Adversity defeats people daily.
By inspiring and empowering others to develop:
The AaronStrong Foundation provides individuals with the tools to confront and persevere through adversity to build inner strength.
Shane Greene - Detroit Tigers
John and Nancy Nilsen
Hancock Real Estate Team
to become a contributor!
The AaronStrong Foundation is a non-profit foundation dedicated to inspiring individuals and groups to lead thoughtful, focused, hopeful lives, choosing a lifestyle that is committed to minimizing the lows and celebrating the highs that come with the power of positive thinking and use of a growth mindset.
Whether it is your individual, family, or professional life, or your team, business, church, or organization, utilizing a growth mindset will help everyone get the most out of all aspects of their lives.
AaronStrong presentations challenge you to win the battle over both internal and external factors in life over which you have no control.
We want you to unleash the power within yourself, to teach you what it means to use GRIT strategies, and to inspire you to become the champion of your own life!
This is so true! At the end of the day there is no substitute for hard work. If you truly want great things in life, you have to be willing to work for them and grind it out!
What Grind are you on this Monday, or are you only concerned about looking sharp?!
David Bultema - Founder & Executive Director
Registration coming soon!
The AaronStrong Foundation celebrates
$75, 000 in donations!
In January of 2016 when David Bultema registered AaronStrong Foundation as a 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization, his dream was to encourage people struggling through adversity. He had trudged through the valley of death and disappointment, exemplifying what it means to find hope on the other side.
Because fundraising came naturally to him, the vision was to raise funds to give to specific non-profits already in place, such as Trisomy 18 Foundation and Central Florida hospitals. Because of his story, those were close to his heart. (Click HERE for David's Story).
What he didn’t know was that in just three years, the foundation would celebrate $75,000 in donations to not only non-profit organizations, thus fulfilling his dream, but local families suffering adversity. His story of pushing through extreme adversity would impact his community of Central Florida in such a personal way.
He couldn’t have dreamed of being surrounded by “AaronStrong believers”- those who focus more on the comeback than the setback, and a loyal community that stands behind their neighbors during times of trial.
This month, we are humbly celebrating the following remarkable ways we were able to connect with our community over the past three years with a total of $75,000 in donations.
Perseverance Scholarships for Students
Over $6000 in scholarships for higher education were given to 11 students from local high schools and colleges as a reward for their gritty attitudes in the midst of physical, social and economic challenges.
“Perseverance can only lead to happiness, for even when you fail to reach the stars, you still make it over the mountains.”
Sydney Countryman from Lake Minneola High School said that writing a personal essay about her adversity with a nerve condition was very difficult, and she shed a lot of tears in the writing process. But the hope that there was a silver lining to her pain kept her going. She used the scholarship money to pay for several textbooks for her freshman year.
Suzanne Chaar from East Ridge High School wasn’t sure she would be able to fulfill her dream of attending UCF. When she received the award, a huge weight fell off her shoulders because she realized she could.It was such a relief not to worry about money. She thought, “Okay, I can go to college now.”
Jose A. Perez from South Lake High School shares this personal thought for all those struggling with adversity: “Perseverance can only lead to happiness, for even when you fail to reach the stars, you still make it over the mountains.”
Wheelchair for Young Girl in Need
In 2018, we gifted a local 5-year-old with a $3000 wheelchair that was not covered by insurance. David and Leah Bultema met her through friends and were humbled at the chance to give back to someone in our area who has made it this far with the rare disorder of Trisomy 18. (Read the story behind Aaron Bultema HERE.) Most children diagnosed with the genetic syndrome do not make it to birth, and only 5-10% survive the first year.
It was a unique opportunity to be a blessing to others affected by Trisomy 18.
Donations to Trisomy 18 Foundation
We have also been able to donate over $2,000 to Trisomy 18 Foundation founded in 2003
to raise awareness of the genetic syndrome, also known as Edward’s syndrome.
The Foundation provides support and community to families suffering from the diagnosis.
They also advocate research, treatments, and prevention.You may notice that we seem to
highlight the numbers 3 and 18 a lot. It is not an accident, because as hard as our struggles are,
symbols remind us to push through and make a better tomorrow. The 18 represents the
Trisomy 18 syndrome, and the 3 represents that it contains a third chromosome when there
should only be two.
In our grief, seeds are planted that grow to reach out to others. What we do after the loss is what defines us.
Family and Individuals Experiencing Setbacks
Our amazing community reaches out when they know someone suffering a setback and AaronStrong has been able to donate $4000 to specific family and individuals. Whether it is a death in the family, an illness or an injury, the hope is that they realize others have walked through dark valleys too and they are not alone. They can keep fighting through, knowing that they have a community of support surrounding them.
We were also happy to donate to South Lake Hospital’s program that purchases dinner for families staying at the hospital. We gave $318 to help pay for meals in the fall of 2018.
DJ Myers and Family
When David saw Coach Woolum post on social media that one of his football players at South Lake High School suffered a devastating injury during a game, he jumped at the chance to donate to help out the family. As he realized how much the family was about to come up against, he rallied the masses, even getting the principal at Lake Minneola behind the effort.
“I’m broken but not defeated.”
They campaigned for three weeks to raise over $3000. Even though David didn’t know them personally he showed up at the hospital to encourage them before they headed home to start the long journey of recovery. DJ Myers spent three months at Orlando Regional Medical Center and has since returned to the football sideline, in his wheelchair, to cheer on his teammates. He is paralyzed from the waist down
but is hoping to finish high school and go on to college.
In November of 2018, his #1 jersey was retired at South Lake High School. He’s been known to say, “I’m broken but not defeated.” His spirit is strong. Not only did the family appreciate the effort, but David’s heart was being prepared for another injury that would hit his community.
Bailey Trinder and Family
On September 6, high school student Bailey Trinder was involved in a terrible car accident that has left him paralyzed from the waist down. His miraculous recovery after fighting a 4% chance of survival and spending 46 days in the hospital is credited to all the prayers and support from the community.
In total, $45,000 was raised for the Trinder family.
He returned to school on January 7th in his wheelchair and is adjusting to his new "normal.
" He is overwhelmed by the support of his school, Foundation Academy.
AaronStrong hosted several fundraisers from September-December for the Trinder family. In total, $45,000
was raised for the Trinder family. But in special recognition and tradition of the foundation, we added
$318 to the total. The family is grateful for the prayers and support of the community as well as the donations.
100% of our revenue comes in from fundraising, events, and donations. We rely on our community to come behind the mission of AaronStrong and give to keep us around. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to write such a big check to Bailey Trinder’s family or provide a wheelchair for a little girl. Our gratitude for your support cannot be overstated.
A special shout-out to our Diamond Contributors: Matt & Chelsea at Hancock Real Estate, Shane Greene with the Detroit Tigers, and Mark Stolarski.
We also want to recognize our Platinum Contributors: John and Nancy Nilsen, Rojas Properties, and Patty Raspa.
To anyone else who has participated in our annual 5K or golf tournament, signed up to donate monthly or came to our many local fundraisers with Bucks for Bailey and others, Thank you! We hope these stories encourage you to get involved in the encouragement of our community.
Written by Kim Patton
Marketing Journalist for AaronStrong
EGL Genetics Blog
In Memory of Aaron — How You Changed Our Lives
Hope. Faith. Family. These three things have been our focus and have strengthened tremendously through Aaron’s journey. Although we could've easily chosen a path leading to destruction following the loss of our son, we instead chose a path of recovery. That choice made one of the toughest times of our lives one of the greatest blessings.
When David and I found out we were expecting again we were surprised, but very excited. The thought of a third child was a little scary. While David was worrying about how he would handle a potential girl in the mix of all boys, I had other concerns...
Texas Roadhouse Clermont
We would like to thank Texas Roadhouse-Clermont for their continuous support of the AaronStrong Foundation!
We appreciate this major companies support of
a local nonprofit.
Your continued support really
means a lot to us!!!
Meet the 2019 AaronStrong
Perseverance Scholarship Winners!!!
South Lake High School
Lake Minneola High School
Lake Minneola High School
Tavares High School
Eustis High School
David Lee Memorial Scholarship
The AaronStrong Foundation offers a $718 scholarship, to be used towards a post-secondary educational program, to students who have successfully faced adversity while staying on track for graduation. If you feel that the cards were stacked against you, but you were able to persevere through and overcome adversity, then click below to access our scholarship for the 2019-2020 school year (coming soon). This scholarship is for high school seniors graduating in 2020.
Here are two of our past winners share their personal GRIT stories and reflect on life after winning the scholarship.
Suzanne Chaar won the scholarship in 2016 from East Ridge High School and is now studying in her third year at UCF in the Pre-med program.
When she started her freshman year in February of 2013, she was processing through the trauma and grief of leaving her war-torn home country of Syria with only a 12-hour notice. She was in culture shock and didn't know anybody. She was the only one at first wearing a head covering for her Muslim faith and struggled with the sudden flood of a new language, English.
Suzanne leaned heavily on her family during this lonely time, especially her two older brothers who spoke English and helped her in school. She also had great English teachers who used Google translate to help her through the first two years. In the summer she met friends from Lebanon who wanted to practice Arabic, while Suzanne wanted to practice English. They spoke a lot back and forth, and became some of her first friends.
Starting her junior year, she stopped taking ESL and started taking AP classes. That's when she started to make friends, as well as dream about the future. She wanted to go to college, especially UCF.
When she received the award, a huge weight fell off her shoulders because she realized she could attend college. She didn’t touch her scholarship money except for summer classes so that she could quickly finish her degree. It was such a relief not to worry about money. She thought, “Okay, I can go to college now.”
The money she got from the scholarship combined with others to pay for her two years at Lake Sumter where she earned an Associate’s degree before moving on to UCF.
Looking back at how much she has overcome encourages her to keep going. She has learned from every mistake she made and has chosen to accept the challenges instead of running from them. She has learned what it means to be self-aware and know her limits. Since she is studying pre-med, she can very easily be overwhelmed by the workload. Now she knows to take mental breaks, enjoy a day off to de-stress and take care of her health.
Her advice to those struggling would be, “The numbers (GPA, grades, etc. ) don’t define who you are.” She had to take the English exam ten times in four years to be able to pass. She barely passed the ACT reading section. But she has learned to work hard toward the grade and then let her best be enough.
She advises, “Take life one step at a time, not four steps ahead. Focus on what you have right now.”
Sydney Countryman won the scholarship in 2018 from Lake Minneola High School
When Sydney found out about the essay contest to win a scholarship, it gave her hope that there was a silver lining to the struggles that she had in high school. She knew it was a good chance to share her experience to encourage others.
Sydney suffers from Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a Neurological disorder that causes the nerve signals to fire pain constantly. Many days she was wracked with pain, in and out of the hospital, and even used a wheelchair. She wrote her essay about dealing with an illness while working hard to stay consistent with school, winning Bright Futures Scholarship and getting into FSU.
Writing the essay was a bit of a challenge. Because it was personal, she didn’t enjoy delving into the details. It was hard, a lot of tears were shed during the process. It took time to formulate the thoughts and feelings, and she invited her mom into the room with her as she wrote. Sydney pushed through because she wanted to prove to herself she could do it, and push back against the naysayers who doubted her worth.
Getting the scholarship was very overwhelming for Sydney and when she got on stage, she was wrapped up in her best friend’s hug. He said, "I told you so."
She used the scholarship to pay for five different textbooks, online resources, and classroom materials.
Sydney keeps her nerve disorder in check by doing a treatment program involving intensive physical and occupational therapy. She is remission, but she has to keep moving and pushing herself through the pain. She goes to the gym, eats healthy and has become a self-care “expert.”
She has taken the GRIT mindset with her to college at FSU. She studies a lot, doesn’t settle for B’s because she knows she can do better. She works on campus with a non-profit called Camp Kesem that helps kids who are struggling with parents diagnosed with cancer. The circumstances are unpleasant, but the bond is magical. She knows what it is like to be a scared little girl, as she was a camper herself. Sydney is now repaying the favor and has gone out of her way to get people to send money by hosting a fundraiser.
Her best advice for those struggling is that "The truest strength you are ever going to find is within yourself." She encourages them to keep breathing. As much as you have friends and family to support you, tell yourself you are going to make it through, you can do it. “I am weak, I hurt, but I can do this.”
She wants to encourage others that even though things are hard, life isn’t about the bad stuff that happens. It helps you appreciate the good stuff. She has learned not to focus on the big things, but the small things like when your friend brings surprise food, class gets canceled unexpectedly, Krispy Kreme donuts, laughs with your best friend.
Lastly, here is some encouragement from Jose A. Perez, 2016 winner from South Lake High School.
“Like a child learning how to walk, you will fall. It will be a guarantee. You will make mistakes, that is fine. But the child will crawl all his life, never being able to explore, if he decides to give up because of some bumps and bruises. Don’t give up! Though it may be difficult from time to time, focus on what you are good at. Seek help! Be confident in yourself and humble at the same time. Take life one stage at a time and make it through high school, ten years later after high school and college, you will be very proud and happy that you never gave up. Grace and Peace!”
Interested in donating to AaronStrong? We raise money for high school scholarships, help fund charities, and give presentations to inspire change, growth, and success in others.
The message is just the beginning! Beyond presentations, we give back to the community by raising funds for families in need, offering scholarships, hosting events,
and donating to charitable organizations.
Growing up, David’s childhood was similar to that of many American families. His parents were blue collar workers who had enjoyed their share of success, as well as their share of struggles. But they were determined to provide a solid stable home for their family. It was an environment that should have encouraged David to follow in their footsteps and become a solid contributor to society. However, regardless of the experiences presented to him, David's perceptions and responses focused on the negative, which then resulted in a lack of success and a low satisfaction with life.
David’s GPA halfway through high school was a 1.6. He had allowed life situations that were outside of his control to negatively affect other aspects of his life.
“I let one tough situation control me, which then turned into multiple other tough situations. I always made excuses about why it wasn’t my fault. My perspective was all wrong."
Until one day, when David had a defining moment...
Pitcher -Detroit Tigers
I sat in on one of Coach Bultema’s AaronStrong presentations at Lake Minneola High School. To say I was moved would be an incredible understatement. Coach Bultema spoke with a remarkable openness about the misfortunes he has faced in his adult life. He talked about his estrangement from his mother and his desire to rebuild that relationship, only to learn she had committed suicide. He spoke about Aaron and the struggles his family went through and about the sudden death of his father – his best friend – of a heart attack. And through it all, Coach Bultema spoke about the importance of maintaining a positive outlook and approaching each day with the intent of making it a success. His ability to connect with the young people who seemed captivated by his story made his message all the more powerful.
It’s one thing to give a presentation where students are using it as an excuse to miss a class. It’s another to speak for nearly an hour and have countless students rush you to thank you for telling your story. That was the case with Coach Bultema. Boys and girls alike stood in line to shake his hand and thank him for the inspiration. From my perspective, as a parent of a Lake County Schools student, I would strongly suggest that every school – elementary, middle and high – make plans to host an AaronStrong presentation. For some kids, it could be impetus for future success.
The Daily Commercial
"Dave truly has a gift to motivate. I've been a witness of his eagerness to enrich others lives for the last decade. Talk to any of his players, students, co-workers, or peers and you're going to get similar reactions - they would go to battle for that guy.
Dave has an ability to get down to the roots, where things really matter, and where influence can cause sincere change. Through Dave's life experiences and his enthusiasm to genuinely impact others in an uplifting manner, the world now has the opportunity to be positively impacted by Dave.
AaronStrong is something that I'm mindful of everyday for it's relevancy to impact all situations life throws my way. There's no doubt lives will be touched and the impact of AaronStrong will influence each and every community that embraces this movement."
Co-Owner Turn2 Sports and Performance
Watching you build yourself back up through tragedy taught me a lot more than any book or counselor ever could. Showed me that whatever life throws at you, getting back up and finding the flicker of light in the darkness might not always be easy, but once you find it, and feed that light with positivity and hope, you'll be okay. Thank you!
"Passionate, motivational, committed, and perseverance are just a few words that comes to mind when speaking of David Bultema. I had the honor of hiring Mr. Bultema as a US History teacher at Lake Minneola High School in 2011. His addition to the staff at Lake Minneola has been a true blessing.
I asked Mr. Bultema to share his story with the faculty of Lake Minneola High School. It was then that I realized his high levels of and sincerity genuineness. In spite of all the challenges that today’s students bring to the table, Mr. Bultema is committed to finding success in each every student.
Mr. Bultema has been given a gift from God to share his testimony. He has realized that every day is a gift. It is up to us to use our gift to be a blessing to others. That gift can be invested or wasted. Hours can be used or misused. Mr. Bultema, thank you for investing your gift to make a difference in so many lives.
I completely support the vision of The Aaron Strong Movement. Turning negatives into positives is desperately needed in our society and throughout the world."
Lake Minneola High School