Judy & Grant Soper, Norman & Dianne Ball

What I Have To Give Is My Time

Judy Soper: Networking for the "Walk of Hope"

By Uma Outka

Judy Soper was a small distributor of network marketing health products for over 25 years before she decided to build a business. Although she'd thought about it on and off during all those years, it was two things that finally spurred her into action: a product she was genuinely excited about, and her husband Grant's retirement.

"I decided to quit my job," says Judy. "I thought, 'My husband's going to be at home, I'll be at work.' I didn't like that idea! It was dangerous to just up and quit; I don't recommend it to people at all - but I knew I could do it, I knew it would be all right."

Judy worked hard from the start, putting in 60-hour weeks. Her business grew steadily, and in a short time, she'd built an organization that brought in enough income to justify her decision.

We all wish we could be philanthropists; what I have to give is my time. There's an expression that time is more valuable than money - my gift to children is my time and my talent.

Little did she know that network marketing had another incredible opportunity in store for her - one that had nothing to do with replacement income. As Judy observes, reflecting back on the turn of events, "You never know how what you're doing is going to affect you and others."

As she was working a booth at a trade show, she struck up a conversation with a man in another booth who was selling a non-health product.

"We talked; he said he'd call me later about buying some products - but he never did. I had his card, so I kept e-mailing him updates. A year later, out of the blue, he called me up, and told me what he wanted to do"

Norman Ball, the caller from the trade show, had a vision: he called it, "The Walk of Hope."

Norman planned to walk over 8500 miles around North America to increase awareness of children's plights around the world. In so doing, he also meant to raise funds to help rescue children at extreme risk. He called it the Walk of Hope. As part of his preparation, he needed quality health products that would support the strain of walking eight-hour days, six days a week for almost two years.

He was calling to see if Judy would consider sponsoring him in his effort.

A Purpose Larger Than Oneself

Judy was skeptical at first; they decided to meet in person.

"Frankly, I didn't believe he could do it. It was an insane idea - but when Grant and I met with him, we saw such incredible sincerity and determination. His compassion for kids is so powerful. Here he is, almost 60, with five grandchildren, selling everything he owns to begin this Walk of Hope. I knew he was called to do this, and I wanted to support him."

She couldn't afford the sponsorship on her own, so she presented Norman's story to her company.

"One of my distributors was able to get him a free plane ticket to fly down to a convention so he could meet the heads of our company. Everyone felt the same way I did; the company took him on."

In January, 2001, Norman Ball set out on foot from Phoenix, walked up the coast of California, through Oregon and Washington to Vancouver, east toward Winnipeg, back into the states around the Great Lakes, up to Windsor, Toronto, Montreal, then back down through the states along the east coast, then back across the south heading west. At press time, he was enduring the extreme heat of late summer in Texas.

Throughout the Walk of Hope, and especially intensely now as the end approaches with his return to Phoenix, Judy and Grant have been donating their time to support the effort. From their home in Toronto, they've organized fundraisers such as walkathons and concerts and other events, solicited corporate sponsorship, and coordinated media interest and opportunities. She's helped him secure lodging with Best Western, arranged over 1000 interviews, and connected him with local political and church leadership in the towns along his way. Distributors living near his route have extended themselves to him; he has spoken at their networking meetings, both about the cause and as a testimony to the products.

Judy's excited about planning for the grand finale galas and walkathons that will be held in Phoenix and Toronto in November.

"We're working ten- to twelve-hour days for the Walk of Hope. Our business has been such a blessing because the work we did in the past has kept it going for us. It was through the business that we met Norman, and it's the income that lets us do this as volunteers."

Her business has been on hold for the most part during this stretch, and after November she plans to focus on it once more. For now, she's just grateful that her networking income provided her the opportunity to be so involved.

"I made a decision not to use my commitment to the Walk of Hope as a business platform. Even though the company is a sponsor, I was not working for the Walk of Hope for self gain. I find there's such freedom in helping others just for its own sake. We all wish we could be philanthropists; what I have to give is my time. There's an expression that time is more valuable than money - my gift to children is my time and my talent. I truly believe that if people want to grow and develop, the two best ways are networking marketing and volunteering - helping a cause bigger than yourself."

One Step at a Time

Through our fund raising efforts, the Walk of Hope has been able to assist in the completion of two classrooms in the basement of a church in Jebel, Timis, Romania. This small school now provides an opportunity for orphaned children and children from very poor families who cannot pay for public education, to learn. Our U.S. parent organization, David and Goliath International Ministries, also sent 17 boxes of computers, software, school supplies and clothing for the children. The official opening of the classrooms was attended by the aremayor and other dignitaries.

- J.S.

For more information about the Walk of Hope or how to make a donation, visit www.walkofhope.org or call Judy at 800-367-1908.