, snap a picture of your declaration and share it with your friends – and use the #longlivedreams hashtag – so they can help keep you motivated. 

Then catch “When the Game Stands Tall” – in theaters Aug. 22 – for the story behind De La Salle’s trek from perennial sub-.500 performances to undisputable national powerhouse. It’s a journey filled with hard work, dedication – and a commitment to a grand vision.

“Winning is just a by-product of many, many short-range goals that must be accomplished along the way.” – De Le Salle High School football coach Bob Ladouceur

Keeping our promises

Restored Dreams

You probably remember the Joplin, Mo., tornado of May 2011. The devastation was widespread and horrific, taking the lives of 158 people and causing $3 billion in damage. News media from around the country came to cover it.

Fast forward to this June and Pilger, Neb. – population 352. You may not have heard about it, but Pilger was hit by a tornado, too. Although smaller in scale, this was Pilger’s Joplin. Two people were killed, 16 injured and many homes and buildings were destroyed.

As a member of our catastrophe team, I responded to both Joplin and Pilger. I am just one of many who contribute to our response in these situations. Local agents, adjusters and others from our catastrophe team work together to be there for our customers.

I had been in Nebraska for a few weeks working on other storms when I got the call to move to Pilger. Once there, I met with Property Claim Manager Jim Ulrich and Agency Sales Manager Joni Schultz. They had walked through the town to try to find as many American Family customers as they could. They had to walk because no vehicles were allowed in town for the first few days after the storm.

That walk marked the start of our work of meeting with customers, making payments and helping them get their lives back on track.

A few weeks later, the Nebraska Department of Insurance arranged a town hall with Pilger residents. Regulators often hold these meetings after a disaster to learn from victims firsthand how they’ve been treated by their insurance companies.

American Family, unlike other insurance companies, regularly attends these meetings. We see it as another opportunity to be accessible and show our presence in the community.

I showed up a little early for this meeting. It was held in a portable building, the kind of temporary office you see at construction sites. We met there because the city buildings normally used for these meetings were also damaged by the tornado.     

When I walked in the building, insurance department representatives were already listening to a man clearly upset with his insurance company. He felt he was getting nowhere with his adjuster and he was really frustrated.  

Next in line was a family whose home was still standing but severely damaged. Two state senators were with them. There were holes in their home’s roof and sides that served as entry points for water and animals. Their insurance company had not paid them a cent or even provided them with an estimate for the damages.

The insurance regulators thanked me for attending and noted that American Family was the only insurance company represented. 

After the session ended, I walked outside and the first two groups were still there talking … and venting. One of the men looked at me and said, “So American Family just came to town and started writing checks?” I smiled and told him that’s what we try to do when we can. 

The man then shared that he had friends who were insured with American Family and said they were pleased with our response and service.

We talked a little more about the tornado and I told them I hoped they had resolution soon. We ended our conversation with one of the men shaking my hand and telling me that when he gets his house re-built it will be insured by American Family.

The experience made me think. Those people were really having a hard time getting their insurance companies to do what I think is pretty basic. I have worked for American Family for 24 years. I guess I take it for granted what it takes to be there for our customers.

I’m glad I work for a company that keeps its promises and helps people like those in Pilger and Joplin. They need us, and we’ll be there for them.

The Value of Teamwork

Once a Spartan, always a Spartan

Football is the ultimate team sport.

This means every member of the team must perform at his best in order for the team to achieve success. In the context of a game, the center snaps the ball for a play to get started. The quarterback has to know his assignment for the offense to make progress with the ball. One bad step by the running back can cause a botched play. A missed assignment on the line is sure to spell disaster for the ball carrier.

Football is therefore an orchestrated team event that requires every member to complete his assignment. One bad play can change the outcome of a game. It is of the utmost importance we perform well as an all-around team on Friday nights.

How do we achieve success on game day? There is much more to the concept of teamwork than the 40 minutes of live football we play on Friday nights. A large portion of the team doesn’t see game action, but these players share an equally important role in helping the team achieve success.

We pride ourselves on having strong scout teams. Teamwork at De La Salle means guys who might be undersized or less athletic than the starters work themselves into the ground preparing their teammates for the real deal. Every member of the team is conscious of the vital role they play in the team’s success, and there is a strong sense of mutual respect in the program. This environment of purpose and dedication to your teammate is crucial to the success of the team.

Teamwork

Teamwork also has implications for the team off the field. Part of belonging to our team is that we watch film in our free time. Additionally, we hold each other to high academic and behavioral standards, because we understand laziness or lack of discipline are sure to carry over to the football field. The basic question a team member asks himself is, “How will this decision affect my team?”

On an ideal team, the idea of dedication to one another transcends everything else. This means senior players help the younger players in the name of bettering the team, and players work hard in practice in the name of bettering the team.

Teamwork is the determining factor in our success.

When we work as a team, we win games. The value of teamwork at De La Salle is that it not only teaches us to be members of a football team, it also teaches us how to work with others. At the end of the day, the scores of a high school football game don’t matter all that much. What does matter is learning how to be a member of a team in the broader sense of the word. The values we learn from De La Salle football are intended to continue on into the real world.

We have a quote posted in our locker room that perfectly encapsulates this idea. Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” 

Commitment cards

Editor's note: Declare a commitment to your dreams
The De La Salle Spartans football team knows achieving dreams takes dedication. At the start of every season, players fill out commitment cards declaring what they will accomplish during the coming months. It’s an approach you, too, can take as a first step to achieving your dream. Get started now by downloading a commitment card, just like the ones the Spartans use. Then, snap a picture of your declaration and share it with your friends – and use the #longlivedreams hashtag – so they can help keep you motivated. 

Then catch “When the Game Stands Tall” – in theaters Aug. 22 – for the story behind De La Salle’s trek from perennial sub-.500 performances to undisputable national powerhouse. It’s a journey filled with hard work, dedication – and a commitment to a grand vision.

“Winning is just a by-product of many, many short-range goals that must be accomplished along the way.” – De Le Salle High School football coach Bob Ladouceur 

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