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Table Wisdom's Humble Beginnings

Yesterday marked the beginning of what I’m sure is going to feel like a marathon. I’m not very good at asking for things as I tend to feel if I can’t do something on my own I don’t deserve it. I’m really not good at asking people for things numerous times. So trying to get all of my friends and family to click a vote button every day from here until August 31st feels daunting to say the least, even if it means a chance to earn $50,000 in startup funding.

Yet in every challenge there’s an opportunity, and I’ve decided to take this opportunity to tell Table Wisdom’s story from the beginning. Our first day of voting has been fantastic, and Rey, Rob and I are so grateful for your support in our endeavor. However, I’m willing to bet most of you have no idea what we’re doing, or why we’re doing it, or what an Encore prize is: you probably just wanted to do a nice thing and click a button. It is my earnest desire that you will take the time to learn about how much that first click matters, and why we’re going to risk alienating everyone we know to ask you to click again (and again, and again…).

Table Wisdom finds its beginning in Rey Castuciano, a Filipino immigrant and son to Roger, a lawyer, and Javeline, a corporate manager. When the Castuciano’s first arrived in Los Angeles, Roger’s broken English barred him from the court room. He took a job as a night shift security guard to keep food on the table, and Rey proceeded through high school as an outsider. Rey worked hard, made a few friends and slowly but surely improve

d his speaking ability, ultimately going to UCLA for undergraduate studies and earning an MBA at USC. He stayed on the west coast, beginning his career in a Fortune 500 biotech firm in 1998 and climbing the ladder.

Everything changed with a phone call. Roger, who moved with his wife for work and had been living in St. Louis for over 13 years, had suffered a stroke. Rey dropped everything and moved from the sun-bathed beach to a landlocked midwestern city, where he spent 8 hours a day, every day of the week, in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) helping his father through recovery therapy and his nights caring for his mother. As he spent more time at the SNF he got to know some of the residents and their stories. Tales of surviving Vietnam, storied careers in business and medicine, memories of love gained and lost: and in every person he spoke to he saw a vast collection of life experience and knowledge, bottled up inside a small facility in St. Louis with few opportunities to share it.

Light bulb! Rey thought back to his young self, and how difficult it was to grow up without command of the native language. What a difference it could it make to young immigrants if they had someone wise to the world and willing to help them grow in a new country; to learn the mores and cultural curiosities a classroom setting can’t teach; to coach them as they pursue their first career as a young American! And what a difference it could make to seniors who spent most of their days alone, as brilliant as they’ve ever been but with few ways to express it; to learn about a new culture and gain a new friend when routine and retirement had removed most of the newness from their lives; to give back and do something meaningful, regardless of location or mobility.

From Rey’s revelation a short two years ago, Table Wisdom was born. We aim to extend our reach nationwide, and connect students and mentors anywhere for conversations that may very literally change lives. One step on our journey is the Encore Prize Generation to Generation challenge, a call to organizations and individuals with innovative ideas for engaging older adults in improving the lives of young people in America.

The people at Encore are doing great work, and each of our 14 competitors have equally inspirational and valuable missions. I intend to share all of our stories with you. As much as any competition is about winning, the Generation to Generation challenge is unique in that no matter who is chosen as a finalist we’re all going to be making a real and lasting difference in the world long after this is over. Please, join us as we continue to shift the public conversation around aging, from fear about retirement and living too long, to excitement around all of the good that can be done.

Visit The Encore Prize to learn about the work Table Wisdom and our fellow competitors are doing. You get 5 votes a day. If you think we deserve it, please leave a vote. And even if you don’t, thank you for taking some time to hear Rey’s story. Come back in a few days to hear about how Table Wisdom grew from a mature adult and a collection of children to over 90 successful pairs and a number of new friendships.

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