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Ditch the Cake and Donate

Patrick O'Neill

Coming from Tinley Park, IL—South Chicago but the suburbs—and enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17. Served as a Reconnaissance team member of 2D Recon BN, A CO on two deployments to Afghanistan. He's a creative student at the University of Southern California studying English/ Creative Writing and Advertising. Currently an intern with the awesome Team Rubicon Comms Team. Chances of bumping into Pat at an LA Brewery are high.

Kara-DeFrias

“I may be biased because I’ve known Kara for five years, but her passion and enthusiasm for TR, combined with her own personal story of grit and determination, might make her my favorite donor of all time!” – Team Rubicon CEO and cofounder Jake Wood

Kara DeFrias has raised over $10,000 dollars in donations for Team Rubicon over the last six years by graciously giving up her birthday every June.

“I don’t need stuff. I tell folks, ‘Even if you’re going to buy me a card or a drink, I’d rather you take that money and donate instead’,” Kara said. Her birthday month is June, but this year, she sent an email on May 31st to a few close friends who had donated in the past, saying that even though she’d be traveling for an extended amount of time, her annual birthday fundraiser was still on. Then, an unsuspected surprise. By midnight before June 1, she had already surpassed her goal of $620 —the amount she typically shoots for each year—making all of June a bonus, she said.

Kara finds that the simple act of asking can be a very simple yet powerful tool, because sometimes, people aren’t aware of opportunities to donate but want to help. (For example, many companies and organizations participate in company matching, where they’ll match an employee’s donation up to a certain percentage.)

Kara’s career has spanned across the technology and production fields. She’s served as a Production Coordinator for a Super Bowl Halftime Show, Executive Producer of TEDx shows, Senior Advisor at 18F, and currently works at the Director of UX for a federal government office. She also guest lectures each summer at the University of California – San Diego STEM Academy for high school girls.

Kara met Team Rubicon CEO and cofounder Jake Wood when she directed TEDxSanDiego in 2010, and knew immediately TR was a kick-ass organization unlike any other.

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“It’s a funny story: one of our performers was a ukulele player named Jake Shimabukuro, so I kept referring to Jake Wood as the other Jake, which made him laugh,” she said. Her impression of Jake grew to admiration as she listened to his story of how Team Rubicon came to be. She understood the value of TR’s mission, and it was especially moving, because multiple members of her family have served in the Armed Forces and are returning veterans.

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When asked why Team Rubicon stands out among other causes, she responded that Team Rubicon “gives vets something to come back to, they can continue their mission. They raise their hands to say ‘I got this’ and it gives me a sense of purpose to help them while they help others. It’s a beautiful community to community cycle, the cycle of helping.”

Kara also appreciates the way Team Rubicon’s gritty go-getters remain humble in their work, which they take very seriously without taking themselves too seriously. “It’s real-life and communal. I admire the hell out of all them,” she said.

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Kara understands the importance of continuing the mission and completing the objective. She is a three-time cancer survivor. So when asked what her TR-style operation name would be, her answer gave us pause:

“Op So Damn Lucky. It’s a Dave Matthews Band song. I’ve been given a fourth chance at life. That’s not lost on me. I choose to celebrate my birthday, in part, by doing what I do for TR. While I worked hard to get where I am, there’s a dash of good luck in there – how could there not be when I’ve beaten three cancers – and I live everyday with the phrase so damn lucky in mind.”

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As a cancer survivor, awesome donor, mission-oriented woman driving change through professional endeavors, Kara had this to leave TR members with: “I want to say ‘thank you’ but it doesn’t feel like enough, so in simple TR fashion: keep kicking ass and keep up the great work.”


Did Kara convince you to ditch the gifts and donate your birthday? Start here.
Or did she inspire you to fundraise on behalf of Team Rubicon? Give it a shot.