June 24, 2007


Legos remind me of a much simpler time in my life, where a great day’s accomplishment could just be the construction of a helicopter, or police station, or better yet a police helicopter sitting at my newly built police station. Oh yes, not only was I the self-appointed and undisputed Chief of Police, but I was also the leader of the free people of my little Lego world. I created havoc but always restored peace at the end of the day by putting the bad guy away in his jail cell just before the sun went down. We all knew he would escape again the next day, through some minute flaw in the building’s construction or a jail-keeper asleep too close to the jail door, but it was almost to be expected. Plus, what would the police do all day if they didn’t have a bad guy to catch? Sit around and drink coffee in their little yellow chairs on the second floor of the police station? I don’t think so. They had a job to do, and cool cars and helicopters to do it in, and by golly as Chief of Police I was there to make sure they did it!

I’m not sure how many hundreds of dollars worth of Legos we have in our collection, but judging by the dozens of booklets of building and vehicle instructions I will say that we have a couple thousand pieces easy. We could definitely build a small town out of them, with more than its fair share of police, firemen and rescue workers, but I’m not sure if we ever will. Like I was telling Jonathan today, as we were building and playing with Elias for hours, I think one of the greatest things about Legos is not what you create at the end but what you do as you’re creating. When you are building things, searching for pieces, finding little treasurers and remembering some of your favorite pieces, you are having fun the whole time and you haven’t even finished building anything yet! I think that’s the way Legos work and maybe the way life in general works. We are here to be happy and achieve happiness every day in the big ways and the small ways, but I think in the small ways especially. Watching Elias play with and love Legos like I did shows me that and it has really been awesome to sit back down and discover that again. I lose feeling in my arms or legs every once in a while, like I did as a kid after leaning on them for hours and hours, but even that can be pretty awesome. It might seem silly, but if you have any Legos or old toys laying around the house maybe you should get them out and start playing sometime. I know it’s nice to feel like an adult, but being a kid can feel great too if we just remember how to…Le-go! Right?

June 18, 2007


Causes on Facebook is a huge up-and-coming application which is going to explode in the coming weeks. It allows Facebook users to create causes, invite friends to join causes and most importantly donate to causes like Save Darfur, the Humane Society, Teach for America, Greenpeace, UNICEF and 1.5 million other nonprofits from all over America. In the last two weeks Causes has grown to 934,160 users and I expect it will pass 1,000,000 users within days.

Initially, I was very excited about the application. This was a way for Facebook's 25 million users (according to Wikipedia) to easily donate to charities through a website they used regularly and to even make it cool to do so. However, after a little while I started to wonder what percentage of each donation goes directly to charity. The answer, which the creators of Causes outlined in their details section, was 95.5%. How can they take 4.5% of each donation away? Well, everyone does. As one of the program founders said, the next cheapest program on the internet right now is the Network for Good which charges 4.75% for each donation. Causes only charges 4.5%, with 3% of each donation going to Justgive.org which processes the donation and 1.5% go to Project Agape which runs Causes. There is a lot of discussion about whether the Causes program is making an unfair profit from the donation transactions, but overall I think the program is very honorable and right-minded.

If you like the program and have Facebook, add it as one of your applications and then join your own cause. I think it is a wonderful way to give back and share your priorities with others. For starters I have started my own cause: Advance Humanity- named after and fundraising for the organization which gave me the motto to begin with: UNICEF. If you are interested in joining the cause, please feel free. I'd love to see you there and see just how much we can donate together!

June 15, 2007

All American City

I am very proud to report that the City of Hickory has won the honor of being an All American City for the third time in a row this year. This is in large part due to the hard work of my former Hickory Youth Council Advisor and current Hickory Public Information Officer Mandy Pitts, but also to the outstanding qualities of the City of Hickory itself including the recent and highly successful programs of Exodus Homes, the Hickory Metro Higher Education Center and Project Potential (which you can read about at the very bottom of this news release by the NCL). Winning this honor required a lot of effort on the part of many people, and they have made Hickory very proud. If you would like to see the presentation that was given at Hickory City Hall in preparation for the real All American City competition in California, I would encourage you to do so. It's very exciting to me to see a city that takes so much pride in its citizens and I'm glad to take pride in my city as well. Congratulations everyone!

June 5, 2007

Study Abroad

Leaving the United States and experiencing another culture is one of the most incredible experiences a college student can have. Ask all the students you can who have done it and I'm sure they'll agree. Whether it was going to Costa Rica for a summer, or visiting Europe for a semester, studying abroad really changes your perspective.

Campbell University's Study Abroad Program is developing rapidly and improving all of its programs every year. Not only can you go to Costa Rica, England or Australia like Campbell students have in the past (I myself went to Costa Rica for two months), but every year there are more and more places added that you can choose from. If you can, try to choose a program that also mixes with your future interests (whether it's medicine, business, languages or something else entirely).

I am confident in saying that you will not regret spending time abroad during your college career. In fact, you might even enjoy it so much that you get new direction in your life and decide to pursue a new career path or post-graduation opportunity like Teach for America or Peace Corps. The possibilities are really incredible and I hope you explore as many as you can.


What do Google, Disney, Apple, the U.S. Department of State and Peace Corps have in common? Well, according a recent BusinessWeek survey of 44,064 undergraduate students from the Class of 2007, these are the top five "Ideal Employers" to work with after graduation. I find that pretty exciting, but maybe for a reason you might not guess at first.

In the show Lost, which I absolutely love, a character named Goodwin tells Anna Lucia that he was in the Peace Corps. When she asks, "Is that still around?" Goodwin says, "I'm just glad someone your age still knows what it is." So true, I thought. I've heard references made to Peace Corps every now and again, by Stephen Colbert and others, but overall I've gotten the impression that most people have forgotten about the Peace Corps. In the same BusinessWeek survey last year, Peace Corps ranked #138 among "Ideal Employers." Now that it jumped 133 spots to #5, I might have to change my tune about people not knowing about it.

I think Peace Corps is a pretty awesome idea and I am excited to take part in it. I'm also proud to tell people, both inside and outside our country, about what Peace Corps is. I will definitely be keeping everybody up to date with my activities over the next two years through my website and this blog, but it looks like I might not have to do as much publicity for the organization as I thought. Apparently people know about Peace Corps already and that, I think, is quite ideal.

June 2, 2007

On The-Case

I would like to send out an official Travis Hellstrom Inner Peace Award to the one and only Chase "The-Case" Vaughan. I have dedicated a small webpage to his musical endeavors, had the pleasure of listening to his many stories and songs, and would like to now take the opportunity to encourage him once again to continue in his great tracks (if you can pardon me for the pun). Keep up the great work Chasemonster, your songs, videos and stories have inspired dozens, if not hundreds of people and you are destined for great things!


Getting my wisdom teeth (third molars for you doctors out there) removed has been a very good experience so far. Not only did quite a few of my friends and family members support me with encouraging calls and messages, but the actual procedure and after-effects have been very painless. The surgery itself, to remove my four wisdom teeth, took thirty minutes start to finish and I was out by 9am. Thanks to an IV-drip I don’t remember anything after the first five minutes up until I was laying in bed at home resting. Apparently, as my mom tells me, I was awake and asking a lot of the same questions over and over on the car ride home but I don’t remember that either. I slept on and off until the afternoon, ate tons of pudding, yogurt, soft cookies and Gatorade and even received a call from my surgeon who asked how I was doing. I received that call around 6:30pm, which is certainly after his office hours and beyond his job description, and I found that very impressive. As a possible future healthcare provider, that simple act really made a strong impact on my thinking. That is certainly the kind of doctor/surgeon I would want to be myself. Well, the adventure of having my wisdom teeth out isn’t all over, but I feel like the hardest part probably is. I’m gonna rest up and relax some, but overall I feel great and am very excited.

June 1, 2007

How to Win

How to Win at College by Cal Newport is the book I wish I had written about college. It has been an inspiration to me and also a gift which I have given to over a dozen of my closest friends. If you are a college student, know a college student, or plan on being or knowing a college student, please stop by the library or bookstore and pick up this book. I have found it to be extremely helpful in preparing for and succeeding in college and I think it has just about everything you need to know. Do yourself a favor and check it out. I promise, you'll be glad you did.