Friday, August 6, 2010

For DeRouin, laughter is the best medicine

Cranston Herald
August 6, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

THE INVENTOR: David DeRouin hopes to spread laughter to others and improve their health at the same time with his new creation, the Press Here Button.

David DeRouin thinks the world needs to be a funnier place, and he’s trying to do his part, one laugh at a time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter helps people deal with the stresses of daily life and can actually induce physical changes in the body. DeRouin is no stranger to stress, having worked in the financial industry for more than 17 years before making the decision in 2008 to get out. The following year, he sold his financial practice.

“The business life just wasn’t joyful for us anymore,” DeRouin said. Once he got out, DeRouin wasn’t sure where he was to go next. Many people might not take such a risk; leaving one job without having another to go to, but he feels that the decisions he made along the way have been with the help of some divine guidance.

Although DeRouin felt as though he was being called to do something different, he did not know what, and he began researching.

“Selling my practice gave me a lot of time to do things like reading and researching on how things work. I thought it would be great to come up with an invention or to create something,” DeRouin said.

Still, DeRouin seemed to be hitting a wall. He had yet to figure out what it was he was meant to be doing in this next phase of his life. And then, when he least expected it, an idea fell into his hands.

“One day I was working with a friend, and we were having a meeting, and we were at a creative road block. One of us said something, and we started laughing and laughing,” DeRouin explained. “By the end of the meeting, we were almost in tears. On the drive home I started to think to myself, ‘Could it be that simple?
Is it all just about finding the laughter in a situation?’”

Coincidentally, around the same time, DeRouin’s fourth-grade son, John, came home with an assignment for school that involved him creating a button for his project; one that people could press in order for him to begin his presentation. When DeRouin heard that, he knew he’d found it.

“That was a divine message that I needed to create a button,” he said. He began creating and researching, looking to see if anything like a button that emitted hysterical laughter when pressed already existed. To his surprise, one did not.

DeRouin began putting the finishing touches on the button he had created, but he hadn’t come up with a name for it, and he didn’t know what it should say on it in order to get people to actually press it.

Once again, a conversation with his son, John, pointed DeRouin in the right direction.

“John came in with his finished project, and his button simply said ‘Press Here,’ and that’s when I knew my button had to say ‘Press Here,’” DeRouin said. In about six weeks’ time, from beginning to end, DeRouin had created and submitted for manufacturing his Press Here Button. Before he knew it, the first shipment had arrived at his doorstep. Now, it was about how to get that button into the hands of those who needed it most.

“My goal in life is just to spread more laughter to individuals,” he said. He began working with Apple to create a mobile application for the iPhone, and established a website for online purchase and information about the benefits of laughter to go along with his button, He started sending buttons off to people like Ellen DeGeneres and people who are in the business of making people laugh, or as he likes to call them, “like-minded individuals.”

Ideally though, DeRouin would like to emphasize the benefits of laughter on ones’ health and wellbeing.

“This button allows you to tap into your sixth sense, your sense of humor,” he said. “Laughter is an amazing gift that we all possess and we need to be reminded to use it every day.”

In the meantime, DeRouin hopes that along with showing people the importance of laughing more often, he can also teach another lesson with his journey. “I want to be an example for others that it’s okay to leave a job or any situation that’s keeping you from enjoying life in order to pursue something else that will bring you happiness,” DeRouin said. “It’s not always easy to do, but with faith, confidence and determination, anything is possible.”

Raimondo teaches dollars and sense with financial literacy program

Cranston Herald
August 6, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

MAKING IT COUNT: Democratic candidate for General Treasurer Gina Raimondo gives a presentation on fiscal responsibility at the Kelley Gazzero Post in Cranston.

Gina Raimondo, Democratic candidate for General Treasurer, has made good on one of her first campaign promises, and the election hasn’t even taken place yet.

Determined to make Rhode Islanders more financially literate, Raimondo held her first “Money School” workshop last Wednesday night at the Kelley Gazzero VFW Hall in Cranston.

In front of a full room of guests ranging in age from high school to retirement and beyond, Raimondo introduced herself and her platform.

“I never ran for office before, and many ask why I am running,” Raimondo said.

“My answer is that the time is now in Rhode Island for change, and we need leadership that is honest and capable, and we need someone who knows what they are doing.”

Raimondo explained that in her life, she has seen a tremendous benefit from her own parents’ good financial planning and responsibility with money.

As one of four children, all of whom went to college, Raimondo’s family managed to live on one modest income, with her parents scrimping and saving from the moment their children were born.

“Today, it’s not that simple. We’re dealing with things like foreclosures, bankruptcy and adjustable rate mortgages,” she said.

If elected to the General Treasurer’s office, Raimondo, whose campaign slogan is, “New Leadership, A Fresh Approach,” promised to create a program, a Financial Empowerment Institute of sorts, which will arm the public with financial information and tools to stay out of debt and in control of their finances.

“We’ll go to senior centers, VFW halls and libraries and teach people what they need to know to take care of themselves,” she said. “These are programs to help people help themselves.”

Raimondo discussed issues affecting the finances of her constituents, which weren’t necessarily an issue in the past, such as the fact that people are living much longer than they are financially prepared for. Long-term care is just one of the topics that Raimondo has planned for future workshops.

She emphasized that good financial sense helps to keep the peace within a family.

“It helps young people think about what they need to do to be sensible with their money,” she said. “If the credit card companies are on college campuses, then the State of Rhode Island’s Treasurer’s office should be on college campuses too, teaching students not to sign up for credit cards because the interest rates are too high, or not to ruin their credit ratings at 19 years old.”

One parent from the audience expressed concern about her child making smart decisions on their college campus.

Raimondo said that parent is not alone; noting that 55 percent of parents with children aged 16 to 24 questioned their children’s ability to be financially independent without assistance from them.

She began going through a PowerPoint presentation about setting financial goals.

“There is a huge amount of power in the facts,” she said as she discussed assets and liabilities.

She continued on through topics such as preparing a budget, planning for college or retirement and managing credit cards and debt. Her biggest emphasis, though, was on saving.

“I’m big on saving,” she said. “You’d be surprised how small things can add up. Start saving today. Drink your coffee at home versus at Dunkin’ Donuts and you’ll see $500 a year in savings.”

Raimondo issued her audience a challenge: to try to go one week without spending any money, stating that such a challenge would allow people to see where their money was going and if they can uncover a savings technique that they could live with forever, to help them save money.

“Start now, start small,” she said as she closed her presentation. “I feel strongly that it is the government’s job to educate the people so that they can have the information to protect themselves.”

Lauren Poplaski, a sophomore at Wheeler School, was struck most during Raimondo’s presentation about how much the littlest things can count.

“The little things are just extremely important now,” Poplaski said. “I have to think twice when I go to Starbucks.”

Carriage House teaches 'future scientists'

Cranston Herald
August 6, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

The students at the Carriage House Day Care in Cranston recently completed a weeklong robotics camp.

Created and run by Assistant Director Tammy Donohue, the camp was one of several themes planned for this summer and was done in two phases.

“The first part of the week was the construction of the dinosaur, crab, mouse and scorpion using K’nex pieces and a battery operated pack,” Donohue explained.

“The second part of the week was utilizing the skills they had attained to engineer a car using a spring motor.”

The students participating in the camp were between the ages of 5 and 9, and they worked both individually and as teams to complete the projects. At the end of the week, demonstrations were held so that students could show their family members what they had been working on so diligently all week.

“Everyone worked in teams for the more challenging, more complicated projects,” Donohue said, stating that the younger students would look to the older ones for help on particularly tough parts of the projects.

Daniel Wong, age 9, found the hardest part to be snapping the pieces together, but was always willing to help a younger student with that very same part.

“There was great camaraderie and support for each other during the project,” Donohue said. “It was great to see.”

Using the directions sent by K’nex was beneficial, given the age range at Carriage House. The directions do not contain words, but rather are illustrated in bright colors for each step, and then in grayscale for steps that have been completed.

“It’s kind of like a wordless book,” Donohue said.

Phoebe DePerry, a former Carriage House student and current summer volunteer, was instrumental in overseeing the robotics projects. DePerry noted that many of the students do not often get to play with these types of hands-on building toys, living in such an electronic world.

“They spend a lot more time on Xbox and things like that, than I did when I was little,” DePerry, said. “It was very rewarding for them to see that they could make something move. I’m 13, and even I was excited when I got mine to move.”

Donohue explained that the students learned a great deal about physics and problem solving during the camp.

“Some added extra pieces to their turbo racers, and they found out that this made their cars too heavy,” she said.

Donohue said that participating in the camp allowed the students to not only construct and build, but to build their focus and concentration skills and to learn how to assess their progress during a multi-step project.

Director Marion McGrath was proud of the students’ work during the robotics camp.

“They’re amazing children; future scientists,” she said.