Grab the Torch is a certified 501C3 non-profit recognized by the Internal Revenue Service and Attorney General’s office in the state of MA.
Our mission is to deliver a genuine and common sense approach for the future of giving, volunteering and philanthropy to the next generation. We invest our knowledge in the youth of America through lectures, senior seminars, mentoring programs and youth philanthropy camps connecting youth with top influential and successful corporate and philanthropic volunteers, leaders and executives. We want all participants to leave with a new found self and awareness of their own capabilities and how their efforts can better the world around them. The Grab the Torch program focuses on four key leadership components:
- Leadership: Maximizing the efforts of others to achieve a shared purpose and goal
- Ethics: Building an understanding of core values and moral principles
- Purpose: Understanding it’s critical role in motivation, character and development for life’s skills.
- Philanthropy: Unconditional and authentic living for an unconditional life
There are endless pieces of the greater good puzzle, and each student holds a valuable role for the greater good. This generation is the steward of the future; you’ve provided the torch, it’s up to them to grab it and keep it burning bright.
OUR DIRECTOR, Dave Aldrich
Driven by strategically giving…And empowering young people to do the same
Giving back as payment for successfully overcoming a difficult childhood is not enough.
Dave Aldrich, founder and CEO of Grab the Torch, is teaching youth how to strategically give back, with passion and purpose, using the skills of high caliber mentors that he wished he had.
Growing up in a chaotic alcoholic home and labeled an academic failure from living with severe dyslexia, Dave spent his childhood and early adult years painfully fending for himself.
His poor grades prohibited him from attending college, so he bootstrapped his way to a successful career in hospitality as a cook before graduating from Johnson & Wales, which was a culinary school at the time. He later became a chef, owned several restaurants, and through the New York Yacht Club, he managed The Storm Trysail Block Island Race Week, one of the premier regattas in the United States.
He then consulted for decades in the hospitality and private club industries, before moving into the non-profit sector.
In 2008, he got one of those “ah-ah” moments when a calling emerged, and all the pieces of his life came together for a larger purpose. Grab the Torch was birthed, with a mission of crafting a high-impact, top-quality learning curriculum to ignite passion and provide a unique empathetic mode for philanthropy in the next generation.
“It’s a very simple concept, but a powerful reframe. Everyone keeps saying you have to pass the torch to next generation. That is not how it should be done. We shouldn’t pass something to anyone. A person should physically grab a concept versus have it handed it to him or her. I am very much an opportunity-thinking guy, who is 150 percent convinced that an entitlement mentality is ruining our country. You have to put time, effort and energy into improving yourself, which becomes more meaningful. GRABBING THE TORCH is a much more meaningful and impactful action versus having something just handed to you. You gain a higher level of engagement and ownership with those actions.”
In 2009, Grab The Torch became a full immersion camp program, for high schools girls from public, private or charter schools. Its mission is to help girls understand themselves first, and what purposes and passions drive them, before they help others. The camp program attracts a diversity of youth from all income strata who have a thirst for knowledge, are hungry for education and are willing to take risks.
“We look at philanthropy in a very strategic way, through an empathetic lens versus a sympathetic lens,” Dave explains. “Instead of feeling sorry for someone in need, we teach our participants to be more impactful by sharing resources and tools for lifting them out of their current circumstances, which is more empowering for all concerned.”
The Grab The Torch camp entails participants staying eight days, seven nights in a campus dorm learning the programs four key components.
“By giving the girls an environment to thrive in, we are generating thoughtful, caring, generous, kind, engaged, supportive individuals who see the value of themselves and find their voice to serve others in meaningful ways,” Dave says.
Ingram scholars at Vanderbilt University created the curriculum with philanthropy input provided from Indiana University, and design thinking and the empathy curriculum components derived from Harvard University’s School of Education. The chairman of the board for Grab The Torch is Paul Schervish, professor emeritus of Boston College Wealth and Philanthropy Institute.
Online curriculums, geared for both boys and girls, are also in development.
“I am all about empowerment and modeling what I teach.” Dave says. “I had to grab, fight and be tenacious, which is what I bring to Grab The Torch. This program changes lives by balancing academics and speakers with site visits. We provide these young people with an extraordinary level of access to high level business professionals both in non-profit and for profit industries for social impact, introducing them to the expertise of extraordinary people they may have never met otherwise.”
“Wow, how can one week be so incredibly insightful and be equivalent to some of the most important things I’ve learned throughout my entire life? I can feel the experience in every buzzing cell in my body.”-Alicia, CO program participant
Grab The Torch (GTT) summer institutes are currently held in three locations (Denver, Boston and ME). Each session is a eight-day, seven-night full immersion program. Students are introduced to an extraordinary range of speakers and panelists, including leaders, CEO’s and entrepreneurs from the non-profit, philanthropic, corporate and community engagement sectors, who share their personal experiences, successes and challenges, and journeys. We combine the magical experience of summer programs with the endless opportunities to give back, take action and lead in a supportive, responsible, meaningful and ethical way. GTT is an experimental learning experience.
We instill a basic premise: each student holds a piece of the greater good puzzle. They’re challenged to take that piece, no matter how big or small, and find their true passion for the puzzle. Without their full engagement and commitment to take action, the puzzle will never be complete. Our common message is maintained throughout the week “give to give, not to get, your lives will be enhanced by unconditional giving.” We focus on the importance of empathy and the true understanding of the ‘why’ of service learning and community service. Empathy is the fundamental and underlying foundation of GTT. Our servant learning curriculum touches their inner core. Students are challenged to define who they are, how they want to live their lives and most importantly, how they’ll be remembered in each chapter of their lives.
Due to the enormous shift to a global society, we’ve recognized that to better prepare our students, we need to incorporate a more comprehensive focus on global education, enhanced global empathy curriculum and a deeper understanding of international landscapes. Our planned outings, sight visits and extracurricular activities throughout the week are purposeful, strategic and balanced.
We combine the many facets of the greater good community, one on one dialogues, up close and personal interactions and activities with fun to truly enjoy their time at GTT. It could be through sailing trip, leadership hike, lunch with a philanthropist, a bonfire circle or a BBQ with a Fortune 500 CEO.
- Participate in an 8 day program focused on a full range of exercises on key core values and leadership development
- Engage in 5-6 activities that foster individual and group leadership skills, a deeper understanding of service and a broader knowledge of the nature of the non-profit sector.
- Engage with and learn from at least 10 speakers, including CEOs, entrepreneurs and visionaries from the corporate, non-profit, philanthropic and community engagement sectors, who share their personal experiences and journeys.
- Attend urban site visits, workshops and activities which enlighten students to a myriad of opportunities to give back, take action and lead in a responsible, global way.
- Participate in outdoor leadership adventures to build team building skills.
- Live and learn on university campuses to engage in the full college academic experience.
- Build a resume and content for academic applications and references
- Engage with a diverse groups of 20-30 high school students (ages 15-18) from independent, charter, public and international schools from across the US and abroad.
Typical Day at Summer Institute
Day’s objectives and breakfast
Learning session with curriculum speakers
- Characteristics of leaders
- Mission statements
- GTT greater good puzzle group exercise
- Reflection of leaders in your life
Presentation and lunch with Co-Founder of Conscious Capitalism at Babson College
Design thinking: workshop on empathy
- Study on empathy versus sympathy
- Partner interviews: developing listening and empathetic problem solving skills
- Group presentation: 3-D design solutions
Paul Newman’s Business model for the good
- Newman’s own
- Hole in the Wall Gang Camp
- Newman’s ethical position
- Newman’s Foundation
BBQ with founders of Stifler Family Foundation
Movie: The Ultimate Gift
OUR SPEAKERS AND PANELISTS (Partial listing)
Ken Berger, Charity Navigator
Alexis Boian, Young Philanthropists Foundation
Kathy Kretman, Non-Profit Philanthropy, Georgetown University
Margaret McKenna, Former President of Wal-Mart Foundation and Lesley University
Larry Stifler, Stifler Family Foundation, HMR Boston
Susan Jennings, University of Maine/Bryant Pond Youth Leadership
Maggie Willard, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
James Canton, Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp
Paul Schervish, Boston College Wealth & Philanthropy
Alan Hassenfeld, Hasbro and CECP
Christine Zachai, Forward Philanthropy
Nan Peterson, Service Learning, Blake School
Mary McFadden, National Land Trust Alliance
Raj Sisodia, Conscious Capitalism, Babson College
John Griswold, The Common Fund Institute
Sarah Harrison, The Denver Foundation
Keith Lang, Champlin Foundation
Ted Clement, Land Trust of Hawaii
Carrie Tynan, Coors Foundation
Noah Atencio, Daniels Fund
Luana Nissan, Youth Philanthropy and Service Learning Educator
Jill Marie Anderson, Ossining NY Public School
Paul Miller, SVP, 20/20 Global Challenge, National Association of Independent Schools
Jessica Griffin-Chakraborty, GTT’s Next Generation of Board Service and Volunteerism